Post-secondary learning institutions are slated to reopen next week, and it highlights the importance of maintaining facilities during prolonged periods of disuse, like during the pandemic.
According to Brendan Murphy, director of client solutions at First Onsite, a nationwide restoration firm, it’s imperative that mechanical systems run with regularity because, should they become dormant, problems will invariably occur. With colleges and universities readying to open their doors to students for the first time since March of last year, problems could arise if precautions haven’t been taken.
“I think no matter what, plumbing is always an issue, whether it’s to do with age or something as innocuous as someone hitting a sprinkler with a ladder, because water can be very destructive,” said Murphy. “Let’s say it’s a nine-storey building and there’s a leak on the top floor, it goes all the way down to the first floor. To avoid this, always test faucets, check toilets and get them running and see if there are any leaks because you can save thousands and thousands of dollars by doing preventative things.”
Where prevention fails, shutoff valves are crucial to mitigation, which not everybody is aware of, says Murphy, but using them immediately upon identifying deficient plumbing could be the difference between $5,000 and upwards of $50,000.
“Knowing where the shutoff valves are could be a huge benefit, because not knowing where they are usually means you don’t have a plan in place for such emergencies or you don’t know your building well enough,” he said. “To be frank, these things don’t usually happen at one in the afternoon; they tend to happen in the middle of the night. Know who to call, where the shutoff valves are, and prepare emergency or business continuity plans for when they happen because it will save the business from major disruption, and in this case, students will be trying to learn.”
In addition to plumbing issues, roofing problems—which are arguably the most damaging—are common. The most frequent roofing issues are caused by swirling wind and heat that ultimately result in cracks, and in the event of inclement weather, there will be water infiltration. To nip it in the bud, especially in light of the pandemic truly testing building infrastructure, Murphy says to treat buildings like they’re being commissioned for the first time.
“I call it ‘a mini-commissioning,’ but with a top-down approach. Check for signs of wear and anything that could result in water penetration,” he said. “For us, we’d be focusing on plumbing infrastructure, toilets, faucets, and having a checklist to see that things run smoothly so that you can deal with potential problems then and there.”