Taking a Proactive Approach to Club Maintenance

Despite the economy’s growing strength, clubs are still feeling the burn from the Great Recession.  During the economic downturn, many private clubs retired their full-time maintenance staff in favor of yearly consultants and “band aid” maintenance solutions. This left many general managers with ill-maintained clubs that were held together by shoestring budgets and duct tape. Now that prospects are brighter, it’s become more important than ever to repair neglected areas – and proactively approach to facility maintenance in the future.

The state of the economy aside, there’s an endless number of reasons to stay on top of club maintenance: diminished member experience, potential long-term costs, safety issues, liability concerns… you get the idea. But taking a smart approach to club maintenance is easier said than done.

What are common problem areas for clubs?

One of the most common areas requiring regular maintenance is the club’s HVAC system. Though most units will run strong for 15-20 years, they need regular maintenance to operate at optimum levels and live to their full potential. A failing HVAC system will not jeopardize any buildings, but it’ll most certainly inconvenience members. Keep an eye on your HVAC systems and service them regularly – before they go down.

Cracking sealants are another common problem that’s easy to overlook, but can cause substantial damage if neglected. This is particularly important for clubhouses located in damper climates. “When sealants and cracks are not regularly checked, it’s possible for moisture to seep in and damage the structural integrity of the building. It can be incredibly costly for the club if they’re not proactive about repairing it,” says Chambers’ Vice President Rick Christensen, AIA. Taking proper care of sealants also promotes door and window longevity, allowing the club to get the greatest value for their investment.

From an aesthetic perspective, it’s also important to keep the club exterior looking neat and well-maintained. Repairing chipped paint and cracked parking lots may not be essential to member safety, but it does help preserve the club’s “curb appeal” for potential members and improves the all-important first impression of the club.  It also reminds current members that they’re paying for a first-class experience.

Of course, club interiors are not free from worry spots. It’s no secret that clubs are highly travelled spaces – and with foot traffic comes heavy wear on the carpets and millwork. Failing to clean carpets regularly or selecting the wrong kind of carpeting can hasten deterioration. Gathering spaces like banquet halls, which endure high circulation and frequent furniture rearranging, are more likely to see premature carpet and millwork damage.

Overwhelmed by the prospect of prioritizing these repairs? Skip Avery, Chambers’ Executive Vice President and Past President of CMAA, points out in his column Perspectives from the Other Side that safety should always come first when prioritizing club repairs.

How can we combat club facility wear and tear?

No building can be “like new” forever, but there are certain steps that club leaders can take to preserve building function and reduce maintenance costs.

“Planning and consistently keeping track of your maintenance efforts through a spreadsheet or some other means will keep buildings nicer for longer,” advised Christensen. But where do you begin in creating an effective plan that will minimize your maintenance costs?

Reading the architect’s Closeout Manual at the end of any construction or renovation project is a great place to start. “The Closeout Manual will spell out exactly what needs to be maintained and when,” says Christensen. This document provides a comprehensive outline of good maintenance practices for each component of the building, handing you the tools to devise an effective plan for future maintenance efforts. Similarly, following the manufacturer’s cleaning and care instructions for materials like carpets, draperies, and furniture will increase their longevity.

It’s also important to ensure that your club is specifically designed to minimize maintenance efforts. While thoughtful design won’t ward off the normal erosion that all buildings experience, it can cut costs and allow structures/interiors to last longer. “Buildings designed by people who are familiar with clubhouse construction will naturally last longer because they understand private club operations and how these spaces actually function,” says Christensen.

Of course, you have to make sure that the club has enough money to perform regular maintenance at all. Always make room for maintenance in your budget. Allocating funds to pay for strategic repairs as part of the club’s yearly capital expenditures will protect your club from spending large sums on issues that could have been avoided with proper care.

Finding maintenance costs a difficult sell for your members or board? Conducting a Capital Reserve Study can put a tangible number on maintenance costs. Capital Reserve Studies analyze the useful life of every physical item in your club – ranging from golf equipment to HVAC systems – and estimate the replacement value of every item. This allows the finance committee, Controller, and General Manager to make room in the capital budget for maintenance expenses. However, Capital Reserve Studies don’t come without their pitfalls. “Some clubs find the total maintenance costs overwhelming, but once you skip some of the expenses for the year, the numbers will simply get larger the next year. It’s a kind of domino effect,” says Chambers Vice President and Director of Planning John Snellinger.  But having these numbers in hand gives maintenance staff and General Managers leverage against those members who don’t necessarily recognize the importance. “Capital Reserve Studies can help show that there is always a cost to doing nothing,” says Snellinger

While it may seem like a lot of effort, taking a proactive approach to club maintenance isn’t just a money-saver – it is a necessity for keeping a club functioning at optimum levels. Ultimately, it is important for club leaders to remember that even after renovations or construction is over, the work is not done. No facility is “set it and forget it.”

Want to discuss how to best maintain your club facilities? Shoot us an email!

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