Surface Preparation for Facilities Managers

Two months after opening, the W.E.B Du Bois library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst began spalling, a phenomenon where a building sheds brick chips. There are various urban legends about why this happened but the most realistic is that the architect involved did not account for the weight of the books in his design.

Problems like this can occur when there is a lack of communication between contractors, architects and facilities managers. Every person involved in a construction project needs a clear idea of the expectations of the final building.

During the construction or renovation of any facility, either residential, commercial or industrial, there is one important consideration that affects all parties – the type of covering required.

The new covering will primarily depend on the type of facility and the purpose of the building. For example, it would be inappropriate for a hotel and a manufacturing facility to install the same floor covering. Facilities managers should receive a detailed brief from the building owner before contacting the coating manufacturer for the best advice regarding floor coverings.

Before the Renovation
Once facilities managers know what covering they are using, they must consult with a contractor to establish what surface preparation work needs to be done. To clearly establish the whole process, they should create a timeline of the entire job with the clients’ brief and desired result in mind.

The timeline will help both the facilities manager and the contractor manage on-site activity, while facilities managers can plan how the facility will operate during this work. During a renovation, a timeline can help the manager determine if the facility must be shut or employees can operate around the construction work.

Contractors will need to know the available power sources on site to know what machines can be used. Residential facilities or smaller commercial facilities normally have single phase power availability, which is suitable for smaller equipment. Larger, industrial or commercial buildings will usually have three phase power, which is compatible with larger machines. If the job requires a larger machine, but the facility has single phase power, contractors can bring three phase generators to complete the work efficiently.

In facilities with lots of equipment the facilities managers need to eliminate all obstacles that can move and cover any remaining equipment to prevent damage. Contractors should use smaller machines around remaining equipment to manoeuvre around corners.

Staff Considerations
Before the contractor arrives, facilities managers must make the staff aware of the work that will be taking place. With this knowledge, employees can make sure their work and movements do not hinder the surface preparation work.

Facilities managers must also ensure both contractors and employees are kept safe during the work. One of the main health issues related to surface preparation is dust exposure. Silica is a chemical compound found in a lot of materials used in the construction industry, including concrete, granite and brick. When it is fine, construction workers and employees around the work area can inhale the dust that can cause health problems, such as silicosis or bronchitis.

In surface preparation, facilities managers can work with the contractors to ensure they are taking the precautions to mitigate silica dust inhalation. The best way to limit dust exposure is by using the right equipment. Dust collectors can greatly reduce the amount of the dust in the atmosphere, keeping contractors and other people in the facility safe.

Manage Expectations
From conception to completion, facilities managers and contractors need to manage one another’s expectations. Once the work has started, it is important for facilities managers to contact the contractor daily. This way, they can understand each stage of the work and ensure that it is going well.

Facilities managers need to know what the desired finish of the floor should be before the job starts and communicate that to the contractor. Once both the contractor and manager understand the expected finish, they must work together to reach this – from the type of flooring needed and the factors that need to be considered to place that covering to organising where and when the work will take place and where the employees will be during the work.

No one has given an official cause of the spalling at the W.E.B Du Bois Library. However, to avoid poor construction in surface preparation, facilities managers and contractors should stay in constant contact to manage each other’s expectations and complete the work successfully and efficiently.

Tom Dunn is Vice President of Sales-Americas at National Flooring Equipment, a market leader in industrial-quality floor removal and surface preparation equipment.

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