80 Ways To Reduce Expenses: Part 4

Facilities And Capital Equipment

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of a four-part series that explores 80 ways to reduce operating expenses. In these difficult economic times, these ways may be the difference between having a profitable year and one of significant financial loss. After all, every dollar of reduced operating expense goes straight to the bottom line of an annual profit-and-loss statement. Take these suggestions at face value, or modify them for your agency. Either way, please take a look. Shaving a few dollars here and there might just save a job.

Besides dealing with all of the utilities and equipment needed to run a facility smoothly, someone should be minding what is really necessary.

Instead of buying the same fleet of vehicles to maintain the status quo or the same water heater because it’s the same as the last one, look at how you might be able to reduce expenses and invest in future supplies.

Although some initial costs are inevitable, consider the long-term maintenance savings as well as the impact on the environment. This may go a long way in garnering public approval for additional funds.

While you may be using some of the following suggestions, examine whether combining strategies may further benefit the department.

1. Go “green” and “clean.”

Incorporate planning for LEED certification in building construction. Does your facility contribute to the carbon footprint, while others stake a claim to their “eco-friendly” venue? Review the current LEED rating system designed to assist building owners and operators in identifying and implementing practical and measurable green-building design, construction, and operations and maintenance solutions.

This strategy can be an incentive not only for management and the community, but also for elected officials to understand the underlining basis of the facility.

Do not become overwhelmed by not allocating enough time and resources to fully investigate or negotiate municipal allowances for “carbon neutrality” and comparable options, or worse not hire a certified design and architecture consultant.

2. Renovate existing facilities instead of building new.

Analyze projects and finances appropriately in these challenging times. Instead of attempting to develop a funding scheme for a new facility, forgo the brand-new for refurbishment.

This option may prove to be cost-effective for many reasons, including, although not limited to, eliminating additional potential infrastructure costs, such as roads, public transit, etc. However, don’t try to salvage every building. Those that have already been revamped multiple times may require hiring additional consultants and engineers, and it might not be worth the extra effort.

3. Choose materials carefully.

Invest time, rational thinking, and yes, some money upfront. Decide whether you want a product that will last 10 to 15 years, or 30 to 40. This will help you figure out what you need in a product, such as selecting a stainless-steel or aluminum finish, or a painted metal.

Consider whether the product is for indoor or outdoor use. Upon delivery, a painted, decorative metal trash receptacle at an outdoor facility may look beautiful; however, once it is moved, rolled, and repositioned for the umpteenth time, the paint will wear, scratch, and begin to rust. Keep in mind that paint materials and labor incur additional costs.

Although the initial time spent lamenting the decision may take longer than expected, and the product may be more expensive than anticipated, it’s better to agonize upfront!

4. Consider solar panels and wind-driven generators.

Reduce the carbon footprint and utility-related costs by first determining whether to self-generate power via solar panels or wind turbines. Many questions arise (solar panels on the building roof or covered parking; wind turbines on light standards or infrastructure; community wishes, etc.). Consider the overall venuescape area, grants, and advice from the utility provider to determine whether solar or wind is the best choice.

Do not become overwhelmed by the need to obtain community or political buy-in, or reconfigure areas to accommodate the panels or turbines, or the need for enhanced security.

5. Improve energy savings with lined window coverings.

Best practices of energy management include reducing winter heat loss, and preventing solar penetration through windows in the summer as well as thoroughly monitoring usage cycles and utility bills. Lowering utility costs by using lined draperies may show bottom-line results via a chronological listing of all utility records (pre- and post-installation).

However, be advised that there may be an increase in time and allocation of resources for drapery removal, washing, and reinstallation. Also, many products are available, but several selections may not be lined while others may not be washable.

6. Recommission building HVAC.

Regardless of whether a heating and cooling system is 5 or 10 years old, how often it is serviced and whether it has been updated plays a role in its life cycle. For example, in order to reduce hand-labor, implement a computer climate-control system.

Has your system been recommissioned? Have interior rooms or modules been reconfigured since the system was updated? If so, it’s time to reevaluate system efficiencies. If your facility has not been modernized, this could be an area of concern, and can rapidly deplete an operating budget.

Recommissioning HVAC will correct poorly functioning, faulty equipment, and other impacts that deferred maintenance can cause these systems to work inefficiently. This can become a challenge for management that might be constrained by allocating time and resources to review the existing system, and to budget for changes.

7. Preserve pavement (assets) vs. continually repairing and replacing it.

Protect one of the more visible assets by extending the lifecycle of recently installed asphalt with a high-density, mineral-bond coating prior to striping. Do the research as warranties vary (2, 3, 5+ years), and by product (chip, fog, or slurry seals, HDMB, etc.). This procedure can combat oxidative damage from moisture and UV rays, and reduce the need for annual repair.

At a minimum, conduct a preliminary comparison of approved products (by state) and choose the best strategy. The alternative is to do nothing and pay exorbitant rates for repairs (surface or cracks), or begin planning for complete pavement replacement.

Be advised there are some inconveniences, such as having to temporarily protect landscaping (e.g., ground cover, plants, trees, etc.) and implement a traffic-management plan to protect the treated surface for a designated period. Additionally, some administrators prefer to contract out for the same seal coat that was used on previous pavement.

8. Reassess all building infrastructure.

Why are we doing it this way? The attitude of “That’s the way it’s always been done” emphatically doesn’t cut it anymore! Regardless of operation, governance, or labor control, now is the time to critically analyze the building.

Are the rooms utilized only a few days per year, but are kept at a standard operating temperature for 365 days? “Is there a better way?” If a dressing room is used by a local sports organization only 72 days of the year, for example, consider a stand-alone unit for the control room, thereby reducing runtime on the overall system (when it could be in setback mode).

However, reassessing the entire building infrastructure and operation has a cost, too (time, multiple stakeholders input, meetings, decisions, etc.), and resistance from existing staff is possible. Develop a plan to garner buy-in by employees, clients, lessees, etc.

9. Design for ease of maintenance and janitorial service.

Are tasks hindered by ill-conceived protocol, outdated resources, or incompetent staff? If so, consider alternatives to improve efficiencies. For example, if the facility has a metallic interior or exterior surface, it will cost more for specialty cleaning supplies and additional staff time to keep the surface clean.

Although this may seem like a no-brainer, employees might resent the newfound efficiency and accountability to complete such tasks in a shorter period of time.

10. Reduce water usage through a janitorial contractor.

Again, think creatively about how you might be able to lower operating costs. Work with a janitorial contractor to lessen the amount of water usage for facility cleanups, in effect lowering water costs. Obviously, this strategy will produce a far greater return for outdoor facilities with many events and patrons (e.g., ballpark, etc.).

As with any change of standard operation procedure, obtaining buy-in by contracted staff will require training, and a potential reward system, so do your homework and be prepared to negotiate.

11. Consider the payback on equipment instead of the minimal investment.

Utilizing Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting throughout the facility will produce significant cost savings. For example, a room currently outfitted with incandescent bulbs expends 800 watts/hour, whereas the same room utilizes LED at 80 watts/hour. This cost-saving measure is further enhanced when considering the longer lifecycle of LED, reduced supply and labor costs for changing bulbs, and 10-percent less heat from LED.

This means an automatic decrease in HVAC runtime, less wear on systems, less maintenance, extended life of the equipment, etc. (ripple effect). But there will be a small investment upfront. Also, some managers may still want to use the on-hand supply of non-LED bulbs.

12. Look for efficiencies via preventative maintenance and proper upkeep for equipment.

Per any service manual, without regular service and analysis you may be overpaying for continual repairs. Monitor work-order patterns carefully, and analyze each for repetitiveness. Be proactive in working with staff members, facility engineers, and updated operating management software to provide the proper upkeep for equipment, thereby extending the lifecycle.

Be advised that some will not be able to consult facility engineers in-house due to reduced staff, and will have to consider hiring an outside provider.

13. Count on staff members to report items that need immediate repair.

Be direct and appreciative when empowering staff members to report items in need of immediate repair before major capital-replacement costs are incurred. For example, rather than continued daily mopping of a puddle caused by a small leak in the roof, instruct staff to report the leak before it expands and ruins large areas of the floor and/or carpet.

Recognize employees for “doing right” by creating a designated Doing Right parking space, where the recipient is allowed to park closest to the facility, or possibly award a 30-day public-transit voucher.

However, soliciting employees to report areas of immediate need might create resentment by some who feel their area is operating at optimal efficiency. There is also the potential for an abundance of submitted reports, so be objective when determining the weekly or monthly winner, etc.

14. Plant geographically appropriate trees to shade a building and reduce A/C costs.

It is suggested that you design and plant realistically for a region, and be inclusive of water-conscious landscaping. For example, rather than settling for the fastest-growing plants and trees, or the costly lawn (all landscape-service provider preferred), defer to a certified arborist for suggested trees to provide a natural canopy in shading designated areas of the venue, thus lowering air-conditioning costs.

Other considerations include avoiding invasive plants, shallow-rooted trees and shrubs, and high emitters of pollen. Controlling the landscape process from the beginning will provide cost savings for years to come. Since native plants and trees may not grow to the desired height for several years, management may decide to purchase mature plants at an increased cost. Investigate the respective species with a keen eye towards long-term efficiency and cost savings.

15. Look for efficiency in landscaping methods.

Storm-water runoff concerns vary according to the scope of the facility and the quest for sustainability. For instance, do you use passive water-harvesting and a retention pond? Do you incorporate only native plantings? When is the last time you actively monitored the landscape irrigation while it was operating, albeit 3:00 or 5:30 a.m.?

In either case, what are the ramifications for not doing so (water absorbed into the ground as compared to contributing to storm-water run-off, higher water costs, lack of sustainability, etc.)?

Investigate whether environmental stewardship and action will reduce costs associated with the above stated issues. Will you save money (and educate the community) by embracing efficiency in landscaping methods?

Other considerations include: salt tolerance (snow zones) and vegetation appropriate to constrained (hardpan) root zone. Be advised that the initial venuescape might suffer from removing existing vegetation (ground cover, plants, trees, etc.). Additional concern (and costs) may include a need to redo the irrigation system, repaint the exterior of the facility, etc.

16. Use 1-pint vs. 1-gallon-per-flush (gpf) urinals.

When attempting to reduce the water bill, decrease water use per flush by installing a 1-pint-per-flush urinal, roughly 15 percent within your men’s toilet facilities alone. Not only will the water bill decrease, but there may also be a sewer-bill savings.

As with other suggestions, this project will come with upfront costs. Start with the urinals in the men’s room, and expand the cost-saving program as the budget permits.

17. Use darker carpet.

Limit unnecessary cleaning charges and/or frequency of replacement costs by using darker carpet. Don’t just “sign off” on designers’ recommendations without considering past, current, and future facility-usage patterns. Lighter carpet will show wear more, and necessitate replacement more often than darker flooring.

When striving for savings, look for efficiencies across the board, including cleaning and custodial management. Like the water-saving program mentioned above, some facilities will not be able to conduct total carpet replacement due to lack of funds, and will have to consider doing so in a schedule series, one quadrant at a time.

18. Choose paints in common colors.

Secure better costs for painting supplies by selecting non-specialty colors. As with other “no-frills” decisions, seeking costs savings by using common colors vs. a specialized hue is now an option and area for significant savings. Similar to #17, any change to aesthetics requires planning and consideration for doing so in a schedule series, one quadrant at a time.

19. Institute volunteer cleanups and community-service beautification.

If a facility is in dire need of an overall aesthetic enhancement, and you do not have the resources to complete the task, consider requesting such service from community providers (e.g., Boy Scouts, garden clubs, etc.). Community organizations and some professional associations provide manpower, supplies, and other resources to assist those in need.

Some volunteers may resent this effort, though, and claim that too much time, effort, and resources were allocated to this facility in the past, and now it has fallen into disrepair.

20. Install tankless water heaters.

Optimize the performance of heating equipment by installing tankless water heaters. Energy-efficient appliances and equipment such as these can reduce your utility drain, and result in significant long-term cost savings. The initial changeover may create a temporary hardship, and navigating the Energy Star rebate and tax-relief options requires a concerted amount of time, but it’s worth it.

Not every strategy will work for every facility, and some of the “adverse effects” can be serious enough to outweigh the expense reduction of the strategy. For example, one strategy leads to renovating an existing facility, another recommends removing the current landscaping, and several other strategies seek “eco-friendly” measures (LEED certification, installation of solar panels and wind-driven generators).

All of these strategies have upfront costs and downstream benefits. Funding could be difficult even though significant savings accrue later.

Also, some strategies may cause staff resentment and resistance, especially if labor-saving leads to layoffs. Therefore, you must weigh the benefits of each strategy with the potential adverse effects.

Remember that rational thinking must be a part of every decision, and each decision has a short-term and long-term impact on the bottom line. Always ask … “Is there a better way?”

Do your research as several of the strategies may be accentuated through the Energy Star program and eligible for federal, state, and utility incentives. Make use of the many resources available, such as Energy Star's free tools and resources to measure, track, and improve a building’s energy efficiency (e.g., Benchmarking Starter Kit, etc.).

Dr. Michael Mahoney is the coordinator of the Sports & Entertainment Facility Management emphasis in the Department of Recreation Administration at California State University in Fresno.

Dr. John Crossley is the coordinator of the Recreation and Leisure Services Administration program at Florida State University in Panama City. Both individuals have significant managerial experience in recreation and event management prior to their academic positions.