The Basics of Facility Maintenance

facility maintenance

Great programming and staffing won’t amount to much if your rec center isn’t running properly. Any number of problems with lighting, flooring or any other facility component can hinder your ability to engage students, making facility maintenance extremely important.

For some helpful practices in facility maintenance, Campus Rec spoke with Christopher Suriano, the director of wellness and health promotion at the University of North Dakota:

CR: Can you talk about the importance of some basic facility components — lighting, surfaces, layout, etc. — and how they help your rec center run smoothly?

CS: The first approach is to always take safety into consideration. If lighting is over the swimming pool or in a very high, awkward spot in the facility, it’s going to take a special type of scaffolding or lift to repair. You’ve got to make sure you have the right lighting from a safety perspective, but also you’ve got to think about, operationally, how you’re going to fix that light fixture.

With surfaces, you’re talking about anything from carpet to wood flooring to rubber flooring, and in some cases, maybe tile. So identify your purpose for what you’re using a particular area for when choosing a flooring type. As it relates to rubber flooring, there are several types out there: there’s a roll-on flooring approach, or there are interlocking flooring pieces. Again, those are considerations you have to think about as far as how you’re going to clean that type of flooring, what kind of equipment you’re going to have, or what’s recommended by the manufacturer.

When you’re looking at wood floors, you’ve got to make sure you’re maintaining them but also identify a schedule of when you refinish the coating of the wood floor, protecting it and getting the maximum life out of it. Right now, on the two popular types of ways to coat wood flooring, you’ll see an oil-based versus a water-based wood floor finish. There are lots of considerations when looking at those types of flooring surfaces. Layout is also essential, as far as traffic patterns.

In terms of equipment layout, what’s great for us is we are very well spaced, which also helps with cleanliness. We’re able to get in and around equipment a little better, and even under it because the layout is taking into consideration the user and how we have to maintain the cleanliness of the area.

CR: Which, if any, of these components are easiest to overlook?

CS: Sometimes the location of lights can be a problem. You might have a fixture in an area that looks great from a design perspective but from a practical approach, it’s a challenge getting up to that fixture to replace it. That’s something people don’t quite think through. We’ll see that in aquatics facilities. In newer ones where they’re doing more perimeter lighting, you don’t have to run scaffolding over the pool or drain the pool whenever you want to change or replace the lights.

With your surfaces, you should consider how you’re going to maintain those surfaces — that may dictate whether you do more of a carpet tile where you can pick up the carpet squares that get stained and replace them easily, or go for more of a rolled out flooring that’s seamless, with less gaps and less issues with the flooring moving around. People usually make a decision based on price, but you’ve got to think about those other factors as they relate to day-to-day operations.

CR: Are there any particular brands (lighting, flooring, equipment, etc.) you trust or have had good experiences with?

CS: There are more manufacturers now than there were 15 years ago, and I think these newer vendors are using technology to improve their products. For rubber flooring, for example, ask how much force it absorbs. I think there’s a lot of technology being utilized to help improve these different products. We’ve been happy with what we have, but I know other facilities that have used other vendors and are having really positive experiences with what they’re using. Generally speaking, with fitness equipment, there are some long-term names out there that have served our facility really well: Precor or Life Fitness, which is probably the majority of the equipment we are using. I’ve been around the field 20 or so years, and you find the things that are working for you and the vendors who provide good customer service and quality. But there are a lot of good vendors and companies out there with good products and equipment.

CR: What should other campus rec departments know about making decisions on facility basics?

CS: Talk to other colleges. Call other facilities like yours, or those within your region and networks, to ask them how they like their equipment or flooring. Learn from others who have been down that road, doing research from others who are in the day-to-day operation of facility management.

In pretty much every scenario, you’re always working with a budget. Sometimes, the cheapest bid or piece of equipment with the lowest price isn’t necessarily the best quality, so you’ve got to weigh the balance between the resources you have, and what you’re able to afford.

Pay attention to the practical application in your facility — while something might look great and appear to serve you well, you’ve got to think about how you’re going to clean and maintain it once it’s in your facility. You have to ask, “Is this actually practical for the type of facility we have?”

Bobby Dyer
Bobby is a former staff writer at Peake Media.

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