It is not uncommon to see empty spaces today, but this does not have to be a bad thing. It is the perfect time for building owners to take advantage of and schedule building maintenance and upgrades. From installing energy-efficient HVAC units to completing a commercial roof assessment, there are several beneficial tasks you can get done during this time.
How to Maximize Your Maintenance Budget With An Unoccupied Building?
2020 has brought many challenges to commercial real estate. The coronavirus pandemic has left office buildings, shopping malls, and many other commercial properties either completely or virtually unoccupied. At this time, there is still no certainty as to when the business will resume “as normal”. As uncertain as this is, building owners need to view their unoccupied properties as an opportunity. One of the biggest challenges to any kind of repair or maintenance activity is the occupants. Offices and stores can’t be disrupted by contractors and having full parking lots can make it difficult to store materials and heavy machinery. Not to mention all the complaints landlords receive about dust and odors.
With spaces being unoccupied right now, building owners can take advantage of the empty space to perform any needed maintenance and upgrades. This is the perfect time to install energy-efficient HVAC units or to get a full roof assessment and inspection done. This and more can be done quickly and without any disruption to occupants. The building will be in top shape once business resumes which is something any future occupant will appreciate.
Your To-Do List
Depending on the age, size, function, and location of your building, your maintenance to-do list could include any number of activities, including:
- Roof inspection and repair
- HVAC assessment and upgrades
- Skylight inspection and repair
- Repair or replace windows and doors to improve energy efficiency
- Inspect pipes and plumbing systems
- Inspect and replace worn flooring
It is also a good idea for older buildings, to inspect the condition of asbestos-containing materials. After any construction or changes are made, general cleaning of the building should be done, including carpet steaming, wall washing, or surface disinfection as needed.
Getting it all done without disrupting tenants and while giving contractors access to the necessary spaces when they’re occupied, can be a challenge. If work can only be done after hours or on weekends, projects can take even longer which can prove to be even more disruptive. With an empty building, these challenges are gone. With an unoccupied building, it is easier to have contractors from several disciplines to do work at once. This is more efficient and you won’t have to pay for overtime work as you usually would for projects that could only be done during certain hours. Make a list of what needs to be done and prioritize. This way you can get any work done to the building to maximize your budget.
Building Maintenance During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has cleared out many commercial buildings. This makes it very appealing to get a lot of work done quickly and efficiently. What is more important than building improvements is that building owners need to make sure that their own facility staff as well as contractors continue to observe COVID-19 best practices while work is being done. Safety must always be the top priority. There are several states that are relaxing their restrictions around activities that could potentially cause COVID-19 transmission, but building owners and contractors need to be aware of their potential liability if anyone were to get sick while working on the owner site.
It is very tempting to get as much work done as quickly as possible while buildings are unoccupied. It can be easy to schedule several different contractors to be onsite at once. To keep everyone safe, facility staff need to clearly communicate expectations and best practices. This will include activities like wearing a mask or social distancing while completing any building maintenance projects. Contractors are not strangers to these protocols and have devised their own procedures to make sure their workers are safe during the pandemic. Communicate with any contractors to make sure all guidelines, restrictions, and expectations are clear to all parties. It is important to know and understand the health and safety procedures that contractors or other workers will be following. Recommended best practices for contractors include:
- Signing in and out of the site.
- Making hand sanitizer available to workers upon entrance and exit of the site.
- Requiring all workers on-site to wear a mask. N95 masks are recommended where available.
- Ensure people working in close proximity maintain social distancing whenever possible.
Building owners may also want to do additional screening before workers enter the site. You may want to verify workers are not exhibiting any physical symptoms, such as coughing, or require workers to have their temperature taken using a contactless thermometer. Remember that you have the right to refuse entry if you believe a worker may create an exposure risk, as part of your responsibility to provide a safe workplace.
Energy Efficiency Improvements
An unoccupied building is perfect for getting general maintenance and repairs done, but it is also the perfect opportunity to improve overall energy efficiency. By taking the time to do this now, you will have maximized your building maintenance budget and will have set yourself up for longer-term cost savings. Many commercial property owners are preparing for vacancies as struggling tenants choose to close their businesses. On the other side, as economic conditions improve, the commercial real estate market will become highly competitive. This means that features like accredited energy efficiency improvements can make your building more attractive to potential tenants.
However, many third-party energy standards require pre-occupancy verification in order for you to receive your accreditation. This applies to any energy-efficient changes including upgrades to the HVAC system, installation of new energy-efficient windows, or application of a cool roof coating. With an unoccupied building, you can easily test and verify how these improvements are impacting the facility. You will then have a great information to share with your future tenants when business resumes as normal.