School buildings across the United States are aging. This is a growing problem for school districts as they fight against lack of infrastructure, building technologies that are not up to date for the 21st century, not to mention overcrowded classrooms and buildings.
Preventative maintenance is paramount in keeping up a school facility and should not be taken lightly. In a survey from 2017 released by the American Society of Civil Engineers, 40% of schools did not have a long term facility plan to address operations and maintenance in their buildings.
While this may seem like a great idea to keep budgets down in the short term, ignoring maintenance can become incredibly costly and require larger repairs if left unmanaged.
As a facility manager, there are many things to focus on in the school building. But there are four big issues to keep at the front of your mind. We’ll discuss all four of these in detail below.
Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Air Quality is everything that has to do with the air in the building. This can include things like dust, mold, odors, allergens, irritants, and worse, things like asbestos radon gas, etc.
Maintenance workers must have some knowledge in these areas. The US Environmental Protection Agency has created an “Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools” kit that can be utilized by maintenance staff as a checklist and problem solving guide to help maintain proper air quality standards in the school.
Poor air quality can have negative effects on students and faculty by causing headaches, eye/nose irritations, sinus problems and major illnesses. Start with these checks to prevent poor air quality.
- Areas that are occupied by students and staff should be ventilated at a minimum rate of 15 cubic feet per minute.
- Air humidity should be below 70 percent.
- Fresh air supplies and exhaust systems should be installed in all occupied areas.
- Consistently check for water damage and remove any traces of water damaged materials within 72 hours of discovery.
- Clean and change filters of HVAC systems according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Remove toxic chemicals as quickly as possible, and when you can, use products that have less harmful effects.
Most importantly – watch for warning signs of poor indoor air quality and respond as quickly as possible.
Check for Asbestos
What is asbestos? Asbestos is a natural mineral found in certain rock formations. When mined properly, asbestos fibers are mixed and used as a binder material in different products. They are known for being strong, fire and corrosion resistant, and being a great insulator.
Asbestos can be found in different places within buildings like pipes, boilers, ceiling tiles, etc. While asbestos alone is not dangerous, when fibers get into the air, they become hazardous to the health of those breathing in the contaminated air.
Asbestos fibers are released due to deterioration and damage within the building, which is why checking for damage and working preventative measures is so important. Preventing asbestos fibers in the air should be the number one concern in any school. Here are a few things to consider.
- Asbestos fibers are tiny and extremely light. They can remain airborne for a long time (up to several hours), which increases the chances of them being inhaled.
- It is imperative to train and designate an asbestos coordinator that will be responsible for the prevention of an asbestos outbreak in the school.
- Watch for asbestos materials that show signs of fraying – this is a great sign that fibers are close to being released into the air.
- Develop a plan for asbestos response and maintenance. This will include surveillance, inspections, and response pans.
- Notify all parents, staff, and faculty about the asbestos status each year.
It’s important to be up front with everyone involved in the school about the possibilities of asbestos and an asbestos outbreak. – but do not cause alarm for no reason. Simply educate and keep people informed.
Keep the Water Clean
Water management is another main point for school facilities maintenance. School districts typically get their water supplies from community water systems, which means a local city authority is providing the water to the building. The Safe Water Drinking Act of 1976, set standards for the maximum level of contaminants that can be found in water. It’s your job to make sure your school’s water meets these standards.
To do so, look at this checklist.
- Learn and research your state and local regulations regarding safe water.
- Sample, monitor, and report your findings on a regular basis.
- Address any water quality or water system concerns immediately to allow time for repairs.
The biggest thing to consider and watch for in drinking water is lead. Lead can have a major impact on human health. The EPA requires that any lead lined water coolers in schools be removed and replaced. Schools are also required to test for lead contamination on a regular basis.
If you do receive your water from a community system, the testing may be up to the water authority. Research and find where the responsibility lies.
Waste management includes removal of recycling, trash, and hazardous waste. The biggest thing that school maintenance works on is the removal of trash. It is important to remember that burning, dumping, or disposing of solid waste (wood, trash, paper, aluminum) without a permit is illegal in many jurisdictions, so check your local regulations and laws concerning trash disposals!
Your area may also have laws and regulations in place regarding recycling or your school may have a recycling program in place. If this is the case, take all necessary actions to dispose of recycled materials appropriately.
Remove trash and recyclables as quickly as possible from the school zone. Hazardous waste materials or just standard trash can cause sickness to occupants if not disposed of properly. There is also the risk of fire and infestation.
Call McMahon Services if You Need Assistance
Maintaining a school is hard work. There’ll be times when you experience problems that you can’t take care of yourself. That’s when McMahon Services can step in. McMahon can help with air duct cleaning to keep your indoor air quality up to code, water and sewage damage, and even mold removal services if necessary.
Call us today to see how we can help you, like we’ve assisted other schools and businesses in the Chicago area since 1954.