Avoiding and Resolving Disputes About Building Performance

06/16/2016

Justin Monahan

Over the next few years, school districts across the state will spend millions on construction and renovations. It is an exciting time; schools are testing new products, new building control systems, and new methods and components. Since facilities managers are responsible for operating these systems for years to come, they have several things to consider if called on to help select or operate a new system. Facilities managers should make sure that any problems are quickly addressed by the manufacturer, design team, or construction team, so that those responsible will be accountable for the continued performance of the property.

What is the product history?

New roofing materials, energy efficient materials, and window systems are coming to market every year. Have project team members used them before? Has the architect met with the manufacturer, or any other school that has used the materials, to determine if this product is a good fit? The right roof for the Bend-La Pine School District may not be the right roof for the Salem-Keizer School District. If your District is going to be the guinea pig when evaluating a new product or system, at least make sure everyone knows that, and takes all reasonable precautions.

What is the expectation for maintenance and tune-ups?

If other project members have prior experience with the system, what have they learned? Facilities managers should be sure to document operation recommendations they receive, and establish a checklist for following them. Likewise, facilities managers should be sure to review operations manuals for new construction.

What if you see a problem?

If a system is not performing, document the problem and contact the manufacturer and installer. If you are not satisfied with their response, you can also reach out to the original design and installation team for support. Often, the problem may not be with the product or system itself, but how it is used with related products or systems. Document your efforts.

If the problem is still unresolved, talk with your administrators about the District’s rights under its warranties and contracts. Ultimately, everyone’s job is to keep the school facility up and running to support the faculty, staff, and students. Most often, the strength of a claim is established by the actions of facilities managers and school administrators long before a dispute or claim arises. With advanced planning and frank talk with project team members, Districts will enjoy their new investments for decades to come.

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