As a manager of a building or property, you quickly learn the art of mediation. One minute you may be working with a vendor to keep the building’s operating system running efficient and smooth; the next moment you may be calming a tenant down after finding the change in the system disrupted his office’s workflow. Give and take; it’s the only way to make sure every day runs perfectly.
Overall, you have two goals to strive for in everything you do.
1. Keep the building running properly, upgrading systems as appropriate, and striving to do all you can on a pre-established budget.
2. Keep the building occupants happy, with as little disruption as possible.
While some changes are minor, barely registering on a building occupant’s mind, with HVAC challenges, that’s rarely the case. If a HVAC contractor is replacing an air handler, for instance, and disconnects one and moves to the next unit, it may cause major disruptions to sensitive areas of a building. And if the occupant wasn’t prepared for the disruption, you can have a mighty unhappy customer on your hand.
Anytime you are working on HVAC projects throughout your building, there are strategies you can put into place to keep things running smooth.
Communicate with occupants
Communication is key to any good relationship, and as a property manager, this rule is a great place to start. If you will be working with the HVAC equipment, block out the timeframe for work to be done, and understand the potential consequences of the process. Then communicate this process with every point of contact you have throughout the building. The more detail you can provide, the less surprises you’ll have throughout the process. You can also work with your building’s occupants before the process begins, finding out if there are better timeframes than others.
Establish a realistic schedule
As a property manager, its easy to provide your expectations for the HVAC project at hand, and request that the proposal be written in such a way that work is completed on your timeframe. Unfortunately, many contractors want your business and will agree to anything upfront in order to win the bid, knowing full well the work will take longer than specified. Instead of projecting your timeframes into the proposal process, ask for HVAC project bids to establish realistic schedules of how long the process will take, and what areas of your property will be most effected throughout the schedule. This will help you avoid crises between you and the contractor, and you and your tenants.
Plan for the whole system
If one small piece of your HVAC system is weak, its easy to fix that one small piece. But how will that impact your overall system? Will it cause weak spots in different parts of the building – maybe a corner office will have reduced air flow, and therefore be colder in the winter and warmer in the summer? When retrofitting new pieces with older existing systems, its easy to reduce the efficiency of your entire system. Before agreeing to certain repairs, make sure you understand how it will impact your entire system overall. An easy way of handling this problem is by working with the same HVAC contractor again and again, He will understand your system’s potential, and know when to make repairs, and when to replace.
Have points of contact available for immediate assistance
In many cases, problems arise because connections can’t be made. Can the HVAC contractor get a hold or you or another person that can make decisions at a moments notice if a problem arises? Do you have access to decision makers throughout the building that may be impacted by this change? Many projects have been put on hold simply because a person in authority can’t be found to give the go-ahead to move forward. If you have access to these people during the time of the project, you’ll be able to complete the project in record time.
Finally, if you can test things in stages, or test when the potential for problems is the smallest, you reduce the chances of bigger emergency issues falling into your lap. If you’ll be installing a new terminal unit, can you make the switch on a Saturday morning when the building is largely unoccupied? If you’re replacing a large system, can you replace and test in phases so the entire project isn’t released at once?
Most issues can be avoided with just a little strategy from the beginning. If you’ve never had a HVAC maintenance team to help you stay on track with your building’s heating and cooling, now may be the time to find out how easy a team approach makes the process.