Building Maintenance As A Component of Sustainability

On the sustainability topic, there is a lot of talk about purchasing energy-efficient items, installing solar panels, and using recycled materials but there isn’t enough talk about the effect maintenance has on sustainability efforts. The “green-”est building will lose much of its performance without proper maintenance. Energy consumption will rise, water consumption will increase, and items will have to be discarded before their time. The answer to this problem is performing routine maintenance, tracking resource usage, and creating an organizational culture of preventative building maintenance.

Building Maintenance Issues That Impact Sustainability

Dust and dirt accumulate in air ducts and filters, restricting air flow through HVAC and ventilation systems. If air cannot pass as freely as designed through the system, the system will have to work harder to move the air and more energy will be drawn to maintain a comfortable working environment.
Visit the Institute for Building Efficiency for a detailed chart on how an improperly functioning HVAC system uses electricity.
Drafts let air pass through doorways, around windows, and even in cracks in walls and floors. It becomes harder to maintain a comfortable temperature in a given space and the HVAC unit will have to work harder and be set to more extreme temperatures to compensate.
Dirty windows greatly reduce the amount of natural light that pours into a building. Windows, which should decrease energy usage, end up not working very well and artificial light sources end up being relied upon more heavily. Natural light can also reduce heating and cooling costs, so letting windows get dirty can result in higher light and HVAC usage.
Cleaning light fixtures also makes a big difference in their functionality. A dirty light will shine less brightly and result in occupants feeling they need more light fixtures to get the light they need.
Keeping walls, ceilings, desktops, and floors clean also impacts light performance. The reflection of light plays an important part in how well a fixture brightens a room. So, you may not need more lights or higher wattage bulbs, you may just need a more efficient cleaning schedule.
Improperly running or maintaining machinery can result in poor performance, increased energy or water usage, and a shorter life span. Imagine keeping an expensive machine years longer because it was used and maintained properly.

What You Can Do:

  • Well, playing Captain Obvious here, you can keep a look out for the problems mentioned above.
  • Research, record, and heed both maintenance schedules and proper usage advice on machines and materials on your property.
  • Track your energy usage and water usage for problems. You can use software like JadeTrack for amazingly detailed, real-time reports so you can determine exactly when a problem arises and address it directly.
  • Create a culture in your business or organization of routine maintenance and proper training for equipment.
  • Make it easier on yourself when replacing items and remodeling structures by selecting items that will both last longer and require less maintenance.

Efficiency is not just an aspect something achieves from its design, it is hugely reliant on how something is used. As not fun as it is, proper maintenance is crucial to sustainability. The exciting side is that while proper building maintenance seems like it steals money from us and causes a headache, it actually costs less money than replacing items that we let wear out and develop major problems from reactionary maintenance. It also costs less money if you factor in the resource savings from using items the way they were designed by keeping them running their best. So, proper building maintenance equals a truly green business or organization as well as money savings or more profit.

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