6 Steps to Optimizing a Preventative Maintenance Program

January 23, 2018 | By: Lee Cope

When developing emergency preparedness plans for buildings, it’s easy to think about tenant safety in regards to fire, storms, natural disasters, workplace violence and the like. While each of these considerations is extremely important, a topic that is often neglected by facility executives in regard to emergency preparedness is preventive maintenance of the building’s facade, roof and parking structures to help ensure their long-term performance.

Without implementing a regularly scheduled preventive maintenance program, facility executives inadvertently set themselves up to the obligation of performing emergency repairs, causing them to react in crisis management mode. Crisis management mode is a reactive way of approaching issues with options limited by time and emergency funding. In order to avoid operating in this mode, it is important to develop a proper preventive maintenance plan, which includes retaining qualified consultants that regularly inspect buildings facades, roofs and parking structures to inspect the overall condition of each building element and to help identify areas of distress so that a preventive maintenance plan can be developed prior to them becoming an emergency.

This article will outline the importance of performing preventive maintenance inspections for building facades, roofs and parking structures. It will also describe six steps that will help facility executives optimize their existing property asset management system to help minimize the risk of unplanned and/or emergency repairs.Building facades, roofs and parking structures constructed today are quickly becoming more and more complex and are often comprised of a number of systems with varying warranties and life expectancies.

Building facades are more complex due to the wide range of available cladding systems manufactured by an increasing number of companies; the new technology associated with water-resistive, air and vapor barriers, waterproofing systems and coatings; as well as the unique geometries being constructed.

Similarly, roofing systems are becoming more complex due to the wide range of available roof systems (often integrating both new and time-tested materials) including single-ply membranes, cool roofs, green roofs, modified bitumen roofs, and protected roof membrane assemblies.

In addition to the complex nature of parking structures related to the structural systems and unique geometries, the advancements in the technology related to waterproofing membranes, expansion joints and coating systems have continued to increase the complexity of these structures as well. Therefore, it is important for facility executives to be knowledgeable about the systems installed on the building facade, roof and parking garage (including components/materials, performance characteristics, and life expectancy).

The facility executive plays a critical role in developing an overall property management system, which should include a preventative maintenance program. For example, facility executives responsible for the operation and maintenance of a building with 1 million square feet of roof area are looking at an investment of about $15 million in 2014 replacement dollars for the roof area alone. The benchmark life for roofing systems in the U.S. is roughly 20 years. The average life of low-slope roofs in the U.S. ranges from 10 to 22 years depending on the type and use of the building, as well as quality of the maintenance program.

Failure to properly implement a roof management program as part of a larger preventative maintenance program can result in millions of dollars in unplanned or unnecessary emergency roof expenditures. This is also the case for building facades and parking structures. Improper maintenance can also certainly result in millions of dollars of unplanned, emergency repair costs. Some of the most common causes of these expenditures are cladding failures, water leakage, structural collapses, and concrete deterioration/spalling. Of course, many of these could have been avoided if a proper preventative maintenance program had been implemented.

Unfortunately, establishing a preventative maintenance program requires work up front, as well as a continued effort to maintain. Therefore, facility executives should consider the following six steps to optimize their preventative maintenance program within their existing property management system.

1. Collect Written Documentation

Most facility executives do not have comprehensive records about their building facades, roofs or parking structures. Construction documents and warranty information are often lost or misfiled. In many cases, there are no overall records of the type of maintenance performed, types of roof assemblies present, types of waterproofing systems, dates of installation, repair records or names of contractors or manufacturers involved with these components. Therefore, the first step in establishing a property management program is to collect and organize as many of the following as possible:

Original building plans and specifications
  • Roofing and reroofing proposals and contracts
  • Warranties
  • Leak records and reports
  • Inspection records
  • Repair and maintenance records related to the facade, roof and parking structure
  • Correspondence related to the facade, roof and parking structure

In many cases, it is a good idea to have the facade, roof and parking structure surveyed by a professional consultant/firm knowledgeable in all types of facade systems, roofing assemblies, structural systems (related to parking structures) and waterproofing and coating products (used throughout the property). It is also important that the professional consultant/firm have the appropriate tools, equipment, and instruments necessary to assess the condition of the facade, roofing and parking structure.

There are several types of warranties for various facade, roofing and waterproofing systems, and virtually all facade systems, roof installations and waterproofing/ coating systems for parking structures require one or more of these warranties as part of the construction contract. Contractors typically issue one- or two-year warranties to protect the owner against defects in workmanship and materials of all components covered in the construction contract. Roofing and waterproofing material manufacturers issue warranties up to 20 years covering defects in the material (not related to workmanship or application) composing the roof membrane and waterproofing products provided by the manufacturer. Unfortunately, even if a defect is covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, building owners are often required to pay for the installation of the repairs to a facade system, roofing system, waterproofing product or coating “covered” under a manufacturer’s warranty—a cost that can significantly exceed the material costs covered by the warranty.

2. Maintain Data Electronically

Prior to performing field investigation work, facility executives should implement a data recording and filing system. It does little good to invest in extensive data collection in the field unless that information can be readily recalled and expanded in subsequent years.

While information compiled from records and surveys can be kept manually or electronically, electronic management makes data easier to recall, review and report. Electronic record-keeping allows facility executives to maintain detailed records for building facades, roofs and parking structures, including warranty and repair information over a long period of years to provide for scheduled maintenance and repairs. There are excellent facility management software packages commercially available. One such program is the BUILDER program developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Survey All Facades, 
Roofs and Parking Structures

There are several pieces to a well-documented facade, roof and parking structure survey. The process begins by making scale drawings of the facade, roof and parking structure. In a fully dimensioned survey drawing, facades, roofs and parking structures are segmented into sections. A section is a discrete area bounded by a roof edge, wall, expansion joint, change in elevation, etc. Facades, roofs and parking structures are often segmented into sections because different areas of the facade, roof or parking structure may have different materials or construction. They may have also been built at different times.

The survey documentation should also include a precise system of coordinates and labels. For the building facade, the survey should include locations and size of expansion joints, control joints, downspouts, vents, louvers, windows and other penetrations.

For a building roof, the survey should include size and locations of rooftop equipment, drains, scuppers, parapet walls, expansion joints and other discontinuities.

For a parking structure, the survey should include size and locations of drains, expansion joints, curbs, handrails, parking aisles and traffic arrows and mechanical rooms.

Field notes maintained electronically should include information pertinent to the inspection. For the building facade, the field notes should accurately describe the type of cladding material and show locations and types of distress (e.g., cracking, spalling, delaminations, joint separations between various systems/components, etc.), condition and type of coatings, the types and condition of sealants (e.g., urethane, silicone or acrylic), the type and operation ability of the windows and doors, and locations of through-wall flashings and weeps.

For the roof, the field notes should include the types and number of layers of roofing systems, locations of standing water and visually evident distresses.

For the parking structure, the field notes should include locations of distress (e.g, cracking, exposed reinforcement, spalling, delaminations, joint separations between structural systems, etc.), locations of ponding water, and the condition and type of coatings, sealants and waterproofing systems.

Various tools—including metal detectors, moisture detection devices, boroscopes, ground penetrating radar (GPR) and other tools—should be used as needed during the survey to assess the overall condition of the facade, roofs and parking structure. Photographs should show building and parking structure elevations, panoramic roof views, and specific details and areas of distress.

Often times, exploratory openings are needed to determine the source of distress or the cause of water infiltration. Exploratory openings also verify the as-built construction and can confirm findings observed while utilizing moisture detection devices on roofs, metal detectors and ground penetration radar on facade and parking structures. Therefore, the size and locations of the exploratory openings are important. Photographs and sketches should be made to describe the observations made within the exploratory openings.

The most important information a surveyor must determine is whether or not there are any structural deficiencies in the facade, roof or the parking structure. From assessing hundreds of building facades, roofs and parking structures in the past, conditions are generally present prior to structural failures in a facade, roof or parking structure.

Prepare Property Condition
Report and Priorities

The purpose of the property condition report is to guide long-range planning. The property condition report should explain the investigation, methodology employed, the findings, the prioritized conceptual recommendations and the probable cost of recommended repairs or replacements.

5. Implement Scheduled Repairs

There are two types of maintenance programs: break-down maintenance and scheduled maintenance.

The term break-down maintenance is used in the mechanical equipment business to mean repairs made only when a unit breaks down rather than on a schedule. Break-down maintenance in building facades, roofs and parking structures means merely fixing problems when they occur rather than having an active preventive maintenance program in place. Unfortunately, waiting to repair something associated with the facade, roof or parking structure when a problem occurs often is not an isolated condition and can result in a huge financial burden to the owner—not to mention a safety concern for tenants and the public—often resulting in the facility executive being forced to react in crisis management mode.

Scheduled maintenance and repairs can be planned for the owner’s convenience, which may mean scheduling for optimum seasonal work, weekends or holidays to avoid disruption. It could also mean phasing to reduce the annual capital expenditures. Having a regularly scheduled program for repair and maintenance work can also reduce costs because contractors are able to depend on a certain volume of work and staff accordingly.

Perform Scheduled 
Periodic Inspections

Building facades, roofs and parking structures should be inspected periodically to help ensure the various components are functioning as they are intended and to help ensure repairs are made to deficiencies in a timely manner.

The overall condition of a building facade and parking structure should be inspected every two to five years. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends that all roofs be inspected twice a year, once after the hottest weather and again after the coldest weather. It is these weather cycles that induce the most thermal stresses on roofs and manifest the greatest damage. In addition, scheduled inspections should be anticipated approximately one to two months prior to the expiration of a contractor’s warranty period to allow deficiencies to be repaired at the cost of the contractor rather than placing the burden on the owner.

Routine maintenance should be performed regularly, thereby correcting deficiencies disclosed by the inspections. All maintenance and repair work orders and payments should be entered into the client’s database.


Lee Cope is a licensed professional engineer and an associate principal with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE). Cope has extensive experience in performing condition assessments and developing repairs for building facades, roofs and parking structures. Cope’s clients include owners, property managers, contractors, attorneys and insurance companies. He can be reached at lcope@wje.com.