Maintenance and Repairs

May 1, 2023 Published by South Alberta Chapter - By Cory Bilyk

Is “Preventive” Maintenance Costing You Money?

From the Spring 2023 issue of the CCI South Alberta CCI Review

“Preventive” is defined as something designed to keep something undesirable such as harm or accidents from occurring or intent to stop something before it happens.

Condominium owners and Boards are in a unique situation. When a single-family homeowner needs work done in their house, they are typically home to watch over maintenance, repairs or replacements. When preventive maintenance needs to be completed in the condominium world, typically the quote goes to the Property Manager, which then gets passed on to the Board, who then makes a decision based on the paper in front of them.

Unknown to many, preventive maintenance can run a large gamut of what is included, from “Test and Inspect” styles of an agreement to agreements that can include parts, labour and replacements. The baseline should always be what the manufacturer of the piece of equipment recommends as ongoing tasks. Oftentimes, this is not what is performed. A “Test and Inspect” style of maintenance program is the most common in our industry. Why? Because this is the cheapest program. This is also the most lucrative program for vendors. You might ask, “How can this be lucrative for vendors if it is the cheapest program that they offer?”

Let’s use your vehicle as an example. If you take your vehicle to a mechanic for a tune-up, they will typically come back to you and tell you what the manufacturer-recommended tasks are that should be performed on your vehicle due to the service intervals recommended by the manufacturer. If you choose not to do those tasks at that time, you will save some money… but is this really saving money? What happens if you don’t do those tasks? Over time, the gas mileage of your vehicle gets worse, which is a loss of efficiency. Over time, the inside of your vehicle gets very dirty due to a lack of changing the cabin air filter, and the inside of your engine gets very dirty due to the lack of changing the engine air filter. Most importantly, by not performing the tasks that the manufacturer recommends, the lifespan of the vehicle is drastically shortened, and engine components fail on an emergency basis, which means that you can’t spend time sourcing out replacement parts. In fact, you are stuck using whatever mechanic you can get the vehicle towed to in order to complete the repairs.

How is this any different from the mechanical systems in your building? The big difference is that the mechanical systems in a condominium may be worth 10’s or even hundreds of times more than your vehicle. If you have a vendor who is doing minimal maintenance on the mechanical systems, and they do not perform the manufacturer-recommended tasks, who makes money when the equipment fails? In the middle of winter when there is no heat and your vendor states that a heating circulation pump needs to be replaced and if you don’t replace it there will be no heat in the building, is the Board
going to go out for a quote, or do you pay whatever it costs? The reason for failure that is typically given is, “… well, mechanical things fail…”, but the reality is that in the vast majority of cases, mechanical systems will fail, but a proper proactive, predictive, preventive maintenance program should not only be able to extend mechanical equipment lifespan past industry averages but should also be able to give the Corporation some idea as to when equipment is on its way to failure so it can be budgeted for replacement.

Proper preventive maintenance should include cleaning, calibrating, lubricating, aligning, adjusting, tightening and even touch-up painting to prevent corrosion on outdoor pieces of equipment. How can a Board know what tasks a vendor is doing on a regular basis? ASK to see the tasks that they will be performing on EACH piece of equipment. If a vendor is using a pre-populated checklist for every boiler or makeup air unit they take care of, how is this customized to the equipment in the building? If there are no categories on the checklist for recording voltages, amperage, temperatures, pressures, and if there is no history of what those readings have been in the past, then how can the preventive maintenance program be predictive, which allows your vendor to let you know when equipment is on its way to getting replaced? Look at the wording of the tasks that the vendor will be performing…Do they include the words that are included in proper preventive maintenance? Do the tasks include words like cleaning, calibrating, lubricating, aligning, adjusting, tightening, and painting? If not, is the program that is in place really “preventive”, or is it just “reactive”, where your vendor makes money every time equipment fails? In fact, whose interests are being served by performing minimal preventive maintenance tasks, the Corporation’s or the vendor’s?

The reality is, a Board of Directors has a fiduciary responsibility to the Condominium Corporation that they are representing. While money saved in the short term may enable a Board to keep fees unchanged for the first year or even a couple of years, at some point in the near future, lack of proper preventive maintenance on the mechanical systems will end up costing every resident in the building more, through an increase in energy use as the equipment gets less efficient and through a rapid decline in equipment lifespan while repair costs also increase.

Stop allowing vendors to walk into your buildings with grocery carts that they fill up with emergency repairs.

Start making vendors accountable for performing the tasks that the manufacturer recommends to keep equipment lifespans and efficiencies at or above what the manufacturer says they should be.

Start holding preventive maintenance providers accountable for keeping something undesirable from occurring.

Preventive maintenance should not cost the Corporation money, it should save the Corporation money.

By Cory Bilyk, Trotter & Morton Facility Services Inc.


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