Case for alternative approach to building maintenance management of public universities
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A building exists to serve the user's space requirement. The essence of maintenance is, therefore, to maximize the service life of a building, by delaying deterioration, decay and failure. Building maintenance management is a complex and multi-faceted thought process that involves planning, directing, controlling and organizing resources for the sustenance of the building's functional performance. The purpose of this paper is to propose an alternative maintenance management model for university buildings in Malaysia. A number of studies have investigated the maintenance management of buildings; however, most of the studies have observed maintenance management procedures that were corrective and condition-based. Although this research is specifically proposed for university buildings, however, many public and private sector institutions face similar maintenance management problems. Therefore, this research has broader applications. This research emerged from the need for an alternative building maintenance management system that reflects current thinking on the efficient and effective use of maintenance resources.
Keywordsmaintenance management university buildings Malaysia value users
A building requires maintenance to ensure optimal performance over its life cycle. In this paper, maintenance is defined as the required processes and services undertaken to care for a building's structure or/and service form after completion or after any repair, refurbishment or replacement to current standards to enable it to serve its intended functions throughout its entire lifespan without drastically upsetting its basic features and function. From this definition, it is clear that maintenance is a continuous activity. We also see that maintenance is about ensuring that the building meets its functional performance as required by the users, and that maintenance is not necessarily a factor of the condition of the building. Management, on the other hand, is the attainment of organizational goals in an effective and efficient manner through planning, organizing, directing and controlling organizational resources (Berk and Berk, 1993; Donnelly et al, 1998; Norton, 2003; Daft, 2004; Koontz and Weihrich, 2005). Therefore, by extension and combination, maintenance management involves planning, directing, controlling and organizing maintenance processes and services to obtain maximum returns for the investment. On the whole, the maintenance management of university buildings in Malaysia has been observed to be corrective, periodic and inspection-based or, at best, condition-based. However, times have changed; maintenance cannot be mainly based on the results of physical inspections and neither should maintenance be managed correctively. Maintenance management should reflect new thinking if the available resource is to be well maximized. A salient point of this paper is to introduce the concept of value (management) into the maintenance management of university buildings in Malaysia. University buildings are required to create suitable space that will support and facilitate learning, teaching and research activities.
The economy of Malaysia has, since independence, been planned on 5-year strategic plans. For each of the plans, the education has a sector featured prominently in terms of value and policy implementation. Education constitutes 2.1 per cent of the GDP (Ministry of Higher Education, 2006). Concurrently, the national gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) expanded at an average rate of 9.4 per cent annually from USD 306 million in 1990 to USD 1195 billion in 2005, and the GERD and GDP improved from 0.4 per cent in 1990 to 0.9 per cent in 2005 (Government of Malaysia, 2006). There is an expansion of more than 420 per cent on allocation to the education and training sectors over the period of 20 years. For instance, the sum of USD 2442 million was allocated under the 6MP and, correspondingly, USD 12 449 million (currency exchange at USD 0.2767 to 1 MYR) was allocated under the 9PM (Government of Malaysia, 1996–2006). In tandem with the expansion in the allocations to the education sector at all levels, the allocation to the tertiary level has also increased substantially. In terms of allocation, under the Eighth Malaysian Plan, the sum of USD 2463 million was allocated to institutions of higher learning out of the USD 5163 million allocated to the total education sector (Government of Malaysia, 2001), whereas under the Ninth Malaysian Plan, the allocation to institutions of higher learning was increased to USD 4446 million (Government of Malaysia, 2006). This represents an expansion of more than 80 per cent compared to the previous plan. The quest to transform Malaysia into a knowledge-based economy, where well-educated skilled workers will be the main source of national prosperity and wealth is high (Malaysia and the Knowledge Economy, 2007). In order to attain this pragmatic transition, a number of strategic issues are required to be considered and resolved. The university system must be adequate in all respects.
Apart from the staff and students, building is the most significant asset of the university organization. This assertion can be reinforced considering the investment a university makes on development and operations on their building facilities. Although there is still the need for expansive supply of the university buildings facilities, the need for maintaining the existing ones has increased consequently. The maintenance of the building has always represented a significant portion of the university budget. The maintenance of buildings consumes a great portion of the limited resources. The cost of buildings comprises the cost of construction and cost in use. However, the operating cost of the building is quite huge in relation to the cost of construction. About 75 per cent of the cost in use is attributed to maintenance works (Booty, 2006) and about 90 per cent of the lifetime of building projects requires maintenance work (Mills, 1994; Zavadskas and Vilutiene, 2006). Flanagan and Jewell (2005) also found that over a period of 25 years, a building will use about three times its capital cost for running costs. The corporate objectives of the university organization have placed buildings in a strategic position. According to authors, including Wordsworth (2001), more than 90 per cent of our activities are conducted in or around the building. The university buildings are no exception. The performance and functions of the place we teach, learn and conduct our research are reflections of our well being and the quality of our education. Thus, any inadequacy with the university buildings facilities will seriously affect the achievement of the prime objectives of the university.
Therefore, a well-maintained building is critical for delivery of the institution's core business objectives. A building provides a conducive environment for students and staff in addition to supporting and stimulating teaching, learning, researching and other academic-related activities. The role of academic buildings cannot be emphasized enough. In fact, as a fundamental strategy, universities these days use the nature, design and performance of their buildings to woo students. As an illustration, those universities that in the past relied on the applications sent to them through the Ministry of Education now use the performance of their buildings as a variable to attract students (Rohaizat, 2002).
The number of buildings requiring maintenance in Malaysia is huge and is on the increase, irrespective of the sector, size, location or ownership. Recently, to emphasize the government's commitment regarding the performance of public assets and facilities, National Assets and Facilities Management, 2007 (NAFAM) was inaugurated. NAFAM is a government initiative that seeks to propose ways in which the public assets and facilities are managed. According to the former Deputy Prime Minister (now the Prime Minister), Najib Tun Abdul Rasak, contracts worth the sum of USD 359 million will be soon awarded for improvement, maintenance and development of 322 schools, and USD 26 million will also be awarded for the maintenance and improvement of police stations (The Star, March, 2009; The New Straits Times, March, 2009).
The continuous functioning of the university buildings has become a matter of significant interest to a government that seeks to achieve cost-effectiveness in the educational sector. However, often, when a university's budgets are cut, the maintenance of buildings is often one of the first areas to suffer with maintenance being deferred to cut costs, even though such an option is not cost-effective. Therefore, to improve the performance of the university buildings, maintenance management is increasingly becoming a major tool as an attempt to improve the functional performance of the buildings to cater for the users’ need. However, in most public organizations in Malaysia, inclusive of public universities, building maintenance is usually regarded as a necessary evil that has nothing to do with the ultimate mission of the university, but times have indeed changed. Buildings and their functional performances are recognized as a vehicle for wealth creation. Today, building maintenance is progressively recognized as a factor of production like other resources. However, the literature suggests that the university buildings are not well maintained (Ishak, 2006; Ruslan, 2007), even though when buildings are not well maintained it often leads to buildings that will be very expensive to occupy and operate. Previous findings indicated that the maintenance management of university buildings in Malaysia was corrective, periodic and inspection-based. According to Ishak (2006), the maintenance management procedures for university buildings are planned maintenance, and contingency and corrective maintenance. Similarly, Zakaria and Ali (2006a and 2006b) and Zakaria et al (2008) identified the procedures as service, corrective, routine and preventive maintenance. However, there are continuous realizations that the best value cannot be derived from any of these approaches to buildings maintenance. When maintenance is not well managed, it often leads to buildings that will be very expensive to own or operate in the long run (Spare, 2001; Christian et al, 2002).
While corrective maintenance is failure-based, periodic and preventive is condition-based. Corrective maintenance is initiated after the building has failed and is intended to restore the building to it original condition. What this means is that a building is maintained upon receiving a complaint about decay, deterioration or defects or any of their combinations, or it was discovered by those concerned with the building that the building has failed. This method is in most cases very expensive, and it usually leaves the users dissatisfied. It often leads to a maintenance backlog, as the available resources are often inadequate to address the maintenance needs. Another major shortcoming of this approach is that it disrupts and disturbs the activities that are carried out in and around the building. Condition-based maintenance is initiated as a result of some knowledge of the condition of the building on the basis of inspection before failure. As long as the parameters of the building are found to be within specifications, it will be considered to be fine and no action will be taken. Maintenance will only be initiated if the physical condition of the building is deteriorating, decaying or failing. Condition-based maintenance is sometimes based on a periodic or cyclical scale. That is, maintenance is initiated on the agreed time period regardless of whether or not there is problem with the building or its elements.
However, best value maintenance cannot be reactive-based or even condition–based, as many building defects have symptoms with a superficial resemblance (Mills, 1994). In fact, the determination of maintenance budget through stock inspection has been questioned. Stock condition at best provides only an overview of the condition of the building during the inspection period. It is difficult to assess the amount of risk posed by an identified non-critical problem to future operations and productivity (Reffat, Gero and Peng, 2004). A non-critical problem during inspection might deteriorate further or become more serious during the actual implementation because of the reliability and validity of the outcomes of the condition survey. Condition-based maintenance practice has various other shortcomings, including inconsistence in data collection, unrealistic assumptions regarding data accuracy, software not able to interrogate or manipulate data and over emphasized details that might not even be required (Marshall et al, 1996; Chapman and Beck, 1998). O’Dell (1996) opined that the stock condition survey could underestimate the volume and costs of maintenance needed by as much as 60 per cent of the actual works/costs (Jones, 2002).
The use to which a building is put, the suitability of its design for the purpose, and the intensity and the ways in which it is used will directly and indirectly determine its maintenance management system. For instance, the value of a building varies according to the use of the building, and different standards may be adopted for the different types of building (Mills, 1994; Chanter and Swallow, 2007). Therefore, maintenance management has to be considered in terms of the building function, the users’ perception of the building's condition and its relevance to his/her primary needs (Laccase et al, 1997). What this means is that the users’ requirements are the essential prerequisite for the evaluation of the building. It is only then that maintenance activities can be planned, controlled, organized and coordinated effectively and efficiently. What is critical to the users or client-occupiers of a building is the ability of the building to efficiently and effectively support the performance of the activities within and around the building and not necessarily the physical condition of the building per se (Chapman and Beck, 1998; Jones and Sharp, 2007). What is also critical to the maintenance organization is to meet the complex requirements of the users, and the building itself effectively and efficiently considering the organization resource.
SUMMARY AND FURTHER RESEARCH
In anticipation of the main research, this paper has outlined a plan to proceed with the research. The maintenance management of academic buildings presents quite different challenges as compared to other public buildings like offices. Despite the significance of maintenance management, most public organizations still consider building maintenance and building maintenance management as a burden rather than as value added strategies. Maintenance management is not usually regarded as part of the top management function or duties but as an operational function. Even though the government allocations to maintenance of university buildings are limited, however, there is no effective and efficient management of the limited resources, which are a result of the methods used. Maintenance allocation is also subject to government intervention. The universities depend on their annual budgets for maintenance and where maintenance is in excess of the allocated budget, which is, however, often the case, the universities will have to apply for more funding from the government. However, these additional funds could take months or years before they get to the university. In which case, maintenance can at best be managed correctively or at best be condition-based. However, buildings are procured or occupied to solve some technical problems, as identified by the users or clients. The function of a building is to provide a conducive space that is suitable for the activity to be carried out within that space, and the design of a building is a technical solution to the functional requirement of the space (Kelly and Male, 2001). Building users are the entity or group of individuals or organization, who are interested in the adequate functioning of the building. They are affected by the performance of the building and the building is also affected by the activities of the users. The users have the potential and capability to take action or a decision if their value system is not adequately met. It is the correct functioning of the building that the users desire, not the physical condition of the building. To the extent that the building is capable of allowing the user to perform their function, the building can be said to be valuable. In other words, the buildings can be said to be adding value to the activities taking place inside or around it. Of what significance is a classroom that is not conducive to student learning? Thus, there is a need for alternative maintenance management for a building that is based on the principle of value. Value involves the amount of resources associated with how effectively and efficiently a function or/and service meets the users’ or customers’ expectation (Bateman and Snell, 2009) and perceptions.
The more you meet the user's expectations (measured in terms of quality, speed, reliability, safety and function, comfort, cost and so on) and perception at less cost, the more value is delivered to the users. In other words, the more the users’ maintenance performance and expectations are achieved (effectively) with fewer resources (efficiently), the higher the value you add to the maintenance service. According to Flanagan and Jewell (2005), buildings can still be used even if the fabrics deteriorate significantly. Then (2002) also opined that the ultimate essence of the building management is about the fitness for purpose of the building for the users. Considering the condition of the building as the main reason for initiating maintenance activities is to accept maintenance as a burden that has no value to add to the building. Thus, university buildings ought to be maintained if they fail to support and provide a conducive environment for learning, teaching and conducting researches and innovations. It is only in this way that the limited resource will be maximized.
Moreover, there must be a provision for a long-term plan for maintenance, and a special or dedicated financial provision must be made for future maintenance services. The universities must also have balance sheets that provide information on the condition and performance of their buildings as well as previous maintenance records. In addition, maintenance schedules should be addressed. This is very critical in maintenance management, particularly for the university buildings with their diverse backgrounds. For instance, the issue of when to maintain the university buildings requires proper planning and organization, so as not to disrupt and disturb classes and other learning and teaching activities. For example, while places like the library, classrooms and workshops could be maintained in the evening, night or at the weekend, the hostels, for instance, can be maintained during the daytime when most if not all the students are attending classes, or in the library. Another issue that makes the university buildings peculiar is the nature of the students, and female students in particular, with their expectations about the performance of their buildings. This is very pertinent, as building users have a substantial influence on maintenance services (Al-Arjani, 1995) as compared to new built. The fact that some maintenance works cannot be executed at a particular time because of the user's requirements is another complex issue that needs proper planning. As an illustration, to gain access to female hostels is very difficult coupled with the fact that most or if not all the maintenance operatives are often men considering the cultural/religious belief of Malaysians.
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