Photo "Lick Observatory" courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

A U.S. Department of Energy analysis calculates the jump in utility bills from your building's deferred maintenance costs to be $1.16 per square foot.

Imagine for a dreadful minute that your building is run like the City of San Jose. Your deferred maintenance costs would total $1 billion, and your operations team would need $174 million every year to keep the bubble gum, duct tape, and chicken wire in place. In a worst-case scenario like this, your building’s energy costs would jump 81%.

Many of the newer facilities utilize a variety of sophisticated systems, green systems and other features that enhance the user experience or increase the functionality of the venue but also increase the expertise and costs associated with their maintenance. – City of San Jose Public Works

Given the findings from our analysis of hundreds of thousands of work orders–that, on average, only 2% of a building’s completed service tickets are for preventive maintenance–deferred maintenance backlogs are likely piling up in buildings all over the country.

A building’s maintainable systems drive 75% of utility costs

In their Cost of Doing Nothing study, presented at the North Carolina State Energy Conference, Roger Woods and Bill Smith ran the numbers comparing a best case and worst case maintenance program for a 5 story, 115,000 square foot building constructed in 2009.

They used Carrier’s Hourly Analysis Program and the ASHRAE 90.1 2004 standard as the benchmark. The building has two air handling units on each floor, it’s equipped with VAV terminals, has hot water reheat, and a boiler and chiller system. For the base case, energy costs are comprised of 54% HVAC, 20% Lighting, and 26% Equipment.

This study’s maintenance checklist covered 13 items, from lighting controls and filters to thermostats, setbacks, and economization. CO2 sensor failure drives energy costs up 2.0%, IAQ humidity control setpoint issues can trigger a 6.6% increase, and hard water scale buildup in the boiler can boost costs 4.0%. Fouled tubes and a poor refrigerant charge are good for a 5.9% jump in chiller energy costs. While dirty filters and a fouled cooling tower are good for a 1-5.0% increase, no fan or pump speed controls mean an increase of 5.0% or more. In total, the study showed utility costs at $297,852 a year versus a well-maintained state of $164,000 a year.

It gets worse. The danger of deferred maintenance costs isn’t just that they’re costly, or that they can hide festering mission critical system failures destined to affect your building’s occupants, they also silently compound at 7% a year.

Fortunately, the good people of San Jose and their peers all across the country are engaging in and making progress with efforts like #InfrastructureWeek!

About Millen Paschich

Millen began his career at Cambridge Associates, trained in finance at SMU, and has an MBA from UCLA. Talk to him about bicycling, business, and green chile burritos.

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