Facility Dude

How can you encourage resilience in your building?

By Kate Donnelly
Aug 14, 2015

Facilities Management

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You know that having a facility that's resilient as well as efficient is key for maintaining operational effectiveness and keeping costs down. But what exactly does a resilient building look like, and how can you ensure that you're doing everything you can to encourage that sort of operation?

Building resilience is a broad property, and it's influenced by nearly every element of your facility's operation. Here are a few ways that you can direct your building maintenance efforts to increase your facility's resilience and, in the process, reduce your operating costs.

What exactly is resilience?

Put simply, resilience is a building's ability to withstand and recover from service disruptions such as natural disasters. The more resilient your building and its infrastructure are, the less corrective maintenance you'll need to carry out on a regular basis. This not only reduces the immediate repair costs associated with fixing or replacing equipment, but it also enables you to dedicate more time, money and resources toward preventive operations or even tackling your deferred maintenance checklist.

Resilience is crucial for your building's success. FacilitiesNet noted that 25 percent of buildings that close their doors for more than 24 hours following a natural disaster never reopen. This staggering statistic could very well be mitigated through more resilient construction and operation. Similarly, beefing up your building can help you avoid liability issues that may be caused by equipment breaking, or even unexpected collateral or property damage caused by an antenna that gets knocked off a roof, or a similar hazard.

Resilience takes foresight

One of the most important things that can contribute to your building's resilience is your ability to predict the sorts of hazards the facility may face. In some cases this can be a simple task - certain parts of the country are prone to hurricanes, Monsoon, thunderstorms, excessive snow storms and any number of other severe weather conditions that can damage buildings.

But it's more than just those buildings situated on the coast of Florida that should be planning ahead in such a way. The old "ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure" is especially true in facility management, and preparing your building's equipment to withstand a given hazard from the get-go is more effective than finding out the hard way that there's still work to be done.

Focus on sustainability

Sustainability is another key buzzword floating around the facility management industry. As it turns out, it's a concept that is related to resilience, in that increasing your efforts in the former will often pay off in the latter.

A key example of this is energy efficiency. Reducing energy consumption can increase your building's resilience by reducing the physical size of equipment like boilers and other components of your HVAC system - according to FacilitiesNet, this corresponds with higher resilience. After all, smaller, lighter equipment is easier to move, making it simpler to protect them in a disaster or even move them to a backup facility in an emergency.

Think outside the box

As a facility manager, it's understandable that your chief concerns when assessing your building's resilience are focused on the structure itself and all necessary equipment. But while ensuring your foundation and HVAC can withstand a natural disaster is certainly a good idea, doing so to the exclusion of external concerns is a blunder you'd do well to avoid.

For example, equally as important as the operability of the facility itself is the accessibility of things like roads leading up to your facility, your sidewalk or steps, and any other pathways that let people reach your building. After all, resilience as a business concept is concerned not just with the survival of the facility itself, but with its ability to continue operation in the face of disaster. Having an impeccably preserved infrastructure does your building no good if nobody can get to it in the first place.

Focus on 'passive survivability'

In many emergency situations, evacuation is the primary strategy. While this is a sound practice that puts safety first, it may not always be financially or logistically feasible. For example, in large-scale emergencies such as city-wide power outages or severe weather events, evacuating your building may not be possible or practical.

This is why facility management experts encourage what they call "passive survivability." This is a facility's capacity to safely house its occupants in the short term during a crisis. It's wise to ensure you have the inventory stocked for short-term emergency stays, including sufficient food and water for occupants, as well as some means of generating emergency power. The source also noted that you should take into consideration the fact that larger facilities may be drafted into makeshift community shelter during some more severe disasters.

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