Keeping The Bones Of A Building Healthy

By Kurtis Baumgartner and Shauna Lewallen

Operating a multimillion-dollar facility might seem like an overwhelming task, and the truth is, it can be. But Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation (CCPR) in Carmel, Ind., is here to help make that exorbitant task a little easier. Whether you are knee-deep in new construction or assuming management of an aging facility, there’s one prominent principle that should be followed—being proactive is always better than being reactive. Staying ahead of and identifying problems before they become bigger issues is key to long-term success. This article offers an operator’s view on utilization of technology and preventative-maintenance techniques at the Monon Community Center (MCC), a facility managed by CCPR.

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The MCC is a 146,224-square-foot facility nestled in the heart of CCPR’s 161-acre Central Park. The facility opened to the public on May 26, 2007, and consists of three integrated components: an 114,971-square-foot west wing, a 31,254-square-foot east wing, and a 10-acre outdoor waterpark. The west wing houses an indoor aquatic center, three-court gymnasium, fitness center, indoor track, group fitness/dance studios, and an onsite childcare service. The east wing has multipurpose rooms for programming, fitness, and meetings. The waterpark has a bather capacity of 2,100, making it one of the largest public-pool facilities in Central Indiana.

Developing An Operations Plan
This type of planning outlines the day-to-day tasks required to operate the facility. If it’s put together properly, management and staff members will be able to refer to it frequently to see how everyday work will be carried out. An operations plan addresses areas of responsibility, the tasks to be completed, frequency, and financial resources needed.

An operations plan can be developed in-house or, for more sophisticated facilities, it might make more sense to have an external contractor help with development. Regardless of how it is created, the operations plan is the key to an efficient facility over the long haul. It’s important to keep staff members at all levels involved in the development of this plan because in many instances, they will be responsible for ensuring the assigned tasks are completed on a recurring basis.

Implementing A Work Order System
While putting together a strong operations plan is the first step in ensuring the facility is taking a proactive approach to being maintained properly, a plan is only as strong as the tracking system in place. A common pitfall that many facilities experience is the lack of a mechanism to help manage, document, and track the completed work. Work-order systems can help alleviate breakdowns in communication and are an effective means of ensuring that work is assigned and completed in a timely manner.

Proper management of a work-order system also helps the facility avoid an accumulation of deferred maintenance. Observing trends with mechanical systems and amenities within the facility can help deter costly repairs by addressing items before they become bigger issues.

After in-depth research, CCPR decided on a cloud-based system to assist staff members at the MCC to complete routine preventative maintenance, identify emerging maintenance needs, and document emergency repair requests. Adopting a work order system has led to a 25-percent improvement in labor productivity, as staff members are able to better manage and allocate resources. Prior to its inception, tasks were completed in the order they were requested through email or verbal communication. Since the MCC did not have a system in place that helped request, prioritize, or track completed items, more urgent repair requests were sometimes addressed days or weeks later, allowing issues to grow and compound.

The work-order system has also aided the facility in making data-based, educated decisions for improvements. Because information is recorded on each piece of equipment, it’s easy to analyze the repairs completed and the financial resources allocated, as well as its remaining life expectancy. This data can be used to determine whether or not it makes sense to continue making costly repairs, or if it’s time to explore complete replacement. For facilities that have an asset-management plan in place, the data will provide effective means of forecasting when funding for replacement equipment is needed.

Initiating Preventative Maintenance
Regardless of whether you are planning to open a new facility or are operating a facility that is 50 years old, it’s important to have regular preventative maintenance of mechanical systems. This can be done in-house by competent maintenance staff members or outsourced to a reputable and trusted contractor.

It is recommended that facilities that plan to employ a contractor to complete preventative maintenance consult similar facilities in the community to find out whom they recommend. After determining what needs to be serviced on a recurring basis, operators should complete walk-throughs with prospective vendors to make sure they have a complete understanding of expectations.

Recording work that is completed is crucial so equipment deterioration can easily be tracked. The MCC utilizes an external contractor to complete quarterly mechanical inspections to detect and correct failures, either before they occur or before they develop into a bigger problem. In 2015, staff members decided to change vendors after discovering that the company they were utilizing was inefficient in completing service requests. Obtaining a report of completed preventative maintenance is important so the data can be entered into a work-order system and used in making future decisions.

Preventative maintenance is more than just proactively addressing mechanical systems; it can also entail things like floor re-finishing and deep cleaning of high-usage areas. The MCC schedules a two-week annual closure of the indoor aquatic area for deep cleaning of pools and decks, changing light bulbs, and completing other necessary repairs. The facility also has its hardwood surfaces (gymnasium, dance studios, and stairways) refinished annually per manufacturer recommendations.

Building-Control Automation
In large facilities, such as the MCC, building-control systems ensure overall comfort while keeping energy consumption and expenses to a minimum. For example, conference rooms may be programmed to be at one temperature, while workout rooms may be programmed at another. Automation controls the HVAC systems to make certain that climates remain within established ranges for each space. This system also allows the facility to avoid unnecessary cooling or heating of infrequently used rooms.

Building controls also allow for proactive maintenance of failing devices by providing visual depictions of how a space is performing, and providing warnings when the system goes outside normal ranges. The data can be shared in real-time with facility managers or contractors to expedite identification of problems and needed repairs. MCC facility staff members review building controls on a daily basis to ensure all systems are operational, allowing guests to have an optimal experience.

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Deciding To Be Proactive
It’s easy to be reactive—to wait for a problem and then fix it. However, setting a facility up for success takes foresight and planning. Maybe there aren’t financial resources available to roll out an elaborate work-order system. Maybe facility infrastructure makes a building-control system out of reach. That’s okay! Being proactive will look completely different for each facility. The important thing is determining the approach, evaluating the best means of long-term success, and implementing a system in which staff members at all levels help facilitate proactive management.

Kurtis Baumgartner, CPRE, is the Director of the Monon Community Center (MCC) for Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation in Indiana. He oversees the MCC’s $6-million annual operating budget and is responsible for ensuring that the center remains self-sufficient. Since being named director in 2014, he has worked diligently to improve the facility through infrastructure, operational, and energy-efficiency enhancements. Reach him at kbaumgartner@carmelclayparks.com.

Shauna Lewallen, CPRP, is the Recreation Services Manager for Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation. She is responsible for the member-services operations of the Monon Community Center, the waterpark, and recreation-program offerings for a community of 92,000. Reach her at slewallen@carmelclayparks.com.