Why Develop a Building Operations Plan?

By WOODY WOODALL | 06/29/2012

If you don’t currently have a building operations plan (BOP) in place for your building, you need to seriously consider the value of putting one together.   It is well worth the time as it can help ensure your building is running at peak efficiency and reduce operating costs while satisfying the comfort needs of your tenants.
So what is a BOP and how do you put one together? Why is it worthwhile to produce one and why do you need to keep it current and up-to-date?
Simply put, a BOP is a road map that shows everyone who has anything to do with the building how you will operate the building.  It identifies current building operational requirements and ensures those requirements are being met.  The reasons this tool is invaluable are many but the primary benefits of a BOP are:

  • Ensures the building’s systems are operating as intended
  • Facilitates your understanding of the design of the building
  • Brings into focus the true current needs of the tenants
  • Identifies current deviations from the original building/system design
  • Allows you understand what type of changes can be implemented to ensure the  operational model of the building is as intended
  • Helps you identify what modifications are needed to save energy and focus more on the building’s overall energy usage

Formulating a BOP can’t be done in a vacuum. A variety of resources are required to ensure you are getting all the required information and considering all the needs of the occupants.  Your first step is to assemble a team of people who will help you gather the data needed to develop your plan.  The team should be made up of operational people, tenant representation, someone to speak from the owner’s perspective, and any professional people who are helping you operate the facility (HVAC contractors, plumbers, electricians, etc.)
All review team members should be given clear instructions as to their exact role including the specific data which needs to be collected and to whom they should report the information. There should be ONE person coordinating the effort. This eliminates confusion and keeps the mission clear.
Always keep the end game in mind:  The goal is to develop a plan which results in the most efficient and effective operation of your facility. The types of questions you will need to ask include:

  • How are we operating the building now? What time does the building open? What time are lights on? What are the operating hours of the building? What is your definition of comfort (temperature parameters, humidity perimeter, how much outside air is entering the building, etc.)
  • What changes do we want to make?
  • What was the original design?
  • Is there room for change under the original design?
  • Are there changes in operations needed that will entail capital improvement?
  • What is our current ENERGY STAR® rating? We want to document where we rank are currently in comparison to similar size/types of buildings so we can measure our success.  Going forward you may also want to develop an energy plan for improvements and resultant energy savings.
  • Is all our building equipment operating as designed or better?
  • Is the envelope sound and solid?
  • Once this data is collected, you should start formulating a plan for the future -- how you plan to operate going forward and what the parameters will be. You should also begin to develop the processes and procedure you will implement for the future care of the building. Some things to consider include:
  • The capabilities, education, attitude, customer service abilities, and goals of your team
  • If you need help from outside vendors, what are looking for? What are your standards and what kind of due diligence will you have to do to assure the right partner is on board? Look for someone who has some type of third party certification that will fit your needs. Be sure to consider not only field certifications but company certifications and qualifications.

Now, with your team, assemble your BOP including a needs analysis of outside help.  Remember the BOP is only as good as the current operation of the building.  The BOP must be reviewed at least annually or when there is any change in the operation of the facility.  There are many documented cases in which building operators and owners have developed their plan and realized not only savings in energy and water but greater comfort levels for their tenants, better communication with tenants (because they have been included them this process), and a more defined process going forward. It is not uncommon to see a 10 percent reduction in energy usage simply by making operational changes at no cost or little cost.  Your goal is to lay out a plan with no confusion or gray areas, with all parties are onboard and continually moving forward together.  After all what is your main mission? To take care of your tenants so they will never consider vacating your facility and to operate your facility as efficiently as possible – which has the added benefit of cost savings!
Woody Woodall is Director of Business Development at W.L. Gary Company, Washington, DC.