Facilities use alternative materials to drive down maintenance costs

Facilities use alternative materials to drive down maintenance costs

Asset maintenance is in the midst of a revolutionary change as utility and facility management leaders, especially in the water and sewer systems asset management space, develop new programs to more efficiently control assets. 

According to Industrial Water World, a 2012 survey showed asset management professionals in the water distribution industry say improving finances is the top reason to overhaul operations. This can be done by upgrading outdated water and sewage systems, addressing high capital spending and accounting for higher energy prices. Only months later, another survey conducted by McGraw Hill Construction found companies that implemented strong asset management programs were able to lower overall costs tremendously, which was attributed mostly to repairing aging infrastructure and maintaining these assets. 

The media outlet pointed to several studies to show that the cumulative costs of overhauling the aging water system could be enormous – anywhere from $1 trillion to $4 trillion in the next few decades – but despite this, facilities will still save due to the even higher costs associated with putting off repairs. 

These struggles have been exacerbated by the ongoing struggles in the global economy, rate payers who demand lower prices, a poor credit environment and other factors. However, many facility managers are now bringing financial services players on board their team to improve financial and risk decision making. 

"Regardless of basic funding sources, existing rate charges for replacement projects, and developer fees for new growth projects, the primary goal is figuring out how to manage and reduce the costs of the infrastructure through its entire asset life," wrote Greg M. Baird, founder of the Wet Infrastructure Resource Solution Center. "As a result, traditional paradigms are giving way to new technologies, products, and methodologies."

New building materials
This drive to make facility maintenance more affordable has resulted in many facility managers opting to use alternative piping materials. This, in turn, has created new competition and innovation that has lowered utility costs for customers. Take underground water piping, for example. So many materials from various companies are now available, and competition has risen so high, that there is a demand for quality products that will ensure water utilities get the most out of their investments. 

The proliferation of PVC piping has created huge cost savings for utilities. Some say switching to this material has resulted in savings of as much as 70 percent, which has spurred some home building associations to push their governing cities to draft laws that will allow for wider PVC pipes. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using PVC pipes means less asset maintenance because of their ability to resist corrosion. When water passes through steel, iron, copper or aluminum pipes, it can slowly eat away at the infrastructure, causing serious damage over time. 

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