8 questions to ask to ensure easy exterior fitout maintenance

by FM Media
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How to manage the challenges of exterior fitout maintenance is shared by MATT DE CAROLIS, managing director of De Carolis.

It’s the bad start to the week all facilities managers hate – coming in on a Monday to find the building exterior has been spray-painted by vandals over the weekend, the gardens have been ripped up and pilfered, and the possible culprits are now hanging around the front of their building, riding skateboards up and down the main entrance.
Exterior architectural features, along with solid and permanent furniture, such as seating and tables, handrails, ramps, balustrading, garden beds, breakout spaces and decks, can all provide headaches when it comes to maintenance.
Timber can require excess staining, youths can turn new ramps into their latest local skateboard venue, ruining garden beds and retaining walls, vandals can deface façades, exterior tables and chairs can weather and look shabby in no time, and groundcover can become a dry, dusty weed before you know it. The outside of a building, without proper thought, can become a real burden.

There are, however, smart ways to avoid the expense of constant maintenance and crucial to this is the need for facilities managers to become involved in the building planning process early on. Collaboration is what leads to a successful outcome, and more and more designers and builders are working closely together with facilities managers to create winning outcomes and reduce the effect of poorly thought through exteriors.
Proper thought needs to be given to the day-to-day use of the outside of a building and what resources will be available to manage this area. The key to a good outcome is a partnership, which includes the facilities manager, project manager, designer and builder, working to identify potential future issues. A focus needs to be put on durability, practicality, maintenance and ‘buildability’. If there is no such collaboration, items are invariably missed, which leads to issues following completion of the building.
The facilities manager should be involved in the question and answer process, and the design brief should include questions such as:

  1. What kind of climate will affect the exterior? Is it wet and windy, or dry and dusty? How high is the humidity? Is the area prone to fires, or windstorms?
  2. Where is the building located – is it a city building or in the suburbs?
  3. How does traffic flow around the area? Is the area a high-use pedestrian thoroughfare or walk-through? Is there the likelihood of vandals hanging around? Would some of the features attract skateboard riders, for example, wide, sloped pathways? Is the building near busy roads that may result in discoloration due to pollution?
  4. Will there be a full-time maintenance person or gardener on-site? What resources can realistically be budgeted to ensure there are good maintenance schedules in place?
  5. What are the surrounding buildings experiencing as far as vandalism is concerned? Have the neighbouring buildings experienced any vandalism or traffic problems? How are the nearby buildings looking? What lessons can they teach the new developers? Note their design and maintenance issues and learn from them!
  6. What kinds of plants will work best and be tough enough to last and stand up to the elements? What plants would be appropriate for the use of the building? How much water will they need and how will they be watered? Getting the right plants will mean less maintenance and replanting costs in the future.
  7. Will there be decking? What are the proposed uses of the deck and how protected is the area? Does it need fencing and, if so, will the fencing be complementary to the environment and safe? How often will this decking need to be repainted? Is there a product that can be used to ensure the decking stays in a good condition for longer?
  8. If seating and tables are to be used in the grounds, are they able to be securely bolted to the ground to avoid theft? Are they easily ‘destructible’ or has thought gone into the kind of sturdy materials that will last and not be easily damaged, causing occupational health and safety issues, as well as extra costs?

There is a wide variety of products and design features that can be incorporated into a building to cut down on exterior maintenance and help to preserve the building – with the designer, builder and facilities manager working together as a team, it should ensure that these are well-thought out in advance.
The materials used in construction should be maintenance friendly. For example, timber needs excessive upkeep and will become a problem. Look for new products, such as manmade timber, that don’t deteriorate.
Sub-framing should be galvanised or in stainless steel, and stone retaining walls need ‘skateboard bumpers’ to stop kids from turning ramps and walls into skateboarding ramps and ruining the structures, let alone becoming a dangerous pest who could potentially vandalise the building.
Keep garden areas simple, but attractive. When planting, think of heavy, water friendly, robust plants that are difficult to remove or damage. Choose a substantial plant rather than ground covers and delicate plantings, as these will cost less in the long run.
Fencing should echo the interior design and be not only practical, but also attractive. It should serve its purpose – keeping the unwanted out – and, thereby, decrease maintenance problems.
The most effective tool to overcome exterior maintenance challenges is ensuring you get a chance to collaborate and provide input from the start. Good planning is the key to cutting down on exterior maintenance woes in the years to come.

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