Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Cents and Sensibility

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Cents and Sensibility

Article excerpt

Regular maintenance saves money and limits liability

Why has this building's condition become so much worse in just the last few years?" asked the property manager of a 75-year-old Midtown Manhattan office building.

The answer: A building's rate of deterioration is not uniform. The degradation of any single building component is, in fact, generally constant over time. For example, the rusting of a steel beam, corrosion of a cast iron pipe, erosion of mortar between masonry joints and weathering of a roofing membrane all progress at a relatively uniform rate. Engineers and architects have observed, however, that where building systems are involved, the rate of deterioration, in fact, increases as a building ages.

The rate of physical decay for most building systems is almost directly proportional to the age of the system. This means that the system's level of deterioration at any time is proportional to the square of the system's age. The graphs in the figure below depict two distinct approaches to maintenance of a parapet wall system. The graph on the left illustrates the consequences of ignoring the parapet's condition for 50 years-sometimes diplomatically called "deferred" maintenance. The dollar cost to restore the system to its original condition after 50 years is represented by the solid line. In this particular example, the cost is $250,000, which includes reinforcement of the steel spandrel beam, masonry reconstruction and replacement of coping stones.

The graph on the right shows the results of maintenance performed on a regular basis, every 10 years. The cost to restore the system to its original condition (replacement of caulking between coping stones, repair of cracked stones and required masonry pointing) after the first 10 years is $10,000, as represented by the heavy line segment to the right of the first "scallop." The system graph is "reset" after these repairs so that 10 years later the cost is once again $10,000. After 50 years, the total cost is $50,000. Regular maintenance, in this example, offers the owner an 80 percent cost savings of $200,000. There are few other decisions an owner can make that offer dividends of such magnitude.

When maintenance is deferred, systems fail with less warning, sometimes with catastrophic consequences (e. …

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