Life of a Building

June 13, 2002
The debate continues on what constitutes an acceptable building “life,” but all agree it varies with the type of facility. Alan Gettelman, director of Marketing at North Hollywood, CA-based Bobrick Washroom Equipment Inc., suggests that, as in life, a building experiences several cycles. There’s birth (a construction/opening period), followed by the “growing” years (an operating run). A mid-life crisis might produce a positive outcome (renovation), while the ultimate ending, based upon your beliefs, may offer new possibilities (i.e., a building’s sale and the start of a new cycle).To maximize performance, Gettelman and the Bobrick organization emphasize the importance of selecting the right product initially for the long-term and an aggressive schedule of preventive maintenance. “Spending time and money up front to put in equipment that is consistent with the function of the building (its environment, traffic and use pattern, and abuse and maintenance characteristics): You either program that in at the front – spend a little bit more – or over the life of a building you’re going to end up spending more with ‘quality-challenged’ equipment that has to be frequently replaced,” says Gettelman.Michael Bross, operations supervisor at Monroe (MI) Public School District, addresses such concerns every day in the 19 buildings (elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as administration and operations/transportation facilities) that serve 6,800 students and the surrounding community. “When I started 20 years ago, the school made budget-type decisions on equipment,” he says. “Over a period of time, I have proven to the school board [the importance of] buying quality products and making them last longer through scheduled maintenance. As we extend the life on the products we install in our buildings, it helps our board because we project expenses a lot better.”Performance – and the proof to validate it – begins (and, ultimately, ends) with Bross. With the due diligence he applies to his daily activities, Bross and his staff of 55 custodians and a 20-person maintenance crew “that represents all the skilled trades” have developed a formal documented program that records the quality products that have met their exacting standards. “When we bid a job, we say, ‘These are the materials we want to include,’” he explains.Getting on that list is no small task. For the local Bobrick representative, it took many calls, a dramatic demonstration of product performance (literally, climbing all over the product to demonstrate its resistance to school-age abuse), and a free installation in selected areas to convince Bross that the company’s solid phenolic partitions were a long-term “solution” to the school’s graffiti, vandalism, and corrosion problems in school washrooms. Once Bross and his colleagues were convinced, however, the partitions became a school-wide solution – that now, 10 years later, remain attractive and require low maintenance.“They tell me I’m the hardest guy to please because of my ethics and expectations,” says Bross, “but I think that’s a compliment.”

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