Preparing for the Future: O&M Manuals

by Nate Lowry, ASLA

Operations and maintenance manuals
image: courtesy of IndypendenZ at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have all seen that new project or development get constructed, and have initial community impact and luster, only to see it become dilapidated and run-down over time. The truth is a project’s success is not determined by only the initial product or outcome—on-going maintenance and upkeep needs to be adequately addressed by designers and owners alike to ensure a project remains a success into the future.

Proper time and planning is needed to ensure operations and maintenance (O&M) manuals aren’t an afterthought or get thrown together on minimal time at the end of the project. Controlling future maintenance costs, knowing what to replace and when, troubleshooting technical products, and understanding maintenance intervals are a few aspects project owners need to be well-versed in and where O&M manuals are essential. Without adequate O&M manuals and requirements to produce them, project owners are likely set up for failure and not given the tools to make their project a continued success. A tight package of project specifications is often vital to a project’s initial success, and including complete O&M requirements is crucial for understanding perpetual maintenance and the continued success of a given project.

First things first, what is an O&M manual? An O&M (operations and maintenance) manual is generally a series of documents produced by the contractor to help the owner in perpetuity properly maintain, understand, and address key maintenance milestones and other project aspects. It is key for the design professional(s) to ensure steadfast contractor requirements in producing complete and informative O&M manuals for project hand-off.

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ADA Access: Project Retrofits and Upgrades

by Nate Lowry, ASLA

ADA-compliant residential boardwalk and ramp / image: Coastal Engineering Company, Inc.

Providing access and inclusion, to accommodate people of all abilities, continues to be a challenging proposition with many previously developed spaces. In 2013, the United States Access Board drafted guidelines for federally developed projects to harmonize with the International Building Code and to follow up on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The criteria developed from this process became mandatory in late 2013 and were incorporated into the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) accessibility standards. Amenity areas covered by these access requirements include camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, trails, and beach access routes. The requirements were not limited to only federal lands, but also covered federally funded projects.

Criteria and ideals developed during this process are great for addressing new projects, but what about previously developed spaces and retrofitting access and infrastructure to conform to the new standards?

Upgrading previously developed projects to meet codes and regulations of new construction can be an arduous task and tough to achieve in retrofit projects. Site constraints, costs, available revenues, end user input, and key stakeholder input can influence programming and inform which existing facilities are or are not upgraded. Inclusion goals and providing ADA access to previously developed sites can also vary widely from one municipality to another, and one region to another.

One constant is that individuals with disabilities are well aware of which facilities were designed for inclusion and which ones have not been upgraded for ADA access, inclusion, and mobility.

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