Facility Dude

Everything old is new again: Providing maintenance for historic facility sites

By Kate Donnelly
Aug 06, 2014

Energy, Facilities Management

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Everything old is new again: Providing maintenance for historic facility sites It's a fact of life that nothing lasts forever. However, for facility managers, a large part of the job is doing your best to keep things - specifically buildings - around for as long as possible. Some facilities can pose specific problems in that regard, specifically those that are historic sites. Such sites present unique challenges to facility managers who may find themselves struggling to keep them properly maintained and up to code while still preserving the original historic and aesthetic appeal they are well-known and loved for.

Modernizing history

Some of the basic amenities we take for granted can create enormous problems for FMs working in historic sites. Such unremarkable fixtures as sinks, toilets and basic lighting can post-date many historic sites, and managers are faced with the task of bringing these buildings into the modern era so that they can remain open to the public. Historic preservation is the art of balancing modern installations with original construction, and according to Today's Facility Manager, the practice became something of a science of tedium in 1949 when President Truman passed the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This protected many historic sites from being replaced or demolished, but also placed severe restrictions on what types of updates and repairs can be made to the buildings.

While some updates such as lighting and plumbing are, ultimately, a matter of taste and respecting the original aesthetic, some repairs are more necessary, like upgrading historic facilities to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards of accessibility.

A balancing act

The decision to update or modernize a historic site can be a complicated and drawn-out one, and often takes several factors into account. One of the important first steps to be taken is to survey the premises for building maintenance issues that may create immediate health or safety concerns, as well as those that are not compliant with ADA standards. The National Institute of Building Sciences outlined a series of guidelines to be taken into account when restoration projects are undertaken. One particular area of interest was the addition of HVAC elements in buildings that predate such technology. The temperature and humidity fluctuations may damage the structure, and the difference in energy usage should be carefully tracked through utility tracking software so that the most efficient technology that complies with the site's historic standards can be implemented.

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