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ADA Compliance: What All Facility Managers Should Know

ADA Compliance: What All Facility Managers Should Know

The Americans With Disabilities Act is designed to make buildings safe and accessible for everyone, including people with limited mobility. Unfortunately, making a facility accessible for people with disabilities isn't always intuitive. It can be tough to stay up-to-date on what's required and implement these measures. Before undergoing an ADA compliance check, there are a number of things facility managers should know.

Keeping Up-to-Date on ADA Requirements

It's important to realize that ADA regulations are not the same as building codes -- while building codes are for everyone's safety, the ADA is a civil rights law that ensures that people with disabilities have equal access to public spaces. Depending on the location of the facility, different state and federal standards might come into play. The best way to stay on top of current regulations is to know exactly which rules apply to a given location, confirm which plan the city or county has chosen to adhere to, and make an effort to keep abreast of any changes.

How to Audit Facilities for ADA Compliance

Facility managers can self-audit their buildings to spot minor problems. The best way to go about this is to:

  • Become very familiar with ADA regulations. Know exactly what you need to be on the lookout for.
  • Get a copy of the facility's floorplan.
  • Pick out spots that are likely to have issues with compliance. Is there an entrance that isn't wheelchair accessible? Are the doorways and halls wide enough to allow someone with mobility aids to pass through? Are there handrails?
  • Perform a thorough walk-through. Pay particular attention to all of the areas highlighted in the previous step.
  • Make a list of all of the areas that are non-compliant.
  • Prioritize this list. Basic accessibility needs, like the need for handrails, should be at the top of the list.
  • Create a plan of action for tackling this list and bringing these areas into compliance.
  • Follow through. It may not be possible to handle every item on the list right away, but having a prioritized list and working through it will help make a facility more usable for visitors with disabilities, and decrease the likelihood of lawsuits.

Getting and Staying Compliant

When it comes to accessibility, the onus should not be on visitors with disabilities to complain about problems they face using a facility. ADA infractions should not happen, and it's the owners' and managers' responsibility to make sure that they don't. As better information becomes available, ADA regulations change over time. Unfortunately for facility managers, there's no such thing as "grandfathering" -- if a building felt out of compliance when the rules were updated, it must be brought back into compliance or face legal trouble. When it comes to getting in compliance, it's important to adhere strictly to the ADA rules for that location. If a building design requires some customization, like aesthetic modifications to an entry ramp, work closely with a contractor who has experience with ADA regulations to avoid mistakes. It's also a good idea to stay near the middle of required ranges for dimensions like slope or distance -- this will ensure that a minor measuring error doesn't throw the building out of compliance. The best way to stay in compliance is through thorough employee training. A building can be completely within regulations when it's built, but it's up to maintenance crews to keep it that way. The trouble is, it's often difficult for able-bodied employees to intuitively know how to stay ADA compliant -- through no fault of their own, they aren't used to seeing the world through the eyes of someone with a disability. Maintenance staff might unwittingly create problems by hanging coat hooks too high or place objects in the path of wheelchair users. Maintenance personnel needs to thoroughly understand ADA regulations since they'll be the ones cleaning and repairing things impacted by them.

What Happens if Buildings Aren't Up to Code

While ADA compliance might be the last thing on most facility managers' minds, that doesn't make it any less important. Spending some time and money bringing buildings up to code can end up saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in the long run. Since the ADA is a law, not just a building code, not being up to standard opens a facility up to potential liability. Lawsuits can end up costing defendants over $5k per each complaint, and that's if they don't involve personal injury. While it might not be possible for a facility to remove every obstacle to accessibility right away, it should be an ongoing effort. Roughly 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. alone suffer from a disability. Adhering to the ADA should be about more than just liability -- poor accessibility can drive away a significant portion of a facility's potential users. Good accessibility and a welcoming attitude brings in more visitors and can go a long way toward improving a business' image in the community.

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6 Tips For Controlling Facility Management Costs

6 Tips For Controlling Facility Management Costs

The cost of designing and building a facility is only part of the total picture. Ongoing expenses will meet and eventually eclipse even the priciest buildings. When you add on increased regulatory requirements and the fact that many contracts are won based on price, it's easy to see why it's important to keep those ongoing costs from creeping up. Here are 6 tips for doing just that:

1. Don't put off maintenance

At times, it might be tempting to put off costly repairs, but this ends up being a bit of a false economy in the long run. Maintenance needs don't just go away, and often turn into bigger, more expensive problems the longer you wait. Use a good facility management program to help come up with a planned preventative maintenance program, and avoid unnecessary emergency repair costs. This will help you spot cyclical trends in maintenance needs, making it much easier to stay on top of things.

If you run into a situation where it's absolutely necessary to postpone some needed maintenance, make a plan to address it as soon as possible. Ending up with a backlog will just make things more expensive and complicated.

2. Look at labor costs

Labor contains a lot of hidden expenses, many of which are completely unnecessary. The easiest way to reduce labor costs is to reduce the number of workers on the payroll, but that doesn't make it the best way. High employee turnover is expensive in the long run. If some aspects of maintenance pose a significant risk to employees, outsource it to professionals. Train employees well to avoid repeating maintenance tasks. Use mobile apps to coordinate activities in a smoother, more efficient manner. A less risky work environment, good training, and solid communication make for happier employees, reducing expensive turnover and limiting the number of tasks that need to be done over.

3. Reduce service calls

Having to call a technician out to repair something can be very pricey, especially when it's for a problem that could've been fixed during an earlier call. As with preventative maintenance, don't ignore suggestions or advice from service technicians. They can provide valuable input for maintaining and repairing crucial facility systems. A facility management program can also help reduce the risk of neglecting needed service calls, allowing managers to stick to a schedule and avoid costly emergency repairs.

4. Know where the facility's assets are

"Assets" is a broad category -- it can be anything from tablets to large machinery. All of these things have value, and it gets expensive when they disappear. Often, this is purely accidental. Devices can get misplaced or damaged, a former employee might have forgotten to return a work phone, or a cluttered storage closet could hold a veritable gold mine of misplaced tech. Asset tracking software can help keep track of everything, know when it needs to be upgraded or maintained, and even help you plan for its eventual replacement.

5. Use space efficiently

Poor space utilization is a hidden money sink. It can be hard to visualize when you're just looking at a room, but every empty area costs just as much money to heat, cool, and power as the ones in use. The trouble is, good space utilization is a very delicate balance. Leave too much space unused, and all of those square feet are essentially dead weight. Use too much, and crowded conditions can become unpleasant (and even unsafe) for employees, driving down productivity. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to help make it a little easier. Space management software can help efficiently plan layouts for maximum productivity and to minimize wasted space.

6. Use time efficiently

Like space utilization, good time management is a balance. Non-value-added time is a significant portion of any maintenance or repair order -- for every ten minutes of actual repair time, there might be half an hour of time spent on tasks that don't actually add value. Tracking down the area in need of maintenance, figuring out the issue, transporting materials to the site, and cleaning up don't really add anything to the task itself, they're just necessary evils. Fortunately, there's one simple way to cut down on non-value-added time: organization. Organizing documents like blueprints, warranties, and manuals in one place can help trim down the amount of time spent researching maintenance and repair problems.

Facilities are expensive to maintain, but that doesn't mean that there isn't space to cut ongoing costs. By performing preventative maintenance, reducing employee turnover, reducing service calls, tracking assets, utilizing space efficiently, and organizing needed repair information can make it much easier for employees to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Happy, efficient employees and an efficient, organized workplace are the keys to controlling facility management costs.

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Designing Buildings For Minimum Maintenance

Designing Buildings For Minimum Maintenance

Maintenance contributes a significant amount to the cost of a building -- not only in terms of money but in terms of its carbon footprint. Facilities designed with efficiency in mind can help save money and emissions in the long run, but creating them can pose a bit of a challenge. Here are some ways you can balance efficiency, cost, and usability to develop buildings that require minimal maintenance:

1. Work with the right people.

Creating low-maintenance building designs involves taking a lot of external factors into account, including the way that different building materials respond to climate and weather patterns, and how end-users impact a building's maintenance needs. Your best bet is to work with architects and contractors who have experience with designing buildings with minimal upkeep in mind. Ask to see any certifications related to energy-efficient and low-maintenance design. Arrange a tour of one of their buildings that's at least ten years old. You'll have a much better idea of how your future project is likely to age, and what kind of upkeep it will require as it does.

2. Standardize wherever possible.

Experimenting can be very helpful when it works out, but, when it doesn't, it can be a costly mistake. Maintenance professionals generally prefer to standardize products and equipment to ensure that they're using what works and trimming down the number of product lines that have to be bought and inventoried. A lot of crucial items for a building's longevity can be standardized, including HVAC supplies, circuit breakers, paint, pumps, fans, tubing, tile, bulbs, and virtually anything that may require replacement. This reduces cost, cuts waste, and saves on training time. Discuss using standard products throughout the entire building with the contractor ahead of time.

3. Balance aesthetics and practicality.

In a perfect world, every building would be a modern showpiece that was easy and inexpensive to keep looking as good as the day it was opened. Unfortunately, aesthetic choices often conflict with maintenance needs. Lobbies that have tall ceilings with fancy light fixtures, for example, can mean shutting the entire lobby down for days while maintenance crews set up a scaffold, clean the fixture, and replace burned-out bulbs. Aesthetic choices that don't account for maintenance accessibility inevitably result in a lot of lost time and wasted money. Make sure that any equipment installed early on is able to be easily accessed by maintenance workers.

4. Don't forget the landscaping.

Maintenance doesn't end at the front door. Don't forget to consider how a building's exterior might influence its interior. For example, trees planted too close to buildings can cause problems when they inevitably grow, like foundation damage, roofing damage, and clogged gutters and downspouts. Choosing landscaping plants that aren't native to an area can also add to the maintenance load when it comes time to water them and amend the soil.

5. Consider the long game.

Building or renovating a facility is expensive, and it can be tempting to try to save money on things like flooring or light fixtures. Unfortunately, this often ends up being a bit of a false economy -- for a higher initial cost, you can end up saving money over the life of the product. Cheaper flooring that needs to be replaced in 10 years isn't a good deal when compared to more expensive flooring with a 25-year lifespan.

6. Bring your maintenance crew on board.

If you aren't one of the people directly responsible for maintaining a building, it can be difficult to see a design from that perspective. Make sure maintenance crews are part of the design or renovation process because they can offer valuable input about what it will actually take to keep a hypothetical building running smoothly. They can point out future trouble spots, allowing you to fix them before they become an expensive mistake.

7. Make sure you have local support.

You've got a new building with a brand new HVAC system, and everything looks good. There's only one problem -- the system you chose doesn't have any local vendors for replacement parts, filters, or other needs. This means that you have to keep spare parts on hand yourself or have them shipped in with an additional cost and downtime while you wait for them to arrive. When you're deciding what kind of equipment a facility needs, consider vendor support as part of your maintenance outlook.

Whether you're looking to design a new building or renovate an old one, limiting maintenance costs should be part of your plan. By working with contractors well versed in low-maintenance building, balancing appearance and practicality, and including your maintenance crew in the design or renovation process, you can create a building that maximizes efficiency while minimizing ongoing costs.

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How Technology Will Transform The Construction Industry In 2020

How Technology Will Transform The Construction Industry In 2020

Construction techniques might seem like they haven't evolved much over the past few decades, partly because the industry is slow to adopt new technology. After all, the stakes are very high if things don't work out -- more so than in most other industries. Still, recent advancements promise to change the way we construct buildings, increasing efficiency, safety, and sustainability. Here are a few trends to watch for in 2020:

A boom in modular construction.

Modular building has never been a very popular choice for the commercial sector, but experts argue that that's largely due to the ways its perceived. There's really no reason why modular buildings can't work for commercial applications, and more and more companies are beginning to see that it allows for very fast, efficient construction that is just as safe as traditional methods. Marriott International, for example, announced its intention to build the tallest modular hotel in the world, scheduled to open in New York City later this year. Hilton had another first, opening San Francisco's first modular hotel last summer less than a year after the hotel's components were delivered to the site. Modular construction also doesn't preclude the use of water reclamation systems, solar panels, or other sustainability features. The modular building market is projected to reach $157 billion by 2023.

Wider adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM).

Construction software is earning its place on job sites, especially BIM programs. These allow for 3D and 4D modeling -- adding time as a fourth dimension -- allow users to see not only the spatial characteristics of a project but also get projections of maintenance costs and material lifespan under a variety of conditions. It can even be integrated with augmented or virtual reality to allow planners to get an immersive, real-life feel for the finished project. This allows for the construction of buildings that are as efficient, long-lived, and low-maintenance as possible, reducing their carbon footprints.

More wearable tech.

As technology becomes smaller and more portable, it's not surprising that wearables have grown in popularity. In the construction field, hands-free operation is a serious benefit -- workers need to be able to get into tight spaces and handle potentially dangerous equipment, and there's little room for juggling extra stuff. Visual wearables can present information in heads-up displays that make coordinating tasks more efficient. Some wearable tools also incorporate sensors that can alert workers to potentially unsafe conditions, reducing the risk of accidents. Some workers may also get to benefit from exoskeletons, which monitors the force applied to the worker's body and responds by using hydraulics to increase their strength and prevent knee, shoulder, and back injuries. Exoskeletons also present an interesting compromise between proponents of automation and unions seeking to protect their members' jobs -- the ability to give human workers some of the advantages of robots.

Expanded use of 3D printing.

3D printing comes hand-in-hand with the projected increase in modular construction techniques. Since it can create parts quickly and precisely, 3D printing allows for the fabrication of construction materials either on-site or off and being automated means that production can continue completely independently of worker's shifts. This is one way in which the advancement of automation doesn't have to threaten jobs for human workers -- 3D printing can allow construction projects to progress more efficiently, but just as many field workers are needed to complete them.

More robots.

The construction industry has been notably reticent to take advantage of advancements in robotics, but that may be changing. Drones can now nail down roofing tile, and robots can even lay bricks and pave roads. This has allowed for faster builds with fewer human errors. Boston Dynamics' robot "dog," Spot, is in the early stages of learning to take progress photos on job sites, a job that previously had to be performed by workers who already had higher priority tasks. Interestingly enough, it isn't the actual building process where robotics has had the biggest impact -- it's demolition. Robots are generally slower than humans when it comes to taking a structure down, but also cheaper and far safer to use. Though construction has generally been slower to adopt new tech than other industries, it's catching up. 2020 looks like it's going to be a big year for the expansion of modular building, BIM, 3D printing, wearables, and robotics, which should ultimately result in projects that go up faster, last longer, have lower maintenance needs and smaller carbon footprints, and result in fewer on-the-job injuries.

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7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

Reducing your building's environmental impact doesn't just make sense from a sustainability standpoint -- it makes good economic sense, too. While operating an ecologically-friendly facility might involve an initial investment, it generally pays for itself in terms of energy and material savings.

The Truth About Building Emissions

When people talk about carbon emissions and air pollution, they usually mention it in terms of "cars on the road." For example, if an average family skipped eating meat and dairy for one day a week, it would be roughly equivalent to taking their car off of the road for five weeks. Even though cars and transportation pollution are the standards when it comes to visualizing the environmental impact of various actions, buildings actually contribute more pollution than vehicles do. Any time a building uses a device that relies on combustion, like an oil- or gas-powered furnace, boiler, or stove, it emits carbon dioxide and monoxide. Electricity consumption may also contribute to carbon emissions if the power source is a fossil fuel. All told, buildings contribute up to 39% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Help the Environment -- and Your Bottom Line

In most cases, carbon emissions represent waste, and waste can get expensive. Taking steps to make buildings more energy-efficient means that fewer fossil fuels are consumed to keep them heated, cooled, and powered. Lower fossil fuel consumption means a lower power bill. That's even before considering the numerous subsidies and other incentives for facilities looking to reduce their carbon footprint -- power and fuel companies often offer rebates for upgrading to energy-efficient equipment. The Investment Tax Credit also allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing solar panels from your federal tax burden. Reducing a facility's carbon emissions may require an initial investment, but incentives exist to help ease the transition.

The Best Ways to Reduce a Building's Carbon Footprint

There are a lot of strategies for making a facility more environmentally-friendly, some of which are more practical than others. Here are the top seven:

1. Calculate your footprint. Before you can come up with an emission reduction strategy, you need to know what you're emitting. There are tons of online calculators that will help you estimate what environmental impact your facility has, and you can contact your electricity and fuel providers to see what sources your heating and power come from. This will allow you to figure out where it's feasible to cut back.

2. Don't over-commit. You don't have to go carbon-neutral right from the outset, and trying to do so might cause more problems than it solves. It's better to make tangible strides toward reduced emissions, rather than make plans to go carbon-neutral and not follow through.

3. Handle the HVAC system. Heating, ventilation, and cooling systems are responsible for up to 40% of building emissions, so it makes sense to attack the largest source first. Switch to energy-efficient heaters and air conditioners. Program them to run at certain times a day -- for example, don't run air conditioning during the coolest part of the day, and use sensors to determine when ventilation is needed.

4. Examine your water usage. Water also contributes significantly to carbon emissions. All of the water a building uses needs to first be treated, pumped, and then heated before coming out of the tap, and all of that requires energy. Switching to efficient fixtures that prevent leaks, like low-flow toilets, can reduce water wastage. Installing rainwater harvesting and greywater systems can dramatically reduce water usage for landscaping. Using native landscaping plants or xeriscaping can further reduce water wastage.

5. Generate your own energy. Solar panels are not only subsidized with a tax credit, but they can also lower energy bills by allowing a facility to reduce its dependence on external power. There are only so many ways to reduce a building's power usage; as long as it relies on power from a carbon-emitting source, it will still result in indirect carbon emissions. Setting up on-site power generation using renewable sources helps save money on the electric bill, and reduces a facility's carbon footprint.

6. Change your lighting. Lighting requires a significant amount of power. Switch to energy-efficient LEDs, and maximize your facility's use of natural light during daylight hours. Window films can help you take advantage of sunlight, without worrying about gaining too much heat in summer.

7. Don't skimp on maintenance. Clogged filters, malfunctioning fans, and leaking pipes can make the most energy-efficient appliances be wasteful. Keep on top of regular maintenance to make sure your building stays at peak efficiency. You'll save money on water and fuel, and be able to avoid costly repairs from neglected problems, too.

Reducing a facility's carbon footprint doesn't have to be difficult or arduous. Estimate where you can cut back, use energy- and water-efficient appliances, generate your own power when it's feasible, and keep on top of regular maintenance. You'll help reduce your building's bills and help the environment at the same time.

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7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are pretty much the bane of any facility manager. There are few things worse than not having any water, repairing a burst pipe, and cleaning up the water damage afterward. The good news is, this kind of disaster is usually preventable, as long as you take a few steps to avoid it.

How do pipes freeze?

Pipes freeze when stationary water inside them is subjected to very cold temperatures. Since water expands when frozen, this creates a lot of pressure inside of the pipe, which may then burst. When temperatures drop to at least 20°F and remain so for six or more hours, there's a danger of pipes freezing. If the pipes are poorly insulated, freezing may occur in as little as 3-4 hours. This can happen in areas of a building that may not be easily seen or accessed frequently, like crawl spaces, closets, storage areas, lofts, or roof spaces.

What are the dangers of frozen pipes?

The biggest danger of a frozen pipe is the lack of access to water. If a pipe freezes in an apartment building, for example, tenants won't be able to bathe, wash dishes, or use the restroom. Even if a frozen pipe just causes a hairline crack instead of bursting, this can result in a leak that encourages the growth of black mold. Leaking water can also cause water damage to floors, ceilings, and any furniture or other fixtures. If water seeps into a light fixture or electrical socket, it may even cause a fire.

How can you prevent frozen pipes?

There are a number of ways to keep pipes from freezing:

  1. Keep water running. Moving water won't stay in contact with cold temperatures long enough to freeze. Even just allowing taps to trickle is enough.
  2. Thoroughly insulate pipes that run through unheated spaces or exterior walls. These are the most in danger of freezing.
  3. If there are any pipes that won't be in use during winter, drain them. Pipes only burst when water expands as it freezes. They'll be safe, as long as they're dry.
  4. Keep interior spaces at least 40°F.
  5. If a building has anti-freeze sprinkler systems, ensure that there is a proper concentration of antifreeze in the lines.
  6. Where possible, use UL-listed electric heat tracing products to keep pipes warm. These use an electrical current to provide heat to pipes when temperatures drop too low.
  7. Open the doors to any enclosed spaces with pipes running through them. This allows warm interior air to mix with the cold air in the space, raising the temperature.

What should you do if a pipe freezes?

If you notice that a pipe has frozen, there are a couple of strategies to try.

First, turn off the water to the frozen area to keep it from leaking more than necessary. Next, use a hot towel, heating mat, or space heater to warm the pipe, or wrap it with thermostatically-controlled heat tape. After that, use a fan to direct warm air into the room to raise the ambient temperature above the freezing point. Lastly, if you don't have any leaks, open faucets to a trickle to keep water moving when you turn it back on. If you do, call a plumber to have them repaired before restoring the water flow. Following these steps should help unfreeze pipes and keep them from freezing again.

What should you do if a pipe bursts?

If a pipe bursts, you'll need to act quickly to minimize the damage to everything in its vicinity.

First, shut the water off. You'll have to deal with a flood as it is, so cutting off the water supply is the most important step. After that, contact a plumber to replace the burst section of the pipe. While you wait for the pipe to be replaced, remove as much water as possible by whatever means necessary -- siphons, pumps, buckets, mops, or a wet-dry shop vacuum.

Afterward, use fans and dehumidifiers to dry the area as much as possible. The walls and flooring will likely have absorbed a lot of water -- even hard materials, like tile, can allow it to seep in through tiny cracks and spaces. This increased moisture can encourage the growth of mold if it isn't dried quickly and completely.

Dealing with frozen or burst pipes can be a headache, but there are ways to keep them from seriously damaging a building or inconveniencing its occupants. Make sure pipes are thoroughly insulated or kept warm, act quickly to thaw frozen pipes, and have a strategy in place for quickly dealing with bursts and leaks. You'll be able to keep the building safe and your clients happy all winter long.

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Facility Managers' Guide To Assisted Living Inspections

Facility Managers' Guide To Assisted Living Facilities Inspections

Assisted living facilities can be a huge help for residents and their families, but managing them comes with a unique set of challenges. Facility managers know that these facilities have to be held to a very high standard when it comes to guaranteeing the health and safety of their residents, and so must undergo regular inspections to make sure they comply with regulations.

What does an inspection entail?

During an inspection, a team of surveyors (including a registered nurse) will go over staff/resident interactions, resident care processes, safety, and security measures, and how well the facility adheres to food safety and fire regulations. OSHA compliance is another key aspect of these inspections, and healthcare workers are at a very high risk of experiencing job-related illness and injury. The primary goal of this process isn't to point fingers and place blame if things aren't up to snuff, it's to make things safer and healthier for residents and workers alike. Facility managers who take adequate steps to follow regulations and ensure that their employees are well prepared will have no reason to be afraid of inspections. To help with this process, here are a few guidelines for passing inspection with flying colors:

Document everything.

When the inspectors arrive, they are going to ask for a lot of very detailed information and, if it isn't available, it can make you look disorganized. Having everything documented and ready will be a huge help here -- not only will it look better, but it'll also take a lot of pressure off of workers since they won't have to scramble to get everything together. Using facility management software can make the process even easier by keeping all of your maintenance and repair records in an easy-to-manage format.

Make sure employees are prepared.

The time leading up to inspection can be stressful, and it doesn't need to be. Make sure that employees get regular training to keep them up-to-date on the regulations they need to follow. Performing regular inspection drills can be a big help here since they will let facility managers know exactly what deficiencies need to be corrected before the actual inspections take place. Facilities that participate in Medicaid or Medicare must comply with Medicaid/Medicare care requirements.

Make sure residents and visitors are prepared.

Staff/resident interactions are a big part of assisted living facility inspections, so the surveyors are allowed to talk to anyone in the facility -- including residents and their visitors. So, not only should facility managers work to make sure their employees are ready for the inspection, but they should also let residents and their families know what to expect. This will make it less disruptive for the residents, and allow the surveyors to collect better data.

Keep safety features updated.

Safety is a major issue in assisted living facilities, for residents and workers alike. Slips and falls are common among the elderly, and half of all injuries to employees of assisted living facilities are musculoskeletal issues. A good facility should have the regulation number of assistive devices, lifts, and enough battery backup to ensure that employees aren't required to manually lift or move residents, as well as handrails and other resident safety features.

Know which items are a priority for inspectors.

It's important to make sure that everything's up to code, but some deficiencies are more severe than others. Have a good idea of which areas are a priority, and make sure they never fall behind. Ensure that handrails are present in every corridor, firmly attached, and free of any sharp edges, rust, nails, or splinters. Rooms that house more than one occupant must have privacy curtains that are long enough and able to be kept clean. Doors must adhere to guidelines for thickness, material, and fire rating. If you aren't sure what will be prioritized during an inspection, contact the state's licensing agency for more information. Once you know, create an inspection checklist to help keep on top of the areas most likely to result in a serious deficiency.

What happens next?

If an inspection finds a deficiency, it will be recorded. Then, the survey team must determine how severe the deficiency is, as well as whether it has the potential to result in immediate harm, and whether it is an isolated incident or part of a pattern of negligence. After that, deficiencies must be corrected. Violations may be punished with fines, revoking Medicaid/Medicare certifications, transferring residents to other facilities, or sending in temporary new management. It should be noted that allegations alone are not enough evidence of a deficiency. They must be backed up by records, observation, or corroborating interviews with residents, visitors, or staff before they can be recorded. Inspections can be intimidating, but they don't have to be scary or stressful. As long as facility managers keep on top of employee training and ensure that their facilities adhere to health and safety regulations, there's really nothing to worry about. All the survey team wants to do is ensure that residents and employees stay safe and healthy, and inspections are a great way to make sure that assisted living facilities are able to meet everyone's needs.

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New Technologies Bring Facility Management Into The Future

New Technologies Bring Facility Management Into The Future

A property's biggest and most important asset is the people who use it. Today, more people are focused on the user experience -- having their needs catered to as quickly, pleasantly, and efficiently as possible. It's also no secret that managing a facility, whether a school, hospital, or apartment complex, has become more difficult. Concerns about carbon emissions, rising energy bills, and the need to stay up-to-date with new advancements make keeping a facility running at optimum efficiency a daunting task. Fortunately, several new technologies promise to make it easier for facility managers to deliver the user experience their clients want, while adequately meeting the new demands placed on them.

The Rise of the User Experience

In the recent past, facility management was treated as a way to maintain and manage a passive asset. Any automation was largely focused on hardware, and centered purely on crisis mitigation and keeping facilities up and running. Now, there's a distinct shift toward creating value for end-users. The average customer expects to have a positive experience, requiring a management style that is more service-oriented than purely maintenance-oriented. To this end, new automation strategies focus on creating unified ways to manage workers, building systems, and users, all while keeping facilities running and meeting sustainability goals.

Avoid Downtime with Smart Devices

Nothing is more frustrating -- or more likely to frustrate clients -- than avoidable downtime. New smart devices, like smart chillers, automatically monitor performance and can send an alert when they begin operating at less than 100% efficiency. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and knowing that things are beginning to go downhill can help save on repair costs, avoid lost productivity, and keep users happy. Best of all, it's no longer necessary to take measurements by hand -- these devices automatically report data, so workers can better use their time where they are really needed.

Learn with Integrated Workplace Management Systems

In the initial stages, automation isn't always all its cracked up to be. In order to successfully use artificial intelligence, it must first be taught the data it needs in order to function. While using AI and machine learning can be a tremendous help when it comes to making informed decisions, this takes time. Integrated Workplace Management Systems help this process go smoothly by monitoring and recording data across a wide variety of metrics. They can feed this data to algorithms, and, in turn, help save valuable time and reduce transcription errors.

Let Computers Handle Design

Renovations and building layouts are one of the most challenging aspects of facility management. Figuring out efficient uses of space, establishing and directing traffic patterns, and getting the most out of a building are all time-consuming tasks, especially with manually drafted polylines. Spacial recognition programs can help save time by letting managers get a fast, accurate view of how space will be utilized by end-users. Software can create different floor layouts that facilitate communication and collaboration between different departments, optimize efficiency, and allow one part of the property to continue as usual while changes occur in another. Making adjustments for all of these factors used to take skilled technicians hours to do by hand -- with computer-generated models, it requires just a fraction of the time.

Try a "Soft" Retrofit

Roughly 80% of a building's costs over its lifetime come after it's already built. While re-fitting an existing building with updated hardware can be helpful from a cost-saving and sustainability perspective, the greenest and least expensive hardware is that which has already been built -- is it less wasteful to keep using an older, still-functioning refrigeration system, or pull it out and install a brand new one? Some owners are understandably reluctant to adopt extensive hardware updates, particularly for systems that still work, but new software can help trim costs and improve sustainability, without the waste and expense incurred by hardware retrofits.

The Downside to New Technology

While these advancements offer immense value in both money and time savings, they do come with one significant caveat: they can't be implemented overnight. Learning how to appropriately integrate and use them takes time and commitment. This is particularly true with new technology that relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence. When it comes to learning algorithms, the end result is only as good as the data fed into it. It's vitally important to have the right infrastructure, willingness, and ability to obtain good, usable data at the outset. Without these, junk data in will yield junk data out.

Keeping on top of new technologies and changes in the facility management industry is challenging, but it's a challenge that yields plenty of rewards. Working toward a positive end-user experience, meeting sustainability goals, and allocating talent where it can best be used all make for happier clients and more profitable real estate portfolios. No matter the type of building, compound, or campus involved, facility managers stand to benefit by incorporating new software and machine learning advancements into their daily operations.

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Top Facility & Property Management Trade Shows and Expos in 2020

Top Facility & Property Management Trade Shows and Expos in 2020

Trade shows give industry professionals the chance to learn about emerging technologies in their field, network, and test out new products before buying. For facility and property managers, the 2020 trade show season looks particularly promising. Don't miss:

IFMA's Facility Fusion

April 14-16, 2020 | Hilton San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

IFMA's Facility Fusion combines local, global, individual, and industry-wide facility management solutions into the trade expo of the year. Roughly 800 companies from 46 states and 20 countries attend, bringing with them their expertise in improving efficiency, increasing productivity, and industry trends. Attendees will get to take part in tours that offer a practical look at new building upgrades and cutting-edge energy-efficient technology. You'll save hours upon hours in independent research, and return to your facility armed with new solutions and ready to take on any issues that come your way. To find more information or register to attend, please the IFMA website.

Cincinnati Facilities Maintenance Expo

February 13, 2020 | Oasis Conference Center, Cincinnati, OH

This expo brings in professionals ranging from facility and property managers, owners, and plant engineers, to maintenance workers, buyers, and more. Exhibitors get the benefit of a large near-captive audience to display their products to; attendees get to learn about the latest developments in cleaning equipment, concrete and roofing restoration, waste disposal products, lift equipment, HVAC, and energy-saving. Can't make it to Cincinnati? Be sure to attend the Indianapolis Facilities Maintenance Expo on March 12, 2020, at the 502 East Event Center, in Carmel, IN.

Connex

April 20-22, 2020 | Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Orlando, FL

Connex doesn't just give buyers and industry professionals the chance to network, it also allows attendees to attend education and power sessions, hear keynote speeches from top names in facility and property management, and win prizes. Exhibitors cover everything from roofing and pavement maintenance, to security, to snow management, to fire suppression and safety. Located at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, it's one expo that you'll regret missing. Visit their website to find more details, a list of exhibitors, and registration information.

PM Grow Summit 2020

May 27-29, 2020 | AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center, Austin, TX

Like its name implies, PM Grow is dedicated to fostering growth and improvement in property management. It brings the most forward-thinking property managers and other industry professionals together to share new technology and best practices, and develop new solutions to the biggest challenges facing facilities today. You'll be able to get actionable suggestions from world-class thought leaders to help expand your portfolio, generate leads, and build a devoted customer base. Talk to the industry's leading professionals today, and learn where it's heading tomorrow. Visit the PM Grow Summit 2020 website to learn more, or to take advantage of their early bird registration.

The National Facilities Management and Technology Conference and Expo

March 17-19, 2020 | Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD

NFMT is jam-packed with networking events and parties, as well as opportunities to get hands-on experience with the latest technology and services from established names in the industry and emerging brands. With over 125 different educational sessions available to attendees, you are guaranteed to find something that piques your interest and helps you meet your facility's unique challenges. Visit the NFMT website for more exhibitor details and registration information.

Northeast Buildings & Facilities Management Show & Conference

June 12-13, 2020 | Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Boston, MA

NEBFM attracts professionals and exhibitors from a wide range of facility types, including hospitals, schools, municipal buildings, malls, hotels, manufacturing facilities, transit facilities, religious buildings, and more. It features over 2,500 attendees, 250 exhibitors, and an educational conference with 22 talks covering sustainability, maintenance, construction, and renovation. Details are still to be determined, but please visit the ProExpo website for updates and more information.

The Green Industry & Equipment Expo

October 21-23, 2020 | The Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, KY

For property managers who are tasked with handling landscaping duties, the GIE+EXPO is a can't-miss event. It's the industry's largest expo for lawn and garden products, outdoor machinery, and large-scale lighting and landscape equipment used by the nation's top landscaping crews. Attendees will get to enjoy indoor and outdoor exhibits, as well as a free concert, with over 1000 exhibitors on the Kentucky Exposition Center's unique 20-acre facility. Their new products spotlight showcases new developments from turf mowers, to the Titan HydroSeeder, to high-output lights and fluid systems. Attendees are urged to dress comfortably -- there's a lot of ground to cover. Please visit the GIE+EXPO website for more details and registration information. Property and facility managers face new challenges with every change in the seasons, let alone the issues that can arise with implementing new standards and technology. Don't let your business be left in the dust -- attend the country's top trade shows to network with other professionals, learn about emerging tech, and discover how to improve your workplace and expand your client roster.

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Most Common Tenant Complaints and How To Resolve Them

Most Common Tenant Complaints and How To Resolve Them

For facility and property managers, tenant relationships can often be tricky to navigate, and this is never truer than when dealing with tenant complaints. Laws regulating landlord and tenant rights can be complicated, and not something either party wants to find themselves on the wrong side of. Fortunately, the most common tenant complaints are fairly simple to resolve, with a little effort.

1. HVAC

Whether it's the biting cold of winter or the dog days of summer, temperature control is a top priority for tenants. This can be tough to manage in older buildings, where aging heating and air conditioning systems may create challenges in keeping buildings within a safe temperature, let alone comfortable.

Property managers should have strategies in place to make sure HVAC systems are cleaned, serviced, and, if necessary, tested for flammable gas or carbon monoxide leaks every year. Have the contact information for an HVAC professional and relevant utility services. If a building relies on window units for air conditioning, keep a couple of spare units to allow maintenance workers to quickly switch broken units out for working ones.

2. Pest infestations

Nothing is worse than turning on the light and seeing a cockroach or rat scurrying across the floor. Unfortunately, no matter how clean a tenant keeps their space, multi-unit buildings are virtually magnets for pests. Remember: it only takes one tenant with poor housekeeping habits to attract pests to everyone.

The simplest solution is to call an exterminator immediately. Many facility managers have a standing appointment with an extermination company to keep pests away. In addition to regular spraying, encourage tenants to keep food stored in insect- and rodent-proof packaging, and have maintenance workers seal up gaps around pipes and beneath walls. These are the most common means of ingress for pests, and cutting off their way in will help avoid infestations in the future.

3. Poor communication

Many tenants complain that they don't feel listened to by their property managers or maintenance workers. This can set both landlords and tenants up for problems down the road -- unsatisfied tenants are likely to leave negative reviews of the property, warn others away from renting there, and may even resort to temporary "fixes" for problems rather than call facility management to report them. Landlords who don't communicate effectively with their tenants may find that their tenants don't follow the rules. The best fix for this is to initiate communication whenever necessary. Go over rules and expectations for the use of the property before the lease is signed, and send periodic reminders to tenants regarding property upkeep. Conduct regular inspections. Make sure that tenants are aware of how to contact facility management, and have a hotline for emergency maintenance needs.

4. Privacy

Few things are as nerve-wracking for a tenant as the idea that a landlord can enter their property at any time, and rightly so. Even good tenants generally don't like feeling barged in on for surprise inspections.

The best way to ease tenants' minds here is to follow the law -- property managers are required to provide at least 24 hours advance notice before entering a unit. A phone message or notice posted on the door may not cut it, either. Send an email with a read receipt or a certified letter, and make sure all tenants have a list of yearly inspection dates so they can feel prepared.

5. Mold

Black mold isn't just unsightly, it's toxic. For tenants with respiratory issues like asthma or COPD, it can even be deadly.

Facility managers shouldn't hesitate when it comes to dealing with black mold. When it shows up, it's often a sign of an underlying issue, like a leaking pipe or poor humidity control. Regular maintenance workers generally don't have the equipment or expertise to thoroughly and safely eradicate it, so it's best to call a mold remediation specialist to make sure that it's completely taken care of.

6. Rent and Security Deposit Disputes

Even with a good landlord-tenant relationship, problems with money can arise. Tenants may withhold rent for neglected repairs or unlivable conditions, landlords may choose to keep security deposits to cover cleaning and repair costs, and both parties may disagree about why and how much of the money was withheld.

Property management generally isn't equipped to handle this on their own. It's a good idea to have a lawyer on retainer who's well versed in landlord-tenant law, to make sure that the landlord's interests are protected and everything is dealt with fairly.

7. Eviction

Nobody likes it, but eviction is sometimes necessary. It can be a real problem with tenants who refuse to move, abandon all of their possessions, or even try to become violent.

This is another case where a little legal counsel can go a long way. There are laws governing how to go about the eviction process, as well as what a landlord is and isn't allowed to do with abandoned possessions. It might even be necessary to have the police or building security help escort a belligerent tenant from the property.

Any time money changes hands, it complicates relationships. As long as landlords are able to thoroughly communicate their expectations to tenants, tenants feel secure in reporting problems to the property manager, and complaints are dealt with quickly, they can have an easy, mutually respectful relationship.

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