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Building maintenance is a sustainable feature

A building must be maintained to continue to perform, the way it was designed to perform during its conceptualisation. It is not possible to produce maintenance-free buildings, but maintenance work can be minimized by good design and proper workmanship carried out by skilled experts or competent agency using suitable installation methods, appropriate building components, materials and systems. Buildings will rapidly decay and degrade when maintenance has been neglected. More than 75% of the building’s operating cost is attributed to building maintenance. Maintenance in buildings practically begins the day building construction is completed; it is very important to consider maintenance in a holistic framework for sustainable design. All elements of buildings deteriorate at a greater or lesser rate depending upon building use, material and methods used for construction, and the environmental condition. Indirectly, design influences the performance and physical characteristic of building and its durability to withstand against environmental condition and social interfaces. Higher the quality of sustainable design, lower the maintenance factor. Properly designed buildings contribute to more efficient maintenance of that building, thereby adding value to its life cycle costing.

According to Architect Alankrita Soni, most common issues before architects in blending design with maintenance feature are:

  • Sometimes certain design details are not feasible to achieve with a particular material, component and system and thus leads to unsatisfactory detailing and thus high maintenance.
  • Availability of the right and appropriate components, material and system is very important to consider at design stage to avoid the maintenance at post occupational stage.
  • In-appropriate design detailing and workmanship are two interrelated factors that results in high maintenance.
  • Cost of particular product which despite being almost maintenance free, does not find its place in architects design specification palette due to its high initial cost, but it is important for a designer to understand the overall lifecycle cost of the product before accepting or rejecting it.

“The issue of maintenance is more critical in public buildings as they are more open to general visitors, and most of the time in huge numbers. And hence these days a lot of emphasis is being given to use of low energy materials & concealed integrated building services. Places like Hong Kong and Singapore, and even Japan are way ahead in use of these kinds of systems & materials. And specially Japan, because of the seismic factor. You can look for the projects of Hiroshi Hara, Shigeru Ban, etc.,” says Architect Vibhor Singh.

“Maintenance is certainly a sustainable factor. And this itself is a key aspect of the Ecomimesis too. Not just building materials, but even the services have a certain level of associated energy dissipation. Maintenance is a measuring gauge of the efficiency of building services. You can talk about the importance of building envelope, for example. It is extremely critical issue to have a right and efficient building envelope to reduce the loss of internal building energy. And this is in direct relation with the building maintenance. “In India, we are still using materials and mechanical systems that are most commonly used in the past. There has been no major step taken to shuffle the use of materials.”

In order to make buildings maintainable, at the planning stage all details have to be incorporated into design (details, specification, method statement…), at the planing stage itself. Says Sathesh Kumar Sundararajan AIIA, “While during construction there are a lot of tests continuously done to make sure the quality of material is ensured at all stages, the Architecture, Structure and MEP services should be planned as a bulk and then the construction should be started in order to maintain the structure and quality.

“However in India, the planning stage is divided in such a way that an architect gives the plans simultaneously as the building construction begins. Here is where architects are forced to do planning in urgency. Lifecycle of a project is defined as from the birth of planning a project to completion of a project to using the project and to the end when the project dies.”

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