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How Are Skyscrapers Maintained?

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Maintaining a safe environment in high-rise buildings is a complex task that should be a top priority for asset managers. The structural integrity and safety of the building depend upon excellent maintenance and management, and quality maintenance will prolong the life of the structure.

Skyscrapers are maintained through a system of planning, inspections, and maintenance of the roofing, HVAC, plumbing, lighting, and long-term items. Asset management teams assess environmental and other damage and provide upkeep and repair of the building.

This article examines skyscraper maintenance and to preserve safety and integrity in the structures. It discusses who is involved in planning and executing a maintenance plan and the different types of maintenance that need to be performed.

How Often Do Skyscrapers Need Maintenance?

Skyscrapers need daily and weekly maintenance of the interior and exterior, including regular cleaning and routine maintenance. These buildings also need periodic inspections and assessments of long-term problems and issues, which should take place monthly or annually.

Casey Zaunbrecher, Senior Project Manager for , a global real estate company, says that skyscrapers are built to withstand the elements for hundreds of years through the design process. When the high-rise building goes up, it must meet standard codes to ensure that wind, earthquake, and lightning protections are in place and that the structure is structurally and mechanically sound. After the building goes up, it goes through rigorous inspections to meet these safety codes. Inevitably, though, high-rise buildings will encounter wear and tear, breakdown, and repair issues that require systems and planning in place beforehand for care and upkeep. All facilities employ preventative and corrective maintenance plans for these situations.

Types of Maintenance for Skyscrapers

There are two types of maintenance planned out and performed on both the interior and exterior of every high-rise building. These are preventative and corrective maintenance.

Preventative Maintenance

is the constant, routine maintenance that’s performed throughout the life of the building to prevent breakdown and wear and tear on the building. Building owners typically employ a plan and schedule for preventative measures to prevent things from going wrong. are fundamental in preserving a building’s integrity. When maintenance teams stay up to date with upkeep, they avoid expensive equipment failures and emergency repairs, cutting into the budget. In addition to routine cleaning and servicing, several areas require consistent attention to avoid these failures and breakdowns.

Roofing

Using a roof assessment management program can prevent damages and premature aging to the roof of the building, an area with which maintenance managers commonly see problems. Failures in roofing systems often result in water infiltration, which causes extensive damage to the building’s interiors and systems and is costly to repair. include:
  • Performing routine inspections twice a year and after damaging weather.
  • Finding and addressing sources of water infiltration as soon as they occur.
  • Clearing roof drains of limbs and debris.
  • Examining sheet metal, copings, and repairs that have been done previously.
  • Examining flashings for tearing and wrinkles.
  • Recaulking and checking for splits in stripping plies.
  • Looking for corrosion on metal roofs.
  • Conducting a moisture survey every five years to check for leaks.
  • Inspecting any solar panels for damage or buildup of ice or snow.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Assessment and inspection of heating and cooling units and equipment are essential for air quality and energy efficiency. These are:
  • Inspecting HVAC units twice a year.
  • Disassembling screens and access panels of cooling towers for inspection.
  • Lubricating pumps, inspecting couplings and checking for leaks.
  • Cleaning and replacing air filters at least once a month.
  • Cleaning condenser coils. This may require the help of a licensed contractor.
  • Inspecting for energy efficiency.

Plumbing and Restrooms

Checking for leaks in bathrooms and pipes prevents expensive repairs later. Leaks aren’t always easily visible, so managers must conduct inspections regularly to discover them. To do this, managers should:
  • Inspect pipes for leaks at least annually. Make sure to investigate any unusual noises.
  • Lubricate domestic water booster and pump systems.
  • Fire-test domestic water heaters and boilers.
  • Lubricate fan motor bearings of drinking water chillers annually.
  • WordStr sump and sewage ejector pumps as needed.
  • Check for leaks in fixtures and replace them as needed.

Lighting

Inspecting and cleaning all lighting fixtures and accessories will deliver energy savings and improve light quality. Here are the ways to do this:
  • Regular inspection of lighting and relamping when necessary.
  • Checking luminaries with control gear, transformers, or other accessories.
  • Checking for tears in cables, missing or failing screws, and making sure all hardware is placed correctly and working properly.
  • Ensuring each lamp has the correct color temperature.
  • Re-aiming all adjustable lighting.
  • Cleaning lens surfaces.
  • Safely storing used bulbs and disposing of them properly

General Cleaning

  • Window washing is essential to the cleanliness of the building’s exterior.
  • Regular cleaning of the building, including restrooms, must be performed as needed.

Other Long-Term Items

  • A quality contractor should inspect all electrical systems every three to five years.
  • The surfaces of parking garages should be cleaned at least two times a year and replaced every ten years. Managers should also ensure that power washing and filling in cracks in the pavement are done.

Corrective Maintenance

occurs when something goes wrong or breaks and needs fixing, either in an emergency or due to a non-emergent situation. For example, a building’s pipes may have a leak caught on inspection, for which it’s too late for preventative maintenance. Some examples of corrective maintenance that may need to be performed include:

Roofing

Roofs are made of layers. The top layer, which is called the membrane, can, at times, tear or split. Repair of the roof membrane is essential to keeping the building stable and free of leaks. Depending on the age and condition of the membrane, it may also need to be replaced.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Control switches and water pumps often short out or stop working and require replacement to keep the HVAC systems working. In addition, individual air conditioning units on each floor must be replaced or repaired when they break to maintain proper air temperature in the building.

Plumbing and Restrooms

Fixtures that break, especially toilet and pipe fixtures, require an immediate fix to prevent water flooding into interior spaces. Water damage causes extensive damage quickly and can be costly to repair. An additional concern is that flooding can cause mold if left unattended.

Lighting

Lighting systems are considered comfort systems that improve the quality of the space. When fixtures burn out, managers must replace them to maintain proper light levels. Some managers schedule regular bulb replacements in busy areas to minimize work delays because of unexpected burned-out lamps.

Other Long-Term Items

  • Similar to residential homes, exposed wires in the electrical systems of high-rise buildings can cause fires if not replaced or repaired quickly.
  • Repairing severe cracks that can cause a failure in the concrete system is a corrective action that should be performed regularly.

Who Is Involved in the Maintenance of Skyscrapers?

Skyscrapers are maintained by a combination of a facility management team and an asset management team. There are various other teams under the asset management team, including planning departments, utility, and energy management teams, and janitorial and custodial staff.  

The facility management team develops a preventative maintenance plan to keep a high-rise building safe and well-maintained. The asset management team performs systematic planning, inspections, and maintenance of roofing, HVAC, plumbing, lighting, and long-term items. Under the asset management team are:
  • Planning departments to plan upgrades or repair work
  • Utility management teams
  • Energy management teams to plan for energy efficiency and improvements
  • Janitorial and custodial staff
All of these departments contribute to the upkeep of the building.

Conclusion

Although skyscrapers are built to withstand harsh elements and wear out over time, management teams must perform intensive planning and upkeep to maintain a high-rise building. Preventative and corrective maintenance plans must be in place when the building is erected. This maintenance must be executed routinely to keep the skyscraper intact and ensure that it is functioning correctly.

Sources

By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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