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5 Steps Every Facility Manager Should Take Before Reopening

5 Steps Every Facility Manager Should Take Before Reopening

As COVID-19 cases begin to plateau in some areas, states have begun to test out reopening strategies. This has left a lot of business owners wondering if what they're doing is enough to keep them, their clients, and their employees safe. If you manage a facility, you're likely in the same boat. Here are 5 steps you can take to make sure that your reopening goes as smoothly and safely as possible.

1. Confirm your plans with your local government, legal team, or any other relevant authorities.

Make sure your company is following the most current guidelines by confirming your intent to reopen with your local government. In some cases, your building may require a new certificate of occupancy -- address this first, so you don't have to scramble to fix any legal red tape later on.

Once you've created a re-opening plan, it may need approval from other departments in your company. Risk and audit teams, legal teams, security, and human resources should all be kept apprised of any plans to reopen, new policies, or updates to existing ones. They can help ensure that everything is structured appropriately, so you won't be held liable for any missteps in the reopening process.

2. Perform a deep clean, and reassess current cleaning procedures and cleanliness standards.

No matter how clean a place might have been before shuttering, dust inevitably begins to settle and pests might even try to move in. Before reopening, it's imperative that facilities conduct a thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning, followed by a long look at their current cleaning procedures. Cleaning products should be swapped out for those that contain EPA-approved disinfectants that are effective against the novel coronavirus, cleanliness standards should meet CDC guidelines, and facility managers should consider including extra measures (like UV sanitizers) in their protocols.

This is also a good time to double-check your supply chain. Are you able to get all of the supplies you need? Are any of your suppliers in hotspots that might threaten product availability? Have backup plans in place in case you aren't able to source necessary items from your current suppliers, so you aren't left having to go without and putting your workers and guests at risk.

3. Create tighter social distancing policies.

Should you require employees to have their temperatures checked before entering the building? Will you require visitors to wear masks? Will you need to move furniture in order to accommodate six feet of social distancing? Depending on the nature of your business, you will need to create, update, or change your business' social distancing policies. If your policy requires masks and gloves, make sure that employees know how to wear, clean, and dispose of their protective gear properly.

Infrared thermometer guns can check employees' and visitors' temperatures in seconds, and sanitizer stations can offer hand sanitizer, wipes, gloves, and even disposable masks if needed. Look for touch-free sanitizer dispensers, so guests don't have to come in contact with a potentially contaminated surface. At a time when many people feel squeamish about touching things, this will help make it easier for visitors to stay in compliance with hand sanitizing guidelines.

4. Have a plan in place if something goes wrong.

The novel coronavirus is tricky -- with the length of its incubation period and the number of asymptomatic carriers, it can be very difficult to tell who's carrying a threat and who isn't. Even the best-prepared facility might experience a case of COVID-19. Create a plan to address this before it happens. Make sure employees know how the virus is spread, understand the signs and symptoms, and have adequate sick leave. Check-in with your employees frequently, so you can address any concerns and adjust your policies and protocols as needed.

Right now, reopening is still very experimental, and there's a significant chance that businesses may need to temporarily close again. Create or confirm procedures that will allow you to close quickly if you need to. Set up building shutdown policies with your security department.

5. Increase visibility.

Chances are, your employees, tenants, and guests have some reservations about reopening. This is natural. Help put them at ease by increasing the visibility of your reopening procedures. Place signs reminding people of social distancing policies and the proper way to wash hands, apply hand sanitizer and use masks and gloves. Have workers clean while visitors are present to put guests' minds at ease. Send a letter to the building's occupants to let them know all of the steps you're taking to protect them.

While staying closed and unable to earn an income is frightening to employers and employees alike, reopening is very intimidating, too. Having a comprehensive, legally sound reopening procedure can go a long way to allaying these fears. Tighten cleanliness standards, update cleaning guidelines, put social distancing policies in place, and make sure employees and visitors alike know what's expected of them, and you'll be on the road to reopening.

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How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

Most pathogens that infect humans or animals have a pretty narrow range of tolerance. Change the pH, moisture level, or amount of light in their environment, and they either die or can't reproduce. While there's a limit to how we can exploit this within the human body, disinfecting surfaces and objects is a lot less complicated. For managers looking to keep their facilities clean and sanitary, that's where ultraviolet light comes in.

How UV Light Kills Pathogens

Ultraviolet germicidal radiation kills pathogens using short-wavelength ultraviolet light (UVC). Though viruses aren't technically alive and therefore can't actually be killed, UVC damages their nucleic acids, inactivating them. This method can be used to effectively disinfect water, air, and even hard or soft surfaces.

The Drawbacks of UVC Disinfection

Anything that kills pathogens can also harm human or animal cells, so it's very important to follow certain safety considerations. UVC light should only be used in unoccupied rooms since it can damage eyes and skin. It also doesn't have a residual effect and can take a long time for maximum effectiveness -- sometimes an hour or more depending on the size of the room. This can make using UVC a challenge, but some companies are working on technology to make it faster, safer, and more convenient.

Far-UVC and Upper-room Devices

Since the main problem with UVC is that it can't be used in occupied spaces, researchers at Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research put forth the idea that far-UVC might be a safer option. Since far-UVC theoretically can't penetrate the skin, it should be able to kill or inactivate pathogens without causing harm to multicellular organisms. Several companies are working on prototyping far-UVC sanitizers, but FDA approval of this technology is still pending.

One alternative is upper-room ultraviolet disinfection. This uses UVC lighting placed seven feet above the floor, so it doesn't come in contact with the room's occupants. As the light kills viruses and bacteria in the air above, fans or other ventilation equipment mixes this cleaned air with contaminated air from below. This helps the light decrease the room's pathogen load. Since it still uses conventional UVC lighting, the fixtures must be turned off if anyone has to work near the ceiling in order to prevent cell damage.

Portable UV Devices

For most facilities that don't require clean room-levels of sanitation, there are portable devices on the market for disinfecting everything from cellphones, to rooms. Portable UV wands direct UV lighting down toward a surface, so they can be waved over desks, chairs, phones, anything else without too many nooks and crannies. These devices take a few seconds of exposure in order to be effective, so it's important to move them very slowly for the best results. It's also important for users to avoid looking directly at the light or pointing it at other people.

There are also UV lamps and bulbs that can disinfect entire rooms. Most of these are fixtures that simply need to be set up in a space, plugged in, and left alone. In about forty-five minutes to an hour, the pathogen load of the room will have significantly decreased. UV bulbs work much the same way but can be screwed into any conventional light fixture. Even if the light is unable to reach every corner or shadowed spot in a space, natural air movement will help ensure that the pathogen load is reduced as sanitized air mixes with contaminated air. As with other room-sized UV devices, these should only ever be used in unoccupied areas.

UV sterilizer boxes are similar to portable UV wands but in a container. Small items, like phones, pens, glasses, or other handheld objects can be placed inside and allowed to disinfect, without any potential for harm to anyone in the room. The box completely contains the light, so there's no danger of cellular damage outside.

The LightStrike Robot

Recently, the San Antonio-based robotics company Xenex Disinfection Services managed to prove that their Lightstrike Robot can sterilize a room contaminated with the novel coronavirus. The robot works by using xenon lamps that create bursts of intense light at brief intervals. To test it, researchers placed it in a lab where several surfaces had been contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19. They allowed the robot to run at one, two, and five-minute intervals, testing the remaining amount of the virus after each. The results showed that it took the LightStrike robot about two minutes to inactivate 99.99% of the virus on both hard and soft surfaces. At the moment, the LightStrike robot costs about $100,000 to buy, but the company also provides leasing options.

Ultraviolet lighting can take care of bacteria and viruses -- even the virus that causes COVID-19 -- by damaging their nucleic acids. With a good ultraviolet device and some basic safety considerations, facility managers can take advantage of this to keep their businesses clean and employees and clients safe and happy.

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Tips For Coping With Facility Closure

Tips For Coping With Facility Closure

Social distancing is the most effective way to slow, and hopefully eventually stop, the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, as more social distancing policies are put in place, facilities are closing for weeks at a time.

There are right ways and wrong ways to deal with closing a facility. Here are a few tips to help you handle safely closing your facility, and staying productive during its downtime:

1. Perform risk assessments beforehand

If your facility is subject to the EPA's rules for facility closures, you will need to perform a risk assessment to determine what, if any, issues may come into play. You will also need to find ways to contain or dispose of any hazardous waste, and ensure that there is a strategy in place to keep that waste safely contained. This is primarily a consideration for businesses that are subject to closure with waste in place, or "closure as a landfill," but a risk assessment is a good idea for anyone getting ready to close up for an extended period of time.

2. Work on preventing burglary or vandalism

Make sure your building's cameras, security systems, and backup power supplies are in good working order. If you can, board up windows and doors to prevent vandalism. Ensure that any and all cash is removed, if applicable, leaving drawers open and visibly empty. Remove or secure any items that might attract an opportunistic theft. Thieves may take this chance to try to break in and steal any equipment that's been left behind during the closure, so try to stay one step ahead, keep your security airtight, and reduce your facility's appeal to burglars.

3. Take care of perishable items

If your facility includes a food prep area, discuss proper disposal methods with your cooks or food service director. Contact local food pantries or other charitable efforts and see if they would be willing to accept donations of any unused food. This can help keep it from going to waste and help people struggling with food insecurity at the same time. If you can, cancel or reduce any regularly scheduled deliveries of perishable items.

4. Perform a good, thorough deep clean

Even if your facility isn't closed yet, the dramatic slowdowns many businesses are seeing makes this a great time to get a jump on spring maintenance. If you have any maintenance projects that you've had to put off, now is also the time to get working. Follow the EPA's guidelines on virucidal cleaners, and give the whole facility a deep clean and sanitization -- pay extra attention to surfaces, doorknobs, and other areas that are the most at risk of droplet contamination.

5. Double-check HVAC systems

Deep cleaning and maintenance can increase the indoor air pollution levels of a building, especially if you need to resort to heavy-duty cleaning agents. A good HVAC system should be able to return your facility to its baseline within twenty-four hours. Make sure your facility's HVAC system has new (or clean) filters, no leaking ducts, and isn't waiting on any deferred maintenance. The last thing you'll want to deal with after re-opening is increased indoor air pollution and HVAC maintenance.

6. Examine your automated tasks

Chances are, the automated parts of your facility were set up with its occupants' schedules in mind. If they aren't going to be there, you may end up with automated tasks going on and off for no reason, wasting power and inventory. Double-check your facility's automated tasks with a view to adjusting them to account for the closure. You may want to reduce their frequency or stop them completely for the time being.

7. Communicate with your tenants

While you're performing all of this work behind the scenes, your occupants are busy with their own responses to the pandemic. Make sure to stay in touch, let them know what you're doing to make sure your facility is kept clean and safe, and keep them abreast of any changes you'll be making to the decor or functionality. This will help boost their confidence in your facility, and allow them to voice any concerns or suggestions that they may have.

When you manage the day-to-day operations that keep a facility running, it's hard to see it close -- even when that closure is necessary and appropriate. These tips can help ensure that your facility stays clean, safe, and in good working order, no matter how long you need to keep the doors closed.

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COVID-19 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

COVID-10 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

Our understanding of COVID-19 shifts from day to day as doctors and researchers gain a better understanding of this novel virus. Keeping a facility up and running poses enough challenges on an average day as it is, so it is understandable that these circumstances have thrown facility managers for a loop. Here are some resources for Long Island facility managers, property managers, and business owners to help you keep your facilities running safely and smoothly during the pandemic:

OSHA's “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a 32-page guide that explains how an outbreak of COVID-19 could impact business and offers information on symptoms and transmission. It also outlines steps employers can take to minimize the danger to their workers, depending on their level of exposure risk (low, medium, or high), with special instructions for workers traveling abroad.

OSHA's COVID-19 Safety and Health Topic

The COVID-19 page on the United States Department of Labor website explains how the virus spreads, and how OSHA standards apply when it comes to protecting employees from the virus. It provides tips for employers and employees alike, with specific guidance for employees of certain industries. This is a must-read for managers of healthcare or deathcare facilities, laboratories, or sanitation facilities.

The CDC's "Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)"

This COVID-19 guide by the Centers for Disease Control provides guidance on cleaning and disinfection and social distancing, designed for non-healthcare settings. It explains how to reduce the risk of transmission between employees, maintain healthy business operations, and keep up a healthy work environment.

The CDC's Long-Term Care and Other Residential Facilities Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist

Long-term care and residential facilities often house the people most vulnerable to illnesses like COVID-19. This pandemic planning checklist highlights important areas for pandemic preparedness and response planning, geared specifically to the challenges these facilities face.

The WHO's "Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19"

The World Health Organization has also released a COVID-19 guide for businesses. It outlines ways to prevent the spread of the virus, managing risks in group settings like meetings, managing risks during travel, and preparing your facility for a local outbreak.

The IFMA's Pandemic Preparedness Manual

The International Facility Management Association's Pandemic Preparedness Manual covers instructions for maintaining business continuity, planning checklists, response checklists, and instructions for controlling and mitigating the spread of a viral outbreak. Though the information is geared toward avian influenza, much of it is applicable to other viruses.

New York State Department of Health

The NYS Department of Health COVID-19 website explains which businesses are experiencing mandatory closures, and links to guidance for businesses considered essential services. This is intended to help employers determine if they meet the criteria for an essential business, and follow the necessary steps to obtain the designation.

COVID-19 Resources within Nassau County

Nassau County has a dedicated coronavirus hotline at (516) 227-9570. The Nassau County COVID-19 website provides helpful infographics with instructions for applying for aid, important links and numbers for Nassau-area individuals and businesses, and simple instructions for limiting the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 Resources within Suffolk County

Suffolk County also has a COVID-19 resources portal, with the most up-to-date news on cases within the county, information from the CDC, and links to guidance for individuals who may have come in contact with a carrier.

The ISSA's "Coronavirus: Prevention and Control for the Cleaning Industry"

The International Sanitary Supply Association offers webinars by the Global BioRisk Advisory Council, tip sheets, and information geared toward those employers that work within the cleaning industry.

The EPA’s List of Anti-COVID-19 Disinfectants

Not all cleaners are effective against viruses, COVID-19 included. When purchasing a disinfectant to combat a specific disease-causing agent, it's important to cross-reference it with the products on the EPA's recognized anti-COVID disinfectants list. This list gives the registration numbers, product names, manufacturers, and formulation types of all of the currently recognized anti-COVID disinfectants.

Dealing With Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a Facility Manager Whitepaper

This Dealing With Coronavirus Whitepaper is written for facility managers, to offer guidance on how to prevent, contain, and mitigate outbreaks in the workplace. It covers reducing the number of workers, increasing the distance between workers, disinfection strategies, and keeping everyone in the loop.

This novel coronavirus is presenting challenges that are testing the limits of everyone's disaster preparedness plans. If you are a facility manager in New York state, these resources can help you keep your employees, clients, and guests as safe and healthy as possible.

Work At Home Checklist For Employers

This Work At Home Checklist is a handy reference for employers working to maintain business continuity by having employees telework.

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How Facility Managers Should Be Responding to Coronavirus

How Facility Managers Should Be Responding to Coronavirus

The emergence of any new disease is scary, especially when there's a lot of misinformation circulating about it. Right now, officials in the U.S. and overseas are talking about closing down schools and other public places in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and it has facility managers rightfully concerned. Here's what you should be doing to help keep yourself, your employees, and your visitors safe:

Enforce hand washing protocols.

The news is full of stories about stores running out of antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, and even masks, but the best defense against diseases like influenza and COVID-19 is regular old hand washing. Coronavirus is believed to be transmitted through contact with respiratory secretions. Train employees in proper handwashing techniques, post new signage as a reminder and make sure bathrooms are properly stocked with soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Encourage sick employees to stay home.

It's a sad fact that many people don't feel that they are able to stay home to rest when they are ill. Avoid scheduling any shifts that can't absorb a loss or two if someone needs some sick time, and make sure employees know that they can and should leave work or stay home if they begin experiencing upper respiratory symptoms. If sick employees insist on coming in anyway, send them home. The minor addition to productivity they would bring is not worth jeopardizing the rest of your employees, tenants, or visitors. This is especially true of workers in hospitals, nursing homes, or other areas with a high concentration of potentially vulnerable people.

Review sick leave policies.

One of the biggest reasons that sick people don't stay home is that they fear being penalized for doing so. Go over your company's sick leave and paid time off policies, and make sure that employees aren't in a position that disincentivizes reporting symptoms or responsibly taking sick leave. Put policies in place that cover furloughs or workplace closure.

Promote good coughing or sneezing hygiene.

If you are managing a store or office building, your visitors and tenants may not have the things they need to prevent infection, so provide them -- within reasonable expectations. Set up stations with hand sanitizer, disposable tissues, and a wastebasket, and keep them stocked and cleaned. If you are managing a hospital, keep stations stocked with masks, and post signage encouraging anyone with respiratory symptoms to use them. Masks don't protect the wearer very well, but they are excellent at protecting others from the wearer.

Go over cleaning procedures.

Contaminated surfaces can transmit illness when people touch them and then touch their eyes, mouths, or noses. Make sure your policies outline the procedure for sanitizing each area of the facility, what products need to be used, and protocol for avoiding cross-contamination. Make sure that any disinfectant products used have EPA-approved claims against bacteria and viruses of concern. There haven't been any tests specifically on COVID-19 yet, but the EPA's Emerging Virus Protocol offers information on products that are effective on similar pathogens.

Keep some extra inventory on hand.

It's not a good idea to hoard supplies, but it's reasonable to expect some supply chain disruption. Public health experts recommend that households have some extra non-perishable staples on hand in case of store closures or problems restocking, and this can be extrapolated to facilities, too. Take inventory on your most-used supplies, and stock 10-15% extra. It should be enough to get you through a minor disruption, but not enough to cause problems with purchasing or storage.

Keep tenants and employees informed.

Epidemics are frightening, and being kept in the dark only intensifies those fears. Keep tenants and employees up-to-date on the latest information and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as all of the steps you are taking to protect their health. Go over employee and tenant contact information, and make sure it's up-to-date. If there isn't a good communication system already in place, set one up.

Train supervisors or other key employees in infection control and reporting.

As new cases of COVID-19 emerge, it's imperative to report exposures to local public health departments. Educate key employees in the potential impact of the virus, make sure they have easy access to relevant company policies, and give them the contact information for the public health authorities in your area.

Don't panic.

The media tends to sensationalize stories and play on the public's fears. Make sure you're getting your information from a reputable, expert source, and don't succumb to the temptation to panic. It isn't necessary to stockpile bottled water and food, and many of the most-frequently stockpiled items (like triclosan hand sanitizer and surgical masks) aren't effective against viruses anyway. Remember: Right now, the flu is a bigger threat than COVID-19. If the flu isn't triggering a panic, that shouldn't either.

When most companies plan for disasters, they think of tornadoes, fires, explosions, and floods. Illnesses can easily become emergencies, too, and it's vital that facility managers have policies in place to help mitigate the damage they can cause. By following these tips, you can keep your employees, tenants, and visitors safe, and business running smoothly.

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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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