- The exterior surface of a building that looks onto a street or open space.
- An outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality
Hopefully the latter does not apply to your building or facility! That being said, the envelope of the building requires careful consideration and maintenance planning to maintain the appearance and integrity of the building and promote value. It is imperative to develop maintenance plans for external façade elements which can be generally neglected given they are not always readily accessible.
Buildings over three levels high are required under the Building Code or Australia (BCA) to have systems that enable access to such areas to enable cleaning of windows and other routine maintenance. This is often achieved through a height and safety system purpose built for the characteristics of the building’s façade.
Other routine maintenance should include draught proofing gaps in walls, windows, doors and skylights. Often these gaps can have a significant impact of the utilities usage when trying to heat of cool a building. Gaps can be fixed with caulking or weather stripping as required.
It can be challenging for Facilities Managers to identify and diagnose issues arising in high rise buildings without adequate height and safety systems in place. As a result, it is beneficial to engage height and safety subject matter experts who are able to utilise photographic evidence to report on the existing condition of these areas.
Common issues in facades include cracking, spalling, render delamination, expansion joint failure and steel rusting or corrosion. Factors such as smog and pollution, humidity and salt in the air have to be taken into account when designing a maintenance program. It is also imperative to consider the extent of any existing issues when considering capital works and sinking funds planning.
Industry knowledge suggests that best practice for façade maintenance is to ‘soft’ or pressure wash every one to five years, depending on location. Without these programs, issues will arise from a lack of façade maintenance.
Traditional façade treatment methods utilising scaffold, swing stages and hoardings are being replaced by highly skilled rope access teams enabling the costs of remedial works to drastically decrease. Rope access provides a relatively safe, cost-effective and efficient means of accessing buildings and structures for inspection, cleaning and maintenance.
Regardless of the differing components and environment of your building, it is imperative that a maintenance and inspection program is implemented to ensure that you are not exposed to unnecessary risk and costs. Failure to do so will almost certainly exacerbate issues meaning costly repairs.