As everyone knows, nothing lasts forever. This is especially true for your building's equipment and essential infrastructure. Despite your best efforts and a regular planned maintenance schedule, facility managers know that everything will need repairs and, ultimately, replacing one day.
Of course, some of these projects can be more extensive than others. Your building's HVAC system is likely close to the top of the list of complicated retrofit or repair operations. The process can be further complicated when you take into account the fact that you and your staff have to do much of the work while trying to avoid disrupting your facility's occupants as much as possible.
But you can't put off replacing your broken HVAC, especially in the middle of summer when tenants are relying on air conditioning to keep them safe and comfortable at work. Here are a few tips for carrying out significant HVAC projects in an occupied facility.
Communication is key
If you've carried out major repair operations before, you know how important it is for everyone involved to be on the same page. When planning your HVAC repairs, it's crucial to keep your building's occupants in the loop. Give your tenants as much notice as possible. Outline what sort of repairs will be taking place, and what effect this may have on the occupants. For example, if you're anticipating a significant amount of dust or noise, warn people accordingly so they can prepare.
Communication is a road that runs two ways, however, Just as it's important for you to clearly set expectations for your tenants, ensure they have a means of contacting you or a member of your staff if they notice an issue that should be fixed, or if a problem arises.
Stay on top of your contractors
You may be able to handle some minor repair jobs in-house, but for more extensive jobs you'll likely be turning to third-party contractors to handle the work. Unlike you, contractors may not have the impetus to complete the job as quickly or cleanly as outlined by the original plan. Thus it's important for you to request extensive proposals from each contracting company you consider. Such proposals should include the projected timeline, resources needed, cost of completion and if possible, any impact on building occupants. Not only will this help you ensure the project runs smoothly from start to finish, but it will be essential for helping you bridge the communication gap between the contractors and your tenants.
Outline your goals from the start
You should never be undergoing a major repair operation without knowing exactly what you want to accomplish as defined by performance metrics, building benchmarks and other quantifiable standards. This could mean that you want to retrofit your HVAC system to comply with the most recent ENERGY STAR guidelines, or it could mean you want to reduce overall energy consumption. In some cases it may simply be that your HVAC equipment has reached the end of its life cycle and needs to be replaced.
Whatever your driving motivation is, it should be clearly stated and shared among you, your maintenance team and any contractors. This will help ensure everyone is working toward the same goal, which is essential when you're managing a large project that stretches across multiple teams of people.
Do it all at once, if possible
The prospect of replacing your building's entire HVAC system may seem daunting and unpleasant, and you might be tempted to take on the task in chunks to minimize disruption to your tenants. However, all this is really doing is ripping off a bandage bit by bit instead of just yanking it in one swoop. Yes, your tenants may have to endure the inconvenience of construction for longer, but if you're able to successfully repair, replace or retrofit your HVAC system at one time, it means that you can avoid having to do so again in just a couple of years.