Last month, when a bridge support beam cracked along Lake Shore Drive, the major Chicago roadway was fully shut down for emergency repairs. As traffic snarled across the city, questions were raised about whether the issue could have been avoided and if poor maintenance was to blame.
This entire situation struck a chord with us at Englewood Construction. As a commercial construction firm that also offers facility maintenance and management services, we know firsthand that just as regular upkeep is critical when it comes to city infrastructure, having a good preventive maintenance program in place is also vital for keeping commercial facilities open and running smoothly. For owners and operators of these properties, here are three reasons why a facility maintenance contract is a great investment:
1. The ease of one contact
Most busy property owners, landlords and tenants appreciate having a facility maintenance provider on contract because it means they can downstream any facility need with just one phone call. They don't have to spend time researching which vendor to enlist -- whether it's for routine maintenance on a mechanical system, switching out electrical fixtures or flooring, or even a weather-related emergency like a frozen pipe. Instead, they reach out to their one maintenance provider and it's taken care of.
Having a contract in place also means the owner or operator doesn't have to remember to schedule these important items -- they're already handled for them.
2. Fewer emergencies
On that same note, keeping up with ongoing preventive maintenance goes a long way toward avoiding expensive and disruptive emergency repairs to a property and its mechanicals. For example, a typical rooftop HVAC unit should be checked every quarter and have its air filters changed regularly. This upkeep not only helps the unit operate at maximum efficiency and reach its life expectancy, but it is also an opportunity to identify and address issues that could potentially lead to the system breaking down unexpectedly -- requiring costly emergency service or even replacement of the unit, and potentially interrupting business at the commercial property.
Other vital mechanicals and utilities that require ongoing attention include electrical systems, which should be regularly "massaged" by turning breakers off and on in order to ensure they are running correctly.
Water heaters also need scheduled checking and servicing. Waste lines are another important maintenance item that often aren't thought about until they aren't working properly, but regularly water jetting them can prevent a backup down the road.
3. Peace of mind
While proactive maintenance of a building and its systems can help avoid many emergencies, there are always unexpected situations -- whether it's roof damage during a severe storm, a burst pipe due to subzero temperatures, or a random accident such as a car driving through a business's front window.
In these scenarios, it gives tremendous peace of mind to property owners and tenants to have a trusted facility maintenance provider on their team. Not only do they know who their first phone call should be to, but they also know the issue will be addressed in a timely matter. Perhaps most importantly, they don't have to worry about being taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors and vendors in a time of need.
• Chuck Taylor is director of operations for Lemont-based Englewood Construction.