Author Archives: Tom Cook

When it rains, it pours!!

Does your building roof often leak and just never seems to get fixed properly?  If so, it is time to apply some common sense measures to identify and prevent interior damage due to a poorly maintained roofing system.

Here’s a typical building owners comments, “we called another roofer to go up last time the roof leaked during a rainstorm, and we hope it’s fixed right this time!”  So we thought, until we noticed more water-stained ceiling tiles.  We flipped the tiles so we could see above the ceiling and now have noticed signs of mildew and mold.  The roofer had located the puncture on the flat roof’s membrane, applied some sealant with a patch, and soon to be forgotten about.  Several things were wrong with that repair: First – the only repair was performed during the rainstorm, so any type of lasting bond between the patch and leaking roof was compromised; Second – a patch is not a permanent fix and the roofer should have scheduled a return visit to properly adhere a similar piece of membrane and either glued, or heat welded it to the roof membrane. While roofers intentions may be to resolve your problem, they are not always the schedulers of their manpower, so the owner must always follow-up to ensure final repairs were accomplished.

Inspect the entire roof at least twice annually for open seams, proper water drainage, punctures, abrasions, patches, and check the access hatch operation to ensure safe and secure latching. Secured rubber mats at the roof access point to hatches can help prevent a slip and fall while mounting or dismounting the ladder.  These mats will provide a location to clean snow, ice, and water off your shoes or boots.

Whenever there are contractors providing services on the roof such as HVAC technicians, painters, roofers, satellite installers, and others, a visible inspection should be performed to ensure there are no screws, nails, or sharp metal objects that will puncture the membrane, or roofing system.

An effective means to assess the condition of a building’s roof is to complete a Thermo-graphic Survey using infrared imaging technology. These surveys are performed on roofs to quantify the extent of roof moisture (water) that is inside the roof system.  This procedure helps to locate the problem area, through non-destructive testing, and it also minimizes roof repair costs by identifying those areas with water damage.

Keep the roof clean, and unplug roof drains as often as possible.  Quite frequently, plugged roof drains not only promote ponding and older flashings to leak, but they also promote growth of algae, insects, and plant life.  The best way to extend roof life is to have a qualified inspector view it routinely, and report their findings in a written report.

Missing drain covers allow the roof drain to become plugged with dirt, leaves, debris, or even worse stone ballast from the roofing system, as shown in the picture below.  Drain covers should always be reinstalled during quarterly roof inspections to promote good roof drainage.

Roof drain

Roofing stone ballast plugs drain line without cover

RTU1 (800x600)

The metal roof of the buildings rooftop units that were once flat and water-tight, begin to deteriorate and leak after many years of service.  In order to extend the life of the rooftop air handling enclosure for continued dry operation, the owner might consider installing a membrane adhered to the top with positive slope to ensure water drainage.  It might be possible to calk all open joints on the roof of these units, but a long term solution to dry operation is a taper sloped membrane so rain water does not pond and leak inside the building.

Many building owners ask themselves the question:  If we purchase a roof warranty, do we also need to perform annual inspections?  Yes, absolutely!  Most roofing manufacturers and installers that offer warranties will require that a qualified roofing inspector perform and document semi-annual PM inspections, and maintain the roof in accordance with the terms of the warranty.  Once again, drains must be cleaned, gutters cleared, and all debris and sharp objects removed from the roof surface.  If you really want to extend the useful life of your building assets, TEAM Facilities has a network of pre-qualified contractors and stands ready to address all of your building maintenance and operational needs. Remember, routine maintenance is as important as cutting your lawn or changing your oil!

Contact TEAM Facilities, and we’ll make sure that when it rains, it pours somewhere else!

Change The Oil In Your Building

Are You Changing the Oil In Your Building?

Huh?  My building doesn’t run on oil you reply.  True.  However, I’d like to use a simple analogy to help explain my question.

Everyone I know and interact with on a daily basis owns a vehicle.  Some are impressive sports cars, some are minivans, some are large pick-up trucks and some are basic transportation on 4 wheels.  Most all of these individuals when asked, “Do you change the oil in your vehicle regularly?” all reply of course.  So I continue, “Why do you change the oil?”  The common response is “so it won’t break down and leave me stranded.”  Finally, I ask “do you ever consider skipping an oil change when it’s due?”  Again most all answer “No, I don’t like to take chances or gamble on an unplanned breakdown.”  The percentage of positive responses tend to be closer to 100% the more expensive the vehicle.  It’s interesting when I ask how did they know to change the oil, the answer is usually someone like their father or a person of great respect told them this was an essential part of owning or leasing a vehicle.  Ultimately it goes to back to what we would call the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule.  This is information found in a document that automotive manufacturers refer to as an Owner’s Manual.  Except for the section on how to connect your electronics, does anyone even read these anymore?  And what does this have to do with my building?

As you may know, changing the oil in your vehicle is what’s known as Preventive Maintenance.  It seems self-explanatory to most of us.  Maintenance to prevent failure.  Or maintenance to get the longest life from my vehicle or any other significant asset.  Not only changing oil, but completing other recommended preventive maintenance; rotating tires to get the longest life from them, replacing air filters, and performing tune-ups to get the best efficiency (gas mileage).  According to USA Today, the average price of a vehicle today is $33,560.  If you lease and didn’t purchase, what is your responsibility for maintaining the vehicle to not void your lease?

So let’s talk about your building where you run your business.  How much did you pay for your building?  Or if you lease, how much is your lease and what is your responsibility so as not to void the lease on your space.  Are you completing the preventive maintenance on your building and building equipment recommended by the manufacturer or landlord?

Most business owners we meet do very little preventive maintenance.  We find a very large percentage fall into the “run to failure” category.  This is essentially driving your vehicle and not changing the oil until the engine fails.  You then pay to have the engine overhauled or replaced.  Not a good way to spend your hard earned dollars.

Okay, I have your attention.  Where should I be doing preventive maintenance in my building?

Starting with the building structure itself, your roof, exterior walls, doors/windows, and floors need to be checked regularly.  The concrete and asphalt around the exterior needs to be reviewed.  The heating and cooling equipment needs at least a bi-annual check.  Plumbing, and electrical inspections are necessary.  And the most important is your life safety equipment.

The best way to identify what preventive maintenance is required is to check the manufacturer’s recommendations.  Check with your local contractors, suppliers, and city building inspectors for their input.  You can extend the life of your building and building equipment and never have to worry about unplanned breakdowns and potential loss of business.  Just make sure to change the oil.

Thomas C. Cook – Team Facilities Inc

More about Preventive Maintenance next month.

You Don’t Get What You Don’t Pay For

Everyone wants a deal.  But as a highly respected gentleman once told me, if we all bought services and products based on the lowest price, there would be no Starbucks.  We’d all buy coffee at McDonalds.  There would be no Cadillacs, we’d all be driving the equivalent of a Black Model T.  Think of the most expensive steakhouse.  Is there a difference between this and low cost family steak restaurant?  You decide.

I’m not saying the low cost alternative is not a good option; it’s just not the only option.  Many of us pay extra for higher quality, better service, or name brand products based on experience.  It’s not always about the lowest price.

How many times have you received a price from a service provider and thought that it seemed high?  But have you ever thought about what goes into pricing. When I started my business I had no idea how to price our services. So like any engineer that has been referred to as a “closet accountant,” I did a calculation that took into consideration what the price had to cover.  Let’s see, there is direct labor, overhead, and profit. Simple, or so I thought.

Direct labor includes the salary or hourly rate, payroll taxes, health care, and any other benefits given to the employee.  Overhead includes portions of our office rent, office fixtures, desk phones, cell phones, computers, internet, software, security system, office supplies, etc.  Insurance costs include liability coverage, workman’s compensation, fire/theft coverage, etc.  We supply vehicles for staff to get to our clients including the gas, insurance, and maintenance expenses.  There are our professional expenses for CPA and legal support.  Don’t forget travel and entertainment expenses.  And the training, marketing and sales expenses to continue to grow our employees and our business.  Of course there are federal, state, and property taxes that seem to grow exponentially as the business grows.  Finally there is hopefully a profit that keeps us from throwing in the towel.  How much profit is always the question?  I believe we should follow the market for our particular industry service.  Not always the cheapest but not the most expensive either.

So in summary, remember that you can always find deals.  Just make sure you are getting everything you are paying for and understand that you will not get what you don’t pay for.

Time: You Only Have 24 Hours

Time Management.  It has always been a popular topic for those of us in business that can’t seem to manage our days effectively.  I am a graduate of the Franklin Time Management System and Franklin/Covey leadership training.  One of the first things I remember about my time management studies is that there is no such thing as not having enough time.  We all get 24 hours each day.  The trouble is not with having enough time, the trouble is how we prioritize the 24 hours.

So what does this have to do with Facilities Management?  I have spent the last 40 years of my adult life working in facilities management.  And while I’d like to think I’m knowledgeable on all aspects of FM including janitorial, maintenance, utilities management, roads/grounds, security, and general administration, I keep learning new things every month.  The profession of FM is actually changing rapidly with new technologies and new processes.  Green buildings, LED lighting, building management systems, waste management, recycling processes; these are just a few of many.  But what does this have to do with Time Management?

Nearly every business whether retail, commercial, or industrial typically has a building or buildings where they conduct their business.  A facility.  A facility that has to be cleaned, maintained, monitored, and kept pleasant and safe for employees.  We spend a large part of our time in our work facilities.  Those facilities can support productive and effective work processes or they can easily hinder them.

Facilities Management is not always considered a profession by many laymen.  An old boss of mine always said, “If a person has put a deck on the back of their house, they consider themselves an expert in FM.”  When I ask business owners if they are looking for FM help, the most common answer is “We have a person that does that.”  If the business is a large entity then yes, typically there is a facilities management department.  But how many businesses are doing FM support of their buildings as a “necessary evil.”  It’s passed on to someone in the organization that may have spare time.  And, it’s typically not a fun profession.  The majority of calls to an FM department or support group are for something that is not working correctly.  It’s too hot, it’s too cold.  Restrooms are not functioning properly, too much energy is being wasted, the grass was not cut this week, or the snow was not cleared after last night’s storm.  I don’t think I have ever had a call from a building occupant that the lights went on this morning or my office space was clean and comfortable.  As most of us know, people in FM are good at receiving constant negative input.  Or at least they should be.  Is yours?

So why would any business owner spend a portion of the valuable 24 hours, or have a staff member hired for IT or HR spend valuable time on FM when it’s not their forte, even if they did build a deck on their house last summer.  Time spent on core business functions is potentially producing additional revenues or reducing expenses.

So start prioritizing your time on core business.  And allow FM professionals to do what they do best.  You may find more time to increase revenues and your FM professional will use their time to help reduce your expenses.  It’s called “Win/Win in Time Management.”

How are you spending your 24 hours?

Thomas C. Cook