Avoid Building Catastrophes An Ounce of Preventive Maintenance Goes a Long Way

It’s three o’clock in the morning and your building’s boiler has just broken down. Your property manager is woken from his sleep by a phone call from the superintendent telling him that there’s a catastrophe at hand. You’re left shivering in your apartment while those hired to protect your home scurry to manage the crisis. Could this have been avoided?

While an integral part of building maintenance is the ability to respond to a crisis, the more essential aspect of building upkeep is preventive maintenance. A properly devised preventive maintenance program will anticipate problems by detecting flaws and potential hazards thorough ongoing trouble-shooting. Rather than relying on fixing things when they are broken, building crises can be kept at bay and you can be confident that your building systems will operate smoothly.

The Importance of Planning

To ensure smooth operation, a preventive maintenance master plan must be constructed with daily, weekly, monthly, semiannual, and annual items grouped together. Maintenance checklists are invaluable in such a plan. The House Institute, an organization dedicated to providing New York City co-ops and condos with tips on how to run their building, suggests a format for a superintendent’s maintenance log. Says director Dick Koral, "The particular form of the preventive maintenance log is not important. Each building can develop the form that suits it best. For convenience, those chores that are daily or weekly are listed first in a weekly log. Following would be a monthly log and, finally, a log of items that are checked annually, bi-annually, or more infrequently– say, every five years."

Lists include every aspect of building maintenance, including the proper inspection frequency of roofs, walls, windows, doors, burners, boilers, piping, flues and chimneys, and more. Although obviously the particular lists will vary from one building to the next, Koral says the employment of such a method is key to a successful preventive maintenance plan. "The division of work between the building staff and outside service contractors is arbitrary but the important thing is that all the preventative maintenance chores are listed, so that none is overlooked."


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  • I very much agree with what has been posted here. I am a superintendent for 13 years, and yes preventive measures are required. Keeping logs is a must for every super, building catastrophe that i have experienced in the past 3 years, and it is a growing problem in the nyc area, water floods unpredictable rain storms inproper building drainage cause major damage in the buildings equipment such as biolers and electrical in the basement.I have seen with my own eyes the month of august 2006 in the building across the street from mine, their underground garage had more than 10ft of water the cars parked in there where hovering like surf boards, ground level apartments where a total loss their building lobby had 2ft of water, i am conversing on this because in the building that i work i took preventive measures about the flood issues. Ok maybe some of you out there dont know that the NYC mains back in the day where build to withstand 3"inches of rain water not mention that the goverment has done nothing to improve the city mains, the solution to my building problem was? to locate the buildings ground/underground lowest drainage connections with the city mains that where overwhelmed with water, and then connect a matrix of pipes to the highest city main of the building with only one submersable pump pushing 300gl per min, yes the catastrophe preventive measure in my building was resolved. I strongly agree that preventive maintenance saves alot of money and hadaches.I oversee on a daily basis the sprinkler/stdp/fire pump system for loss of pressure water leaks i always maintain a log book in the fire pump room. HVAC equipment i maintain a log book in the bioler room. Centrifugal pumps inspection log book. Resident complaints i maintain a log book, every log book that i have has its time date and item description.In my building there is no outside contractors allowed to perform work without my knowledge or the managements. It has been my pleasure reading this article, it has read my mind.
  • William Pine, Buildings, grounds & gardens on Wednesday, December 2, 2009 8:42 AM
    I have responsibility for a Historic Lighthouse constructed of limestone and Wood in the 1870 & 1900. Consisting of a residential and stone lighthouse building entailing complete utilities beginning to show their ages as time moves on needing periodic preventative maintenance Some of those that do not knowhow tommake the necessary repairs we could schedule maint. prior to breakdown.