Feature Article - October 2014
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More Consideration Needed for Long-Term Facility Upkeep

By Deborah L. Vence

Prepare for the Unexpected

Certainly, something unforeseen could go wrong at your facility or park site that needs immediate attention.

And, consequently, if a long-term maintenance management plan isn't established early on, then it will be more difficult to pay for the repairs. Some public entities might have a difficult time acquiring the funding needed to make more expensive fixes if they don't have a maintenance management plan in place. The upside, though, is that if something unanticipated needs fixing and if your facility is at a peak of productivity, most jurisdictions likely will provide the money.

"I used to do workload studies and take all the things that have to be maintained and how frequently and put a standard on it," Beckner said. "I could go through and say, 'Here's how many people you need to be permanent full-time people in a maintenance program, and here's where you have to hire seasonal workers.'"

The point is to make sure you are maintaining things in the most productive matter, and that you have the kind of materials that are good quality.

Probably the biggest issues to affect recreation facilities involve mechanical problems.

"Mechanical systems probably is one of the biggest issues—building codes and effort to save energy costs. What we're finding is systems are becoming so sophisticated in an effort to be green, your average maintenance people may not be aware of how to maintain it," Springs said.

He noted that the incremental dollars you spend will help with the longevity of equipment. And, when you defer little items, they end up costing you more.

As an example, one of Springs' clients had an interesting idea on a gym floor.

"They specified upfront [what they wanted], but they had a lot of recreation centers they maintained," he said.

Some public entities might have a difficult time acquiring the funding needed to make more expensive fixes if they don't have a maintenance management plan in place.

On a brand new floor, a couple of extra layers of urethane were used. "It gives them longer wear. They found that if they spend a little extra money and put in more urethane, they can extend the period of time between resurfacing. It's an incremental amount of money to save in the long haul," he said, adding that long-term maintenance issues that get deferred are usually the type at the back of the house, so to speak, the types of things that you don't see all the time.

"Even if you specify products that have a nice long warranty, those warranties are tied to proper maintenance," he said.

For example, a lot of newer vinyls are meant to be installed and left alone. But, oftentimes, maintenance involves the use of harsh soaps and waxing.

"Sometimes the chemicals they are used [to using to do the] cleaning can harm it as well … and then the materials start breaking down," Springs said. "Then, you have to regrout because they are being aggressive. It's always good to make sure that your cleaning crews really understand, in a new building or a remodel, … that they are looking at their own manuals and using the right products to maintain it."

Keep in mind, too, on a gym floor that if the chairs and tables you use don't have soft feet, they can scratch up the floor.

"You can inadvertently create your own problem with simple things like that. Everyone thinks about non-marking soles on their shoes, but when they rent out the gym without controlling what equipment is coming in and out of the gym [that can be a problem]," Springs noted.

"It's always cheaper to do it right once, than to do it twice. Picking something that's durable doesn't have to make it feel institutionalized. There are a lot more choices now," he said.

Overall, using quality materials can help ensure the longevity of your facility or park site.

"We ask what works and what doesn't, what would be their ideal [type of] main entry? Usually there are key areas [where more wear and tear] takes place. The more conversations you have [about maintenance] the better," Sherrard said.

"A good quality building takes a lot of people to make it happen. If you have a good team that cares, it yields a significantly better building," he said. "If everyone cares, the end result is usually better."