Maximizing Building Performance

June 28, 2006

In 1906, The Building Manager and Owner (later to become Buildings) discussed “The Intricacies of Office Building Management.“Author Joseph Dix described “the proper conduct and operation of a modern office building” as “no child’s play. Years ago it was a side issue and an incidental part of some man’s work, but in this day and age of competition, with wages at high water mark and profits low, it has ceased to be a sinecure and calls for ability of the highest order.” Performance, according to the article, included “a thorough knowledge of the workings of all the different departments of service ... the selection of a crew of gentlemanly elevator operators ... [and] a comprehensive system of records ... [on] the cost of alterations and repairs.”

That inaugural issue also focused on the insight of Geo. W. Nistle, who offered his peers the perspective of elevator control (“electric control desirable”), lighting a building (“direct-current generating plants”), the important rules for wiring (“wired according to city ordinances, but ... [also] placed where it can be reached without interfering with any other service of the building ... and protected against accident and mischief”), heating and ventilating (“the complete and positive removal of all water of condensation as fast as it is formed in pipes or in radiators”), and water supply and plumbing (“in some high-grade office buildings a three-pipe system is used, one for cold water, one for hot water, and one for ice-water. ... Hot-water and ice-water pipes should both be insulated to secure economy”).

Additionally, the issue recorded an example of innovation coming out of necessity. Due to sub-surface soil conditions and the limited time schedule required to complete “a new building on 42nd Street, New York City, ... a new style of foundation was developed by the builders, which, upon presentation, was accepted by the New York Building Department. The method is known as the reinforced concrete foundation, and is similar to some very recent methods which have been employed by French engineers in Paris where the clay soil is very treacherous. This building, however, is the first in New York City with a continuous foundation under the entire building.”

Based upon our present-day extensive research among Buildings subscribers about their critical issues, most of the eight topics of greatest interest - lowering operating costs, maximizing building performance, energy management, safety and security, routine care and maintenance, budgeting/life-cycle costs, government/regulatory/code issues, and trends in technology - are about performance. Initially, and over the magazine’s 100 years, as noted in the examples above, this emphasis on performance has never wavered. Today, it’s even more crucial and the expectation even more pronounced.

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