As large numbers of us have embraced working from home during the Covid-19 crisis, many building operators are faced with managing facilities which are now empty or only partially occupied. How do we now manage buildings to minimize operating costs while being prepared to turn it all back on when business-as-usual resumes?

Many building operators assume that building services can be switched off, unfortunately it’s not so simple. A good analogy is that a building or facility in reality is no different to a motor vehicle in some ways. If you park your car in the garage the likelihood of you being able to jump into it and drive it in six month’s time is fairly low. The battery will be flat, the “smarts” will have forgotten their settings, the tyres may have flat spots and a lot of mechanisms will have seized and require lubrication. Buildings are the same, the difference between the two is that car manufacturers have well documented processes for operation and maintenance, buildings typically don’t.

Within a building there are a large number of systems that interact with each other to provide comfort conditions, power and lighting and the many other amenities that we generally take for granted when we walk in and take the elevator to our place of work. So with regards to ongoing maintenance there is a real need to put in place a plan – effectively a shut down or even a decommissioning plan, depending on the type of systems that are in place.

The process to shut the building down and leave it in a condition whereby it can be “re-started” needs to be reviewed on a case by case basis. Most buildings are unique and may have systems that require more maintenance when isolated, for example, Cooling Towers where corrosion may be an issue during a prolonged shutdown and Air Handling Equipment where mold build up may take place. There may also be a need, depending upon the length of shutdown, to carry out some recommissioning to verify performance.

The best solution is to have a collaborative discussion with your existing maintenance providers and consulting group or a trusted advisor with experience in building services both from a design and operational perspective.

The last thing that building owners or operators want is to find all the occupants returning to a building that will not “start” because it has been left parked with no consideration to ongoing maintenance.