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Fall and Winter Preparedness for Facility Managers

Facility and building managers must prepare for the winter months as the seasons change and the weather becomes increasingly colder. Failing to prepare will inevitably disrupt normal business operations and can potentially damage the company’s finances, reputation, property and employees. The most important steps managers need to take include conducting an initial risk assessment, preparing for winter maintenance, aiming for energy efficiency, protecting your data and technology and considering a telecommuting plan. 


Risk Assessment

The first step every facility manager needs to take in preparation for the winter months is to conduct an extensive risk assessment on your facility. Start this process by evaluating existing programs and processes, noting your company’s current level of preparedness and identifying any necessary improvements. The top three reasons to perform risk assessments are to assist in identifying vulnerabilities, evaluate threats and discover recommendations for improvement. 

Winter Maintenance

One of the largest concerns for businesses in the winter are icy walkways that can cause dangerous slips and falls. One common and necessary winter maintenance solution involves melting ice around outside walkways, parking lots and roadways. Rock salt is the most frequent and cost-effective type of ice melt product, but this solution can damage vegetation. Ensure your business has a plan for snow and ice removal.

Facility managers should also consider installing indoor absorbent carpeting to collect tracked-in snow. Facility managers also need to ensure the indoor cleaning team is removing any tracked-in salt and salt. Another important winter maintenance step is preparing and winterizing your pipes for potential freezes. Always perform a roof inspection to repair any trouble spots before the first snowfall, and be sure to clean out any roof drains and gutters. Interior winter maintenance may involve a heating system inspection, routine window checks and a full duct cleaning. 

Aim for Energy Efficiency

The Environmental Protection Agency notes that energy is often a commercial property’s largest operating expense. Aiming for energy efficiency is cost-effective, minimizes waste and maximizes your business’ environmental performance. Incredibly, an overlooked and seemingly trivial issue like cracks or an improperly sealed window can cost your company hundreds of dollars in the winter months. Reduce wasted energy by correcting any potential issues identified in your overall risk assessment. 

Protect Your Data and Technology

Winter storms frequently cause power outages. The most common and cost-effective solutions for facility managers to consider for power outages include surge protectors and offline back-up storage systems. Surge protectors absorb any extra electrical energy when power is restored to your building. This small step protects your electrical devices from damage and important data from being lost.

Data-focused centers may also want to consider an uninterruptible power supply unit that can prevent power loss and business disruption during the winter months. Most modern-day companies depend on the flow of information to and from various computers.

It is extremely important for facility managers to consider frequently backing up their data through an off-site cloud service. Failing to do so could result in a catastrophic loss of data or an inability to function until power is restored to incoming and outgoing servers. Cloud services allow for a speedier recovery, improved business continuity and prevents revenue loss during power outages. 


Consider a Telecommuting Plan

The winter months often bring extended periods of dangerous road conditions. If your employees frequently face severe weather conditions or dangerous roads to get to work safely, then you may want to consider implementing a telecommuting plan that allows some work to be done remotely.

The widespread availability of the internet has allowed many companies to offer telecommuting positions. Global Workplace Analytics found that over 50 percent of the United States workforce holds a position that would be at least partially compatible with telework. 

The most important steps facility and building managers need to take in preparation for the winter months include conducting an initial risk assessment, preparing for winter maintenance, aiming for energy efficiency, protecting your data and considering a telecommuting plan.

Failing to adequately prepare for the colder season can result in financial loss, property damage and even employee injury. Don’t leave your business open to these common winter disasters, and instead begin implementing a winter plan now.

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Are Cool Pavements Worth the Investment?

Are Cool Pavements Worth the Investment?

The increasing threat of global warming has pushed both the government sector and private industry into a hunt for smarter, alternative ways of living. One such technology, “cool” or smart pavement, hopes to reduce the concrete jungle effect of big cities by replacing traditional asphalt with reflective material. The upcoming tech has successfully passed initial tests and will be implemented on a larger scale in Los Angeles.

What is Smart Pavement?

Traditional black asphalt absorbs anywhere from 80 to 95 percent of sunlight. In contrast, cooler alternatives are a range of upcoming technologies that seek to reduce the heat entrapment common with public roads. Many contain a GuardTop sealcoating that reflects the heat, enhances water evaporation and remains cooler. The cooler alternative has been successfully tested in select parking lots in Los Angles, and the city hopes to begin testing on public roads. Officials plan to study the public’s reaction, the longevity of the GuardTop coating and the overall effects of the lowered air temperature.

Environmental Benefits

The most beneficial aspects of the cooler alternative to black asphalt are the overall lowered temperature and reduced reliance on A/C units. The impact on the environment of cooling the air temperature down is more relevant than ever as the globe faces unprecedented heating in the modern era. California has allocated $150,000 to a cooler roads project that aims to reduce temperatures by up to fifteen degrees. Alan Barreca, an environmental science professor at the University of California, believes that the temperature difference will be so apparent that it will significantly reduce the use of air conditioning. If his predictions are accurate, then greenhouse gases could be drastically reduced in areas with heavy traffic.

Global warming advocates are in agreement with the scientific community about the dire consequences to both the environment and humanity of not reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. They argue that failing to do so will lead to extreme climate change including rising temperatures around the globe. Greenhouse gases are not the only way that traditional black asphalt contributes to rising temperatures. The dark black asphalt absorbs massive amounts of solar energy and later radiates it back into the atmosphere. The current goal is to target areas that suffer from extreme heat that would benefit most from such solutions and gauge the impact of such projects.

Drawbacks

The Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab extensively studied the entire life cycle of various street materials including conventional asphalt, concrete and reflective coatings. They found that the energy and emissions used in creating alternatives often outweighed the expected benefits. Partnering with UC Pavement Research Center, thinkstep Inc. and the University of Southern California, Berkeley looked at the different methods over a span of 50 years. The groups looked at the entire life cycle of materials including the manufacturing, installation, usage and disposal. They found that producing and maintaining reflective coating requires more than six times the energy needed for traditional rock and asphalt coating. Another study, conducted by Melvin Pomerantz in Berkeley, found that California’s cities could save 60 cents a year at most and avoid only about one cent per year of carbon dioxide emissions.

Facility Management

There are several benefits that cooler alternatives can offer for facility management. The EPA argues that such technologies reduce storm water runoff, lower tire noise, enhance safety, improve local comfort and increase nighttime visibility. As managers, these considerations are important for the overall productivity of your team. Noise pollution is one of the biggest problems in most offices. Permeable alternative roads, according to the EPA, can reduce tire noise by two to eight decibels. Additionally, the overall lowered air temperature around your office can make your staff more comfortable while simultaneously saving money on running the office A/C unit.

The implementation of such cooler roads in Los Angles will further reveal if such alternatives are worth the investment. While recent research suggests that the environmental harm may outweigh the benefits, the technology is proven to significantly decrease the overall air temperature in cities. This increasingly important aspect may make the technology more adoptable as global temperatures continue rising to extreme levels. If something isn’t done to reduce the concrete jungle effect, then big cities will likely be avoided as the heat becomes intolerable in the coming years. Researchers, scientists and politicians continue working together to come up with innovate and alternative solutions to the climate crisis.

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Spring Maintenance Tips for Facility Managers

Spring Maintenance Tips For Facility Managers

It’s hard to believe it, but spring has finally arrived. The recent snowstorms have kept much of the Northeast stuck in the doldrums of winter. Despite the lingering snow on the ground, it is time to think about the upcoming warmer weather and the spring cleaning that comes with it. What can facility managers and building owners do to prepare their property and grounds for the new season?

It is a very smart idea to be proactive and begin thinking about sprucing up your facility. A well-cared-for building is the best way to promote your property. It also ensures your tenants safety. Here are some tips to help you review your maintenance program for the coming year.

1) Make the Best First Impression

When people arrive at your building, the first thing they notice are the grounds. It is a no-brainer to do all you can to give a good first impression before they even walk in the door. Whether you have a contract with a formal landscaper or you handle your buildings lawn and flower maintenance yourself, now is the time to plant seasonal flowers. Flowers will make the right impression. Greenery inside your building will also create a welcoming environment. Ask your facility services provider about grounds beautification, maintenance, and potted plant care. 

2) Spring Walkthrough

This is the time to search your property for any issues. Catching small problems now before they become big ones is an important role of a facility manager. Addressing small details can go a long way towards improving the aesthetics and functionality of your space. Ask your janitorial company and/or handyman to complete the walk through with you, focusing on details you might normally overlook. Some things to inspect for repair/replacement are: doors (door sweeps, door stops, sticking locks, etc.), corner guards, tile and grout, light switches and face plates, ceiling tiles, countertops and shelving, cabinets and hinges, and fire extinguishers. Additionally, a fresh coat of paint and new caulking will make your entire space look fresh and clean.

3) Refresh the Restrooms

Daily cleaning is a necessity for public restrooms. However, periodic deep cleaning is essential for keeping your toilets, sinks, floors and bathroom stalls looking clean and functioning optimally. Dirt and germs inevitably build-up over time, and must be attacked by sanitizing all restroom surfaces, fixtures, and floors. Do mirrors need to be replaced, sinks re-caulked? Are repairs/replacements necessary for toilet paper and hand towel dispensers or baby changing stations? Pay attention to the comments made by occupants about restrooms and perform your own walk-through’s periodically to ensure nothing has been overlooked.

4) Service Air Conditioning Units

Set up a maintenance appointment with your HVAC service provider to give A/C units a thorough spring check-up so they will cool efficiently when the hot weather comes. Coil cleaning can not only boost operating efficiency but can also improve indoor air quality, which keeps everyone healthier. The air conditioning unit has been sitting unused all winter, causing dirt and sludge build-up — which, in turn, means odors, allergens, increased operating costs, and even degradation or possible failure of the unit. Preventive maintenance this spring will keep everyone happy this summer.

5) Tend to Floors and Carpets

Winter is harsh on flooring. Spring is the time to deep clean all carpets, tile and wood floors in your building. Call in a commercial carpet cleaning company to shampoo your carpets. This will refresh them and reduce any allergens. Wait until the worst of the spring pollen is gone, and then have your carpets cleaned according to Carpet and Rug Institute guidelines. Stripping and waxing will extend the life of your hard surfaces. Schools should also schedule the annual maintenance of their gym floors for the summer break. Wood floors usually require light grit screening followed by cleaning and application of a solvent-based gym finish to protect the floor and keep it shining.

The warmer weather can make spring the perfect time to give new aesthetic life to your facility. If you haven’t yet incorporated sustainable products into your facility, talk to an expert who can help you begin with simple changes that will make big differences. At a minimum, your cleaning program should use Green Seal certified chemicals and/or bio-based cleaning alternatives. To further enhance your results, you can incorporate supplies and equipment, such as recycled paper towels, microfiber cloths and mops, Carpet & Rug Institute-certified vacuums, touchless soap and towel dispensers, and automatically flushing toilets. Sustainability programs can be cost neutral when considering all of the proven economic and health benefits they provide.

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Fighting Germs in Your Facility

Fighting Germs in Your Facility

Each year, somewhere between 5% and 20% of the population will come down with the flu, and around 200,000 people will be hospitalized because of the virus. Health epidemics such as these cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars per year. 

Fighting infection is crucial to maintaining workers’ personal health, as well as the company’s financial health. Illnesses occur year-round, but certain illness-causing germs, like the common cold and influenza, peak during the winter months when we spend more time indoors in close quarters. In the United States, flu season typically stretches from November to April, peaking in January or February.

The CDC reports that 80% of illness-causing germs are spread through touch, which makes cleaning and disinfecting a critical part of preventing illness and outbreaks. Here are some ways that your staff can keep germs at bay.

Thoroughly Clean Public Areas

Frequently touched surfaces like handrails, doorknobs, and keypads are the most common ways to spread germs. Stair railways, faucets, phones, and elevator buttons should also be disinfected. Conference tables should be wiped down before each meeting. Tables and chairs will also need to be cleaned on a regular basis. These public spaces are easily overlooked, but they can be an easy way for viruses and germs to spread through a facility. Wipe out potential virus hangouts by wiping them down with alcohol-based cleaners and disinfectants often. Cutting corners when cleaning gives germs free reign to continue to grow.

There are sneaky ways that the flu virus can spread around your building. It is imperative that building managers and staff frequently check ventilation and HVAC systems to make sure they are clean and free of debris. It is also highly recommended that your cleaning crews vacuum with HEPA filters to help keep air clean.

Remind staff to check the outside areas around cooling towers and drains and on the roof for pools of water, which can collect pathogens that then travel into your building through ventilation systems. Another hidden area that it is important to clean regularly is bathroom exhaust fans. Make sure that the fans are working correctly and are pushing containments and polluted air out, and not sending them further into the restroom.

Choose the Right Disinfectant

Not all disinfectants and antibacterial sprays have the same effect and work across the board. Did you know that there is a difference between cleaning and disinfecting? Cleaners physically remove germs with soap and water or detergent, but don't necessarily kill germs. Disinfectants kill top-layer germs, but don't necessarily clean the area. A combination of both - clean first then disinfect - is the best method for reducing the risk of the infection spreading.

 Select products with labels that claim to kill bacteria and viruses like influenza and rhinovirus - the leading cause of the common cold. Always refer to the product label and follow the manufacturer's instructions for use and contact time, or the length of time the disinfectant needs to remain wet on the surface to properly kill germs. It is vital that regular cleaning and disinfecting takes place for the most effective protection from the flu. Luckily, the flu virus is not very hardy. The CDC reports that the virus can only live and remain infectious for 2 to 8 hours. Regular cleaning and disinfecting will help keep the flu at bay.

Promote Hand Washing & Provide Hand Sanitizer

Office common areas, such as break rooms and conference rooms, are at increased risk for harboring cold and flu causing germs because they are high access areas where employees come together and likely share and spread germs. Cleaning surfaces, such as countertops and tabletops, and break room appliances, such as microwaves and refrigerator handles, with sanitizing wipes drastically reduces potentially harmful germs and bacteria count. Reducing germs is a group effort, so make it as easy as possible for building occupants to keep facilities clean.

Install hands-free antibacterial hand gel dispensers throughout the facility. Post signs that remind patrons to regularly wash hands. The CDC calls clean hands the most important factor in preventing the spread of germs. Educate all employees on the importance of proper hand washing. Post reminders in restrooms for employees and visitors alike. Make sure that hand soap and paper towels are readily available in every public and employee restroom. It is a good idea to post additional signs by pools, hot tubs and saunas that discourage users from jumping in if they have open scrapes or cuts.

These easy tips make a big difference in fighting germs and staying healthy. Step your germ-fighting game up a notch by establishing a comprehensive cleaning plan, choosing the right cleaning product for your facility and involving everyone in germ prevention.

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Pest Control Tips For Your Long Island Property

Pest Control Long Island

It’s critical to take control of potential pest issues on your property proactively and to eliminate unwanted rodents and insects before the problem becomes serious.

The first step in limiting the pests that can annoy your tenants is to stay up to date on the pest issues that are common on Long Island. Talk to your fellow facility and property managers to discuss what’s been “bugging” them since all pest problems are regional in nature. Its very common for a property to get hit by the same infestation as neighboring building.

A recent article from the facilitiesnet website explains:

"Once you have an idea of the season’s big pest, do some basic research on “how to get rid of Pest X.” This simple effort can help you prepare for these pests before they damage your property or annoy your tenants. If you’re not entirely sure of the pest you’re seeing, visual guides are available on many insects and rodents, allowing you to ID the pest on your own"

For more insight on how to keep mice, ants and other pests away from your properties, read the full article on the facilitiesnet website.

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HVAC System Fires On The Rise: What You Need To Know

HVAC Maintenance Long Island

The primary job of all facility, property, and energy managers is to keep their buildings' occupants safe. In January 2017 there have been no less than six reports of fires related to faulty HVAC systems. The silver lining to these bad reports is that none of these incidents led to any serious injury or death.

However, these fires have raised the question of what facility professionals can do to ensure their properties' HVAC systems are safe and operating properly. If your maintenace is overdue, this post is a reminder to have your system inspected to make sure its is not only running efficiently, but also safely.

For specifics on these recently reported HVAC files, read the complete article on the Energy Manager Today website.

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