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Sustainable O&M

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“Operations and maintenance” (O&M) includes all aspects of running a building over the course of its useful life. Because of the far-reaching nature of O&M, a well-designed and properly executed program is critical to the overall success of a “sustainably-designed” facility says, Catherine Coombs Bobenhausen at Viridian Energy & Environmental Inc, USA.

The operations and maintenance program sets demanding performance goals on both a daily and ongoing basis. The program needs to measure performance so that the building can be benchmarked against other buildings, adjust to changing occupant needs by modifying the HVAC, lighting, electrical, telecommunications, safety, housekeeping and building automation control systems. It also keeps in sync with repair, upgrade and re-commissioning of building systems to ensure that they are working to meet current needs and prevent disruptive failures in the building and its systems.

One goal of effective O&M is to achieve the intent of the original building design team and to deliver systems effective building services (including the appropriate amount of outside air) to building occupants. O&M is also the discipline through which long-term goals of economy, energy efficiency, resource conservation and pollution prevention can be achieved, while meeting the comfort, health, and safety requirements of the tenants.

Effective O&M strategies for high performance buildings should:

• Integrate indoor environmental quality (IEQ), energy efficiency and water conservation into established policies and procedures;

• Provide regular professional development and training for O&M personnel (e.g., 24 hours/annually which includes on-site, hands-on training on the building systems and sustainability aspects);

• Establish a facility-wide team to evaluate and improve on O&M practices

• Incorporate environmentally-protective features into all contracts, maintenance, and procurement practices.

Responsibility for effective O&M is shared by a number of individuals at various stages of the building’s life from conceptual design through renovation or demolition.

The Original Building Design Team should lay out the HVAC system so that maintenance and inspection will be easy to accomplish, should provide proper storage facilities in the building, select durable, low-maintenance, soil-resistant, low-emitting building materials, equipment, and furnishings. The team should provide documentation of design intent for building systems and incorporate controls and feedback systems for building systems to inform the facility manager.

The Facility Manager should schedule regular and preventive/predictive maintenance for all HVAC equipment, assess the relative advantages and disadvantages of lighting fixtures & programs and provide waste reduction & management. He should carefully schedule disruptive work such as plumbing, carpentry, painting, & renovation and coordinate housekeeping and custodial operations with building ventilation schedules to ensure that adequate ventilation is provided both during and after these activities. Facility manager also needs to institute an integrated pest management (IPM) program that creates the least possible risk to people, property, and the environment.

The Procurement Officer should develop purchasing policies that promote resource efficiency and toxicity reduction, establish cleaning practices that favor products with low toxicity and minimal environmental impacts, work with maintenance staff to determine the type and portion of cleaning agents needed to reduce worker exposure to chemicals and reduce chemical consumption and when appropriate, select “certified” environmental cleaning products.

No matter what the building’s use or size is, it is important to operate it responsibly and maintain it properly. Select low-emitting, low-toxicity caulks, solvents, paints, adhesives, sealants and cleaning agents. Develop safe handling, disposal, and storage practices including procedures for spill control and establish maintenance practices to minimize exposure to hazardous materials by substituting less hazardous materials. Also, prevent excess moisture or cleaning residue accumulation and moisture condensation and use high efficiency air filtration. Moreover, seek less toxic substitutes. The input of the maintenance personnel who use the cleaning products is critical to a successful transition to lower toxicity materials.

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