Wait And See: Vonnegut & Facility Engineering
What does Vonnegut have to say about facility engineering?
Have you read any Kurt Vonnegut? Slaughterhouse-Five? Cat’s Cradle? Breakfast Of Champions? I have to admit that while the writer was a real cultural touchstone, I’ve never read any of his novels or other work. Maybe that’s a good goal for the first part of 2018. I could stand to get a little more long-form, non-webpage-based reading into the cerebral diet.
Of course, social media in the modern age means that you can still see a random quote from just about anyone, and that’s how one line caught my eye:
“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”
Social media in the modern age also means that 43% of all quotes on the internet are fake (I think Ben Franklin said that). So I did my 30 seconds of due diligence and confirmed that the line is his and authentic, taken from his 1990 novel, Hocus Pocus. Vonnegut seems to have been at least indirectly contemplating his own family, which included a brother and father who were architects.
DEFER AND DEFEND
This got me thinking about the current state of maintenance — and more importantly, of deferred maintenance. John Busselmaier of TPC Trainco hit some key points in a blog entry he posted back in April. Here’s something you knew and maybe something you didn’t.
“Even if your system is running, deferred maintenance is draining your budget. An HVAC system consumes 40 percent of a facility’s total energy use. Without preventive maintenance, wear and tear reduces system efficiency by 5 percent every year, putting a strain on energy bills as well as equipment.”
You might’ve learned a lesson about the magic of compound interest when you were younger. That 5% factor over a number of years puts a new spin on that, doesn’t it? Less like compound interest and more like a compound fracture for your system’s performance. The quick thinking is that at least you’re saving money on the stuff you’re putting off, but dig a little deeper and even that “savings” is partially or totally offset by the more expensive utility bills that slide in along with a strategy of postponement.
Some of you are probably familiar with a consultant and former vice president at Stanford named Rick Biedenweg. He was part of a substantial amount of research that came up with an even more striking conclusion: Every dollar in maintenance that a facility puts off now will cost four dollars when all is said and done.
Now, that 4:1 ratio is eyecatching for sure, and not surprisingly, you’ll often see it mentioned by people who do happen to make their living in that line of work. However, that doesn’t make the info wrong, you know?
It’s not like people are anxious to create problems (including occasionally catastrophic problems) for their own buildings. Money is tight. Maintenance is boring and easy for higher-ups to put off in budget meetings: equipment does not fill up your voicemail or bug you at the coffee machine about its priorities. But whether anyone makes the case for adequate maintenance at the right levels or not, sooner or later the equipment will have its moment. We can only hope it’s during a 2 p.m. review of decreasing utility expenses and not a 2 a.m. emergency text.
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INDUSTRY EVENTS 2018
ASHRAE Winter Conference
AutomatedBuildings.com Free Sessions At AHR Expo
January 22 / 9:30 a.m.
“The Future Of Building Automation: Data At The Open Intelligent Edge”
January 22 / 1:30 p.m.
“Panel Discussion: “Growing The Open Intelligent Edge”
January 23 / 9:30 a.m.
“Panel: “Are Master System Integrators Becoming The New Building Data Architects?”
Industrial Refrigeration Workshop
Kansas State University