Facility Dude

The importance of building resilience

By Kate Donnelly
Aug 31, 2015

Maintenance, Facilities Management

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The importance of building resilience A facility manager's job centers on increasing operational efficiency of the building while minimizing the costs needed to get the desired performance. This is a delicate process that requires balance between building maintenance, budgeting, benchmarking and reporting.

But these tasks are all dependent on another critical part of proper building maintenance - resiliency. After all, if the building itself experiences significant damage and requires major repairs or even new construction, this will have a significantly cascading effect on all the rest of your facility's essential infrastructure.

Maximizing your building's resilience requires you to take several factors into account, from environment to weather to frequency of use. Here are some things to keep in mind to help your building last as long as possible.

Understanding building resilience

The first step to maximizing your building's resilience is to first understand exactly what is meant by the term. Resilience may be well understood as a qualitative measure, but facility managers also need to cultivate a quantitative understanding of the concept to set goals, measure results and implement improvements.

A report from the Infrastructure Assurance Center further specified the term, noting that resilience in a facility management context refers to a building's ability to withstand, mitigate and recover from disruption. This disruption typically takes the form of a natural disaster, maintenance issue or similar service disruption. The report further broke resilience planning and measuring out into four categories: preparedness, mitigation measures, response capabilities and recovery mechanisms. Each of these categories encompasses a different aspect of your facility management strategy, ideally helping you work toward a proactive, multi-tiered approach to ensuring your building's resilience.

Why resilience is important

Nobody likes to think about the eventuality of a natural disaster or other service disruption, but not being prepared will leave you in a much worse position. FacilitiesNet identified a phenomenon known as "disaster amnesia," wherein distance and time contribute to a decay in preparedness in the wake of a disaster. For example, hurricane preparedness will likely be on facility managers' minds during storm season or following a specific event, but planning construction, maintenance and retrofits around this aspect of resilience is rarely top of mind unless spurred forth by a particular event.

Similarly, budget balancing can come into play in this regard. The sheer number of building maintenance operations that must be carried out just to keep your facility running the way it needs to can monopolize a great deal of your operations budget, and taking proactive steps to increase building resilience vis-a-vis particular threats can be seen as an unnecessary expense. However, just like with deferred maintenance, neglecting resilience issues can end up costing you much more in the long run.

A focus on interconnectedness

The facility management industry has undergone a renaissance in the past decade or so, thanks largely to CMMS software and similar online tools that put a major emphasis on integrating facility management into every aspect of a building's operation. Resilience follows a similar principle, requiring a closely connected interplay between many different parts of a facility's infrastructure.

This means that it's important to determine which aspects of your facility you have direct control over and which you don't. Certain elements, such as the location of your building, are out of your control, which places a greater importance on identifying those elements that you can control.

Ultimately, maximizing your building's resilience is a process of balancing the rigors and demands placed on your facility from factors such as climate, seasons and use with maintenance actions you can take to mitigate these factors. This can include improving energy efficiency, improving your building's water processing ability or upgrading your infrastructure to newer, more efficient and lighter-weight equipment.

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