There have been many changes to the economy in 2020 and these changes have impacted commercial real estate. Many businesses have had to close which leaves the building unoccupied. And there is no way to know for sure how long they will be empty. Building owners and operators need to view their unoccupied properties as an opportunity.

How to Maintain Your Building When It Is Unoccupied?

One of the biggest challenges to any maintenance activity is occupants. Full parking lots make it difficult to store materials and heavy machinery and complaints about dust and noise happen every day. With an unoccupied building, these challenges are gone, so you can perform the maintenance you need. With the empty space, now is the time for you to take advantage and schedule building maintenance and upgrades efficiently. You can take this time to install energy-efficient HVAC units or complete a commercial roof assessment. It is the best time to take care of any of the tasks on your to-do list.

Your To-Do List

Common maintenance activities for an unoccupied building include:

  • Roof inspection and repair
  • HVAC assessment
  • Skylight inspection and repair
  • Repair or replace windows and doors to improve energy efficiency
  • Inspect pipes for leaks and water damage
  • Inspect and replace worn flooring
  • For older buildings, inspect the condition of asbestos-containing materials

Getting maintenance and repairs done while the building is occupied can be challenging. If work can only be done after hours or on weekends, projects can take longer to complete and will require overtime for your facility staff to supervise contractors.
With an empty building, it’s suddenly much easier to have multiple contractors do work at once. This means you typically won’t have to pay for overtime work as you usually would. To make the most of your maintenance budget, prioritize the work to be done in terms of cost, urgency, scale, and which projects can be done simultaneously.

Building Maintenance During COVID-19

It is difficult to ignore the appeal of getting a lot of work done quickly and efficiently, but you first need to make sure that your facility staff as well as contractors continue to observe COVID-19 best practices while work is being done. Some states are relaxing their restrictions around activities that could potentially cause COVID-19 transmission. What this means for building owners is that they need to be aware of their potential liability if a worker or contractor was to get sick while working on the owner or operator’s site.

While it can be tempting to get as much work done as quickly as possible by scheduling several different contractors to be onsite at once, it needs to be clear that best practices are expected. Activities like wearing a mask or social distancing while completing building maintenance activities need to be established as mandatory. Many contractors will already have their own procedures in place to help protect their workers. Make sure you understand what these are and communicate your own, to make sure all parties understand their rights and responsibilities. Recommended best practices for contractors include:

  • Signing in and out to keep a record of who is on-site.
  • Making hand sanitizer available.
  • Requiring all workers on-site to wear a mask.
  • Ensure people maintain social distancing whenever possible.

As a building owner, you may also want to do additional screening such as verifying that workers are not exhibiting any physical symptoms you may also require for workers to have their temperature taken using a contactless thermometer. Remember it is your responsibility to provide a safe workplace so you have the right to refuse entry if you believe a worker may create an exposure risk to other people on-site.

How to Improve Energy Efficiency

Along with general maintenance and repairs, an empty building is a great opportunity to improve its overall energy efficiency. As you have maximized your building maintenance budget, you can also set yourself up for long-term cost savings. Many commercial property owners are preparing for vacancies as tenants are forced to close their businesses. As we look to the improvement of economic conditions, the commercial real estate market will be competitive for tenants who made it through. Features like accredited energy efficiency improvements can make your building more attractive to potential tenants.

However, many third-party energy standards require pre-occupancy verification in order for you to receive your accreditation. Whether you’re upgrading your HVAC system, installing new energy-efficient windows or applying a cool roof coating, having an unoccupied building means you can easily verify the impact these improvements are having on your facility, and you’ll be able to share your achievements when tenants are ready to get back to work.

Final thoughts

You may have a long to-do list or a short one, but either way now is the time to get things taken care of. Look at your unoccupied building as an opportunity to get work done quickly and efficiently. This will pay off in the long run and ensures your building is also kept in the best possible condition.


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