As long as I have been in this business of building buildings and renovating buildings, we have specified that the contractor shall furnish a specific number of operation and maintenance (O&M) manuals. In pre-Internet days, it made sense to require volumes of data be compiled into 3-ring binders so that the facility person would have the information needed to operation and maintenance the equipment furnished as part of the building program. Today, we are still requiring specific number of O&M manuals be submitted in 3-ring binders.

To compound this costly and time consuming situation, some designer engineers are now asking that this information be copied as an electronic document, so that the facility manager can have several paper versions of the O&M manual along with all this information loaded on to a CD.

I think it is time we skip over the PDF process of making paper documents electronic documents and simply specify that the facility manager shall receive the O&M Internet addresses for each piece of equipment. Most manufacturers have had the associated O&M information on their websites for at least five years, if not longer. The problem has been that consulting engineers have not made it into the 21st century with their standard contract specifications. We need to change our specifications so that we can save time, money, and trees by requiring the facility person to receive the appropriate O&M manuals via the Internet and not via 3-rings binders.

With an emphasis on O&M training as part of the LEED certification process, as well as the Additional Commissioning credit requirement that a Recommissioning Manual be provided, the concept of obtaining electronic web page address for O&M compliance seems to me to be ideally suited for efficient and paperless documentation in the spirit of leadership in energy and environmental design.

While the LEED guidelines don’t dig deep enough into the methods required to compile O&M documentation, it is a costly and time consuming process. It is also important to note that the traditional O&M manuals are questions, and that is probably one reason why a project can pick up an additional commissioning credit if a Recommissioning Manual is furnished. Taking this issue into account, my suggestion is to take advantage of the Internet and equipment manufacturer’s O&M website to reduce time, effort, and cost while delivering a better product. Plus, think about the trees that can be saved. And one more thought on the topic of Internet website addresses: maybe this approach can qualify for an additional Innovative Design credit on the LEED scorecard.

Download my suggested O&M specification Equipment Website Address for O&M Manual Requirements specification, and let me know what your thoughts and experience with maintaining O&M manuals via Internet website addresses.

For additional information on this topic, read the Tomorrow’s Engineer column, "Haven’t You Had Enough Manual Labor?" from May 2006.