Last month, I suggested predictive maintenance requirements be considered when an HVAC design engineer is writing the contract specification for a construction project. This would be in addition to specifying the preventive maintenance criteria that should be found in the job’s required operation and maintenance (O&M) manual being delivered to the building owner’s facility staff.

A few years back, I began to notice specification writers expanding the O&M manual requirements that were being written into contract documents and more specifically the division 1 general conditions and supplementary conditions. In these construction projects, the specification writer of division 1 may overlook coordinating these requirements with the consulting design engineers’ for the mechanical and electrical trades. As a result, I have seen Division 1 require the contractor to provide the following five O&M manuals:

  1. Equipment O&M manual
  2. Systems O&M manual
  3. System manual (LEED projects)
  4. Training manual
  5. Emergency O&M manuals

Equipment manuals should be created by trade subcontractors, such as the HVAC O&M manual which includes each piece of equipment requiring maintenance. Within each section, e.g., central air-handling unit (AHU), should be a parts list, troubleshooting spreadsheet, preventive maintenance tasking (including lubricants, filters, etc.), and frequency. Each equipment manual instructions will include how to rig and assemble the unit.

Quite often, and separate from this O&M document, there will be an operational manual produced by the manufacturer which is usually a “canned/standard” sequence of operation that may differ from what the design engineer specified for a sequence. Also, the automatic temperature control (ATC) contractor may be required to produce a different sequence of operation document in sync with the design engineer’s specified ATC sequence and this usually never gets combined and included with the O&M manual.

When equipment is furnished with its own ATC sequences (central AHU, boiler, chiller, etc.), these seldom gets written into the ATC contractor’s sequence of operation and, instead will simply state, “refer to equipment manufacturer for control sequence of operation.” With the entire sequence of operated compiled in two different locations, the operator is left with pulling out the equipment O&M manual along with the ATC record documents to know how the equipment functions as part of the entire system, e.g., central HVAC unit AC-1, return fan RAF-1, and exhaust fan EF-1 system.

A second O&M manual is the systems O&M manual that frequently is specified to be separate from the equipment manual and will include operating instructions, set points, occupied-unoccupied schedule, and other functional criteria collected from the ATC submittal-record documents. This should not be confused with a third manual that is titled “system manual.” If the project is intended to be LEED, there may be an additional “system manual” requirement that often doesn’t get coordinated into the delivery of the other manuals.

A fourth O&M requirement will be training but this seldom gets coordinated between division 1 and the specific trade section of the contract specifications, e.g., HVAC section 22. Also, the training manual requires someone, such as the general contractor or construction manager’s trade coordinator, to compile all the equipment and system lesson plans into a single “training manual” and deliver these multivolume manuals to the facility staff during the training period as “project closeout” nears.

And finally, a fifth manual titled “emergency manual” will get written into division 1 but will not be specified in the various trade contractor sections of the contract documents. While this is a great idea, it requires the contractor, designers, and facility manager to work together to produce. Both the contractor and the design engineer will probably state that initiative is not part of their individual contracts with a building owner especially if it is a design-bid-build project delivery job.

In summary, all these manuals have a useful purpose for a building owner and his/her O&M staff. These manuals are important to contribute to the building’s infrastructure sustainability; “maximizing the useful service life of the equipment that makes up each system.” But it takes time and coordinated effort by many to deliver these manuals needed to assist in continuous operation and maintenance. In the end, total success is seldom achieved.