Design for Maintainability

What is Design for Maintainability?

Design for Maintainability (DfM) is the practice of integrating operations and maintenance considerations into project planning and design to achieve effectiveness, safety, and economy of maintenance tasks during the lifespan of a facility.

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Key challenges faced by FM industry

There have been observations that there are generally lesser emphasis or no systematic approach in incorporating maintainability concepts in projects at upstream planning and design. Specifically, the following industry gaps and challenges - which are influenceable by design - were identified: 

a) Design of buildings – poor access for maintenance, inappropriate choice of building materials, or lack of detailing considerations for durability and maintenance; and

b) Industry mindset / practice – designers’ lack of understanding on downstream maintenance strategies, developers’ focus on market appeal, and limited upfront capital.

Benefits of DfM

Building Owners

i. Cost savings – A significant portion of a building’s total costs is attributed to the operation and maintenance needs over the building’s lifespan. Through DfM, the design of a building is optimised for cost-effective, labour efficient, and smarter (tech-enabled) maintenance regimes over its lifespan. 

ii. Holistic sustainability (triple bottomline) – Linking maintenance goals and desired outcomes systematically to the design process minimises lifecycle costs (economic aspect) and manpower demand (social aspect) arising from inefficient designs. This is in addition to the environment aspect - reduction in operation energy and embodied carbon. Hence, DfM helps to address the triple bottom line of sustainability more effectively.

Building Owners and Maintenance Workers

i. Maintainable designs facilitate safe maintenance– Many maintenance activities require working at height, in confined spaces, etc. Minimising the need and frequency of maintenance through DfM reduces the risks to maintenance workers and potential liabilities to building owners. DfM and Design for Safety (DfS) go hand in hand. 

Developers and Designers

i. Competitive advantage at home and abroad – DfM brings an enhanced value proposition and advantage for designers, whilst developers and building owners would be confident of a building which retains its value over time.

Taking DfM forward through FM sector transformation

BCA has brought together the industry, unions, Trade Associations & Chambers (TAC), and public agencies in a tripartite Facility Management Implementation Committee (FMIC) to co-develop initiatives to advance the Facilities Management (FM) sector.

One focus area under the FMIC is championing upfront Design for Maintainability, to which a DfM Taskforce, comprising both public and private stakeholders, was formed to review and develop design tools – such as the enhanced DfM Guides – to promote maintainable designs and best practices.

Enhanced DfM Guides

The DfM Guides present a comprehensive set of best practices. The review by the DfM Taskforce entailed the following:

  • Revamp of the Smart FM, Security, and Landscape chapters, and Environmental Services considerations, and
  • Inclusion of a Robotic & Automation chapter 

The new guides are structured by building types – Residential, Non-residential, and Municipal Infrastructure – to facilitate ease of use and adoption by industry practitioners. 

Façade Access Design Guide (FADG)

Façade access cannot be an afterthought. With super high-rise buildings and complex façade designs becoming more commonplace, it is important that designers and developers understand the design impact on downstream maintenance. This allows designers to adequately consider access to building envelopes upstream, for safe and efficient inspection, cleaning, and repair and replacement throughout a building’s lifespan.

The FADG highlights the importance of façade access and helps designers understand access considerations better through a set of recommended standards. It also provides a benchmark for access-related future improvement works in existing buildings. The Industry is strongly encouraged to adopt the recommended standards in the FADG. 

GM2021 Maintainability Section

DfM complements sustainable design holistically by calling for lesser resources for maintenance and reduced carbon footprint (environmental), lower lifecycle costs (economic), and lesser labour and dependence on migrant workforce (social).

With this synergy, DfM is integrated within Green Mark 2021 as the Maintainability (Mt) Section. It presents developers and designers with an appraisal tool - with critical DfM and Smart FM Solutions and strategies - to assess a building design’s degree of maintainability based on labour efficiency and cost-effectiveness of downstream maintenance regime.

Good Practice Guide for Design, Installation and Maintenance of Building Fixtures

This Guide advises building owners and facility managers on good maintenance practices for building fixtures – especially those in public spaces and exposed to weather elements.  It also highlights the best practices, relevant standards, and codes in the design and installation of building fixtures to ensure their durability and robustness, and  prevent dislodgements.

Building owners and facility managers are reminded of their responsibility to ensure that their buildings, including overhead fixtures, are periodically inspected.  This can be achieved through an effective maintenance regime that identifies defects and deteriorations for timely rectifications to be carried out.  Such proactive practices will keep their buildings  safe for occupants and public and avoid incidents that could disrupt their operations.

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