Very few of the hundreds of thousands of buildings in use today in the United States have electrical-mechanical systems that are operating as originally designed, and will do so efficiently until the end of their designed lives. This condition exists in all sizes and types of facilities. No one group of people, public or private can be fairly singled out as being the root cause of premature building equipment and systems failures.

Our nation is not inhabited by a people who are outdoors-men, but by indoors-men. We now spend more time in buildings than outdoors. Our illnesses reflect this life style change, carpal tunnel syndrome, and being overweight are more common than the blisters, thorns and broken bones of our grandparents times. Soon our nation’s buildings, already coughing from sick building syndrome will be diagnosed with a cancer like terminal illness, known as un-economical to repair, due in large measure to the epidemic like spread of a maintenance philosophy called deferred maintenance.

Every piece of electrical-mechanical equipment that exists requires maintenance. The amount, how well and how frequently it is performed has a direct impact upon the life expecenty of the equipment. In America, perhaps more so than in Europe: maintenance has been long perceived as being a variable and when needed a totally optional drain on quarterly economic performance. Many things are considered to be constants, sunrise, sunset, and the wearing out of equipment. Even the rock of Gibraltar is eroding.

Our fixation on the superficial, the flowers at the front door help to keep maintenance cost deceptively high while latently implying a well run organization. Adverting, and presenting a good image should not be funded using electrical-mechanical systems maintenance funds.

Deferred maintenance is simply maintenance that is more costly in the long term. When decision makers defer maintenance, they guarantee increases in future operating cost. When a piece of equipment is replaced before it’s designed life has passed, it did not provide its scheduled return on investment. No matter the nature, today’s crisis can be traced in part to past decisions. When the idea of deferring maintenance was devilishly conjured up, the seeds for a future maintenance budget crisis were planted. The current fad of performance contracting as a tool for covering up sins of the past, is the beginning of the next maintenance crisis cycle. A cycle that will be soon crying out for yet another crisis management conceived, responsibility avoiding, quick painkiller and not a disease eliminating vaccine.

Recall these skeptical words the next time you visit a loved one in the hospital, or fly in an airplane, or cross a deep body of water on a long high bridge that was built in the 1930’s.

L. W. Brittian
Mechanical & Electrical Instructor

Copyright © 2003 Mike Holt Enterprises,Inc.
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