Have you every stopped to add up the hours it takes a contractor to pull together the O&M manuals to be submitted to a building owner at the end of a construction project? Have you ever stopped to ask a building operator how convenient those O&M manuals are to use?


Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with numerous facility managers and contractors, and I have come to realize that what design engineers specify for O&M manuals really miss the mark in today's computerized work environment. I think it is time to take a giant leap of faith and require design engineers to delete all those 20th century contract specifications requiring contractors to furnish O&M manuals at the end of a project and change their standard specification text to furnishing Internet-friendly O&M documents.

This is the 21st century, and since we have been in the Internet age of communication for several years, why are we still requiring multiple copies of O&M manuals? Do you think facility managers really want all these three-ring binders filling up the shelves right next to their computer? Or do you think they would prefer to have all this information captured via Internet O&M website addresses that are conveniently stored in their desktop computer?

I'd like to challenge equipment manufacturers to encourage specifying engineers to specify website-specific addresses. After all, today, most design engineers will go to an equipment manufacturer's website to select equipment, so why not get the O&M data from the Internet? For the contractor, if the engineer doesn't request website-specific O&M addresses, why not take the initiative, in front of the engineer and owner, and offer to substitute volumes of O&M manuals with O&M website addresses? That should score you a few client points.


What will it take to change those antiquated specifications? I asked Anthony Tomasi at York to submit the O&M manual website address for a D-B chiller replacement job. The new unit is a 400-ton steam absorption unit to replace an antiquated absorption unit. If you log on to, you will find the O&M manual for the project. How easy was that? When I asked Anthony how long it took him to pull up the website address, he said it just took a minute and another minute to e-mail me.

How much time and money do you think it takes to pull the O&M paperback version off a shelf at York, send it off to an HVAC contractor, submit it for engineer approval, and then forward on to the facility manager for storage on his shelf? My guess is the shelf-to-shelf process takes four weeks. The cost to furnish and deliver the paperback document is probably $150. I estimate the website approach to be a two-minute process and $4.00 labor (based on $120/hr labor rate to access the website).

For those who doubt my calculations, let's say I'm off on the Internet access process by 500%. This new calculation equate to a 10-minute process and $20.00 labor cost. What I didn't include in this analysis are all those environmental/cost benefits like trees saved, labor to produce paperback O&M manuals, contractor costs to compile all these multi-volume manuals, and, of course, all the materials required to build those shelves to hold all these O&M manuals.

So now that we confirmed the O&M requirements are readily available on the Internet, what will it take for consulting engineers to delete those 20th century specification requirements? The requirements are for multiple copies of three-ring binders full of everything you need to know, and more than you need to know about an equipment manufacturer's O&M data. To help the specifying engineer to make the change, check out the "Sustainable & Attainable" section at the new ES blog ( Here you can download the Internet O&M manual contract specification.

The results will be a more paperless process facilitated early in the construction phase of the project and the deliverables will be computer friendly. Sure, until you provide handheld computers to your facility staff, you may need one paper copy of an O&M manual, so hit the "Print" command on your computer. How easy is that?

And what do you do with those empty shelves next to the facility manager's computer where the O&M manuals would have been stored? How about putting up some photographs of the family, tranquil scenes, a Certified Plant Engineer certificate, or a photo of your favorite design engineer?