Whether your facility is brand new, in the process of being renovated, or desperately in need of repair, you need a Building Reserves Fund and a Building Systems Replacement/Maintenance Plan.

The Kresge Foundation, which has spent many years and millions of dollars supporting facilities improvements for arts and cultural organizations, has a great explanation of Building Reserves Funds and why they’re so important.

Planning for your building’s maintenance needs, and ensuring that you have the money you need to fix things when they break or need ordinary maintenance, is the responsible approach to stewardship of our nation’s built heritage. But instead, many organizations — probably most organizations — put off those expenses for another day, hoping that, someday, the gift of an endowment will magically solve those long-term facility funding problems.

A better approach is to begin building a Building Reserves Fund now. No matter how modest it is to start, every dollar saved will help to build a safety net for the future.

To help you get started, I’ve provided this Building Maintenance-Systems Replacement Plan, which includes some of the major building expenses that you might face for the next 20 years. You can adjust this based on the age of your building and its systems, using the following (conservatively estimated) life expectancy of those systems or building components:

Annual maintenance. Every 1 year.
It’s better to start with a more conservative (higher) budget for annual maintenance and then adjust it down as needed, to ensure that you have sufficient funds. Don’t forget to include manufacturer-recommended service intervals for major components like elevators and HVAC systems!

Computer systems, including video/networked security systems. Every 5 years.
Computer technology changes so quickly that you will likely need to swap out all of your computer systems that often!

Paint/glaze exterior windows and doors, as well as any wooden siding, soffits, and eaves, if present. Every 7 years.
This interval is based on recommendations from paint manufacturers, but — as we all know — keeping exterior wood surfaces painted is the key to preventing rot. Be sure to include equipment rental costs if the contractor will need a man lift to reach surfaces above the second floor.

Replace exterior HVAC compressor units. Every 8 years.

Repaint interior surfaces, replace carpet and/or refinish wood floors. Every 10 years.
A fresh coat of paint and an updated color scheme doesn’t must brighten those interior spaces. Remember that  your facility is part of your brand, and the way you care for it speaks volumes about your organization. If your spaces are up-to-date, that tells people that your organization is, too!

Replace smoke/fire/security system. Every 10 years.

Replace interior HVAC air handlers, heating components, dust filters and dehumidification units. Every 12 years.

Replace roof. Every 20 years.
Yes, the whole thing! I know it’s a big expense. That’s why you have 20 years to save for it!

To complete the spreadsheet, start with the current cost of these items. You might have this in an Historic Structures Report or you can work with an architect to help you come up with today’s prices.

Once you have a list of current prices, you can calculate what you’ll need at the appropriate intervals, adjusting for inflation. For example, perhaps your security system would cost $10,000 to replace in 2011. You can find a number of Inflation Calculators like this one online and use one of those to figure that by 2021, you’ll need nearly $12,250 to replace it (assuming that the cost of the security system is stable).

After you’ve completed your spreadsheet, you’ll have the information that you need to start deciding you’re going to pay for this. And that’s a topic for another post!