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Wednesday, 14 May 2014 15:46

“I ain’t as good as I once was” – The Aging Building (Part 1)

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Like all good things in life, we age. And when we age, we tend to fall apart. As I reflect on this simple concept, a recent event comes to mind. A month or so ago I was in a Taekwondo tournament in which the old guy division was grouped with the young buck division due to the small number of participants…


Well, needless to say, as Toby Keith put so non-eloquently, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was”. I made it to the finals only to be round-housed to my chin, resulting in 8 stitches… now why share such an embarrassing story? Because I am wise enough to know that I am not the fast, lean, freak of nature that I used to be (IMHO – for the older folks – in my humble opinion…that’s right, even old farts can be “with the times”). Buildings are no different. Sure, your building may be cool in the summer, warm in the winter, not too stuffy, no roof leaks and the toilets all flush…but is it doing so optimally and efficiently?  You’ll never know by those measures!  It’s easy to tell when something is desperately wrong or completely broken; those things get fixed promptly.  But many building problems are hidden from view; you’ll never see or feel them and they will erode your budget forever, unless… well, we will get to that later.


Consider what happens when we get old; we are not quite so fast, or strong, or flexible, or quick to recover as when we were 20 or 30.  We (I) can even look pretty good on the outside, but might not want to match up with a 20-something (so I’ve heard, anyway).  Your building and everything in it respond the same way as your body. Buildings lose their performance edge.  They “break” a little at a time and start losing their power and efficiency, and you don’t normally see its impact for a long time, unless… nope, not yet!


Next, consider that “they don’t build ‘em like they used to”.  In this case, they often build ‘em a lot better now than they used to and there are better choices than even a few years ago.  Sometimes there are much better choices.

Now, some questions to promote fertile thought –

+ Is your building being used in exactly the same way as it was 3, 5 or 10 years ago?

+ With no additions or renovations? For the same purpose as originally designed?

+ Was it designed carefully, thoughtfully and for optimum life cycle cost? At today’s costs for gas and electricity?

Answer:  Didn’t think so – welcome to 90% of buildings today!

All of these factors contribute to degradations in performance.  These degradations are normal. These degradations cost you productivity if they affect comfort or indoor air quality; they force you to replace or repair prematurely or maintain too frequently; they siphon resources from profitable activities to utility bills and other overhead costs.  You will experience this resource drain forever “unless” you take building performance seriously, and do something about it!

Part 2 will reflect on what we can do about our aging buildings using specific examples from recent projects of costly problems that were (mostly) hidden from view.




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