The Role of Building Maintenance in Hospitality Businesses

July 1, 2011

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The engineering and maintenance divisions of a hotel or restaurants definitely deserve the title of unsung heroes.

Until very recently, it seems that both divisions have not been valued or appreciated enough. The investment of land and buildings for hotels and restaurants is a huge one that the engineering and maintenance divisions are responsible for keeping in working order. Since every department uses these facilities, the wear and tear and day-to-day maintenance is substantial.

The engineering department operates as a cost-savings center in that the use of efficient management principles and the management of energy in this department can save money and increase profit in the long run.

Due to tight budgets, maintenance is sometimes deferred so much that sales, occupancy, and profits are diminished. If maintenance is put off consistently, eventually there may not be enough money to fix all the problems that incur. Thousands of restaurants and hotels have folded because of this practice.

On the other hand, preventive maintenance that utilizes the practice of regular inspections, lubrication, minor repairs or adjustments, and work order initiation can keep things running smoothly year after year. A preventive maintenance program, which offers a systematic approach to equipment operation, will make sure that every item of equipment receives scheduled attention to make sure it is operating properly and efficiently.

During the 1980s and 1990s, owners and operators realized that they were faced with aging properties in excellent locations. Hotels did not become popular in this country until the turn of the century, and then again after the war years of the first part of the century. Therefore many older hotels have seen much wear and tear up until the 1980s and 1990s. Property owners in good locations with aging buildings analyzed the data and found that renovation was cheaper than demolishing and rebuilding.

Water evaluation is used to measure the cleanliness, quantity, and appearance of a property’s water supply to maximize guest satisfaction. Water must be evaluated for the following hardness, taste and odor, color, turbidity, and corrosion.

Conservation measures such as preventive maintenance can be used to reduce water use and realize savings. For example, a 1/16-inch toilet leak wastes enough water in one month to supply a single-occupancy guest room for 220 nights. Kitchen areas can reduce water waste by cutting the amount of water used for washing, thawing, and cooling. Laundries can use tunnel washers to recycle water from some rinse cycles. The use of showerheads that restrict water usage can prevent guests from wasting hot water. Landscape irrigation can be reduced to once every two or three days rather than once a day, or gray water (treated sewer and laundry rinse water) can be used instead. The newest advances in technology include the use of heat rejected by refrigerators and freezers to help heat water. Some hotels have even turned to solar technology to help heat water.

Energy management programs promote education, reduced consumption of energy, improved equipment performance, increased guest satisfaction, and more accurate forecasting of energy and maintenance costs. These programs also minimize the costs for unforeseen repairs.

In a green room’ program, hotels ask guests to assist in the conservation of energy by using recycling bins and limiting the daily rewashing of bed and bath linens.

Preventive maintenance programs include the use of procedures, using a catalog of manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the maintenance of a property’s equipment and systems. It includes a schedule of routine maintenance and inspections in keeping with the manufacturer’s recommendations. The maintenance program must include the use of adequate supervision that will ensure all staff is familiar with the procedures used and that activities are taking place when required. This may include the use of work orders and a file with documentation of completed and scheduled inspections, maintenance activities, and repairs.

The major areas the engineering division works in include electrical and plumbing systems and their maintenance (fuses, circuits, wires, fixtures, outlets, and switches; bathrooms in guestrooms, hot water systems, cold water systems, faucet washers, drains, toilets, kitchen faucets, etc); HVAC and refrigeration systems (ventilation, heating and cooling, steam systems, boilers, thermostats and burners, radiators and valves; walk-in refrigerators, reach-in refrigerators, freezers); Life Safety Systems (fire and building codes, sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, fire alarms, extinguishers, and pull alarms); and general maintenance and repair (preventive maintenance, supervision, renovation, water management, and energy management).

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