Richard Rooley ASHRAE Treasurer
CIBSE ASHRAE Group Meeting November 14th 2001

 

These notes have been kindly provided by Richard Rooley – they support the series of lectures that he is giving internationally and formed the basis of his paper to the CIBSE ASHRAE Group on Wednesday 14th November 2001.

History of Maintenance and Looking to the Future.
Richard Rooley


Mankind and particularly the maintenance engineer is going through a mid life crisis. In the earliest civilisations the hunter gatherer spent approximately fifteen hours in gathering food and the remaining time bouncing his children and grandchildren on his knee and learning to speak, and no doubt philosophising on the stars. On the future, man will spend fifteen hours per week tending his machines, which will design themselves, build themselves, maintain themselves and carry out all repairs. Man will continue to bounce his children and his grandchildren on his knee and philosophise about the stars.

Between the past and the future man has raped the earth, pillaged its contents, creating pollution, decay and dirt together with the work ethic, or the more usual stress work ethic. Dirt pollution and decay should be at the heart of our understanding of design and maintenance.

An early example of maintenance problems created by monument style architecture started about 1000BC when Solomon for his, or the Lord's glory, erected a temple. Precise instructions were given on how to build it and very heavy taxation was required to meet the high visual and religious required of that temple at that moment in time.

Approximately 400 years later near the beginning of the long reign of King Josiah, it was apparent that dirt, pollution and decay had taken its toll and major maintenance was required. When it became time for an interim payment to be made to the contractors, Josiah sent the grandson of his secretary to the High Priest to reckon how much had been made in taxes and could therefore be spent on the repair work. A critical statement was 'Let it be given into the hand of the workmen the oversight of the house of the Lord and let them give it to the workmen who are the house of the Lord repairing the house, that is, to the carpenters and to the builders and to the masons as well as for buying timber and quarried to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them, for the money which is delivered into their hands, for they deal honestly.'

As professional engineers, we will of course maintain that we still always deal honestly, and that it is those accountants and solicitors and quantity surveyors who have corrupted our client's minds against us. But perhaps the blame is on both sides. I would rather address two issues from the story.

That the same craftsmen were responsible for design and construction as were responsible for maintenance. This pattern of common skill has remained up until, I suggest, the post second world war era. Mechanical implements through the industrial revolution were built and overhauled by the same craftsmen, our architects and builders, similarly shared design and maintenance skills. Perhaps the separation of the activities is the birth pangs of the future when perhaps the need for maintenance will be greatly reduced. Perhaps this will occur when we have brought dirt, pollution and decay under control.

We should look further at this separation of designer from maintenance engineer. At the ASHVE Annual meeting in 1900, during the paper presented by John Gormley on the problems of drainage vents being close to fresh air inlets, Mr Barwick talked of the problem of clogged up filters. In particular he states "I instructed the engineers so many times to clean it, and I found it dirty just as often as I instructed, and I suppose it was still being neglected. Dust over the screen was a quarter inch thick over the entire screen". He referred to the 'intelligent janitor who will come along with a dust brush and club the screen and knock the dirt into the flue." He goes on to say: "I don't think you can get the average janitor to obey instructions."

The designer in this case expected the maintenance engineer to walk through underground ventilation ducts probably below the water table, to clean filters in foul conditions. Modern designers require the three armed double jointed three foot six man to carry out much of his maintenance from sky hooks. He expects the maintenance engineer to have the manual dexterity, be a high quality trade artisan, fitter and electrician, and to be able to have a full understanding of computer hardware and software. Under these 'perfectly reasonable conditions' a designer will expect his system to operate.

As in 1900, dirt, pollution and decay exist and perhaps are not anticipated by the designer.

In 1974, Peter Martin, a past president of the British Institution of Heating and Ventilating Engineers who was and is one of the leading technical thinkers and authors in our industry addressed a conference and stated

"The standard of maintenance to which most air conditioning plants in this country are subjected is little short of abominable. All designers and contractors have experienced some aspect of this problem when returning to a plant after a period of years. 'It never did work' is an often heard complaint as the time clock ticks away on 1960 double summer time - disturbed somewhat by the last seven power strikes - and the disconnected controls hang Emmet like from broken insulation to the dismal sound of broken fan blades churning the dust carried over from a fabric--less filter. And yet these same building owners lavish endless care upon motor cars, the cost of one of which would scarcely buy a new refrigerant charge fro their rusting unpurged centrifugals. is the air conditioning industry as a whole to blame for their criminal ignorance. Have Adequate efforts been made to introduce qualifying courses for certificated operators? Is the industry to continue to live and suffer among the trails of destruction left by Old Joe who stoked the coke boiler and now has sole charge of a million pounds worth of plant at Hackney Hydro?"

In the standard text book in the UK of the day, Faber and Kell which was edited during the 1970s by Peter Martin, the early editions stated that in terms of maintenance and repairs this need only refer to the boiler plant. There is extensive reference to overhaul. I spoke with Peter Martin last month and asked him what maintenance was carried out in the 1930s. His reply was that there was hardly a pump or a fan in an installation, that equipment was robust. When he was a junior apprentice, learning his trade, one of his summer activities was to write to all the contractors customers asking if they should come and do the maintenance now. The majority of the customers paid for an annual visit for principally cleaning.

In the fifth edition, the section of maintenance was revised in the mid 1970s and stated that 'average maintenance of small installations if often covered by a maintenance contract with the installer or fuel supplier involving two or three visits a year and costing a nominal sum per visit. Taken by and large the maintenance of heating plant may be expected to be covered by an allowance of the order of 10% of the fuel cost per annum."

Notwithstanding the appeal by Peter Martin for more training for maintenance engineers, this has not occurred. Designers, however have continued to design with a blind faith that maintenance engineers will be available. I used to suggest that this was a thoroughly unprofessional approach to design. Whilst still holding that opinion, I see the rapid growth in computer power and the powerful position being taken by the large computer companies as being the next step through these middle dark ages between the past and future 15 hour working week.

It was not only in Britain that we did not use pumps and fans. At the ASH&VE 2nd annual meeting in 1896, a 'topical discussion' took place on use of ventilation and the way air should be brought in and out of the building. Mr Jellet stated that 'on the end of the main aspirating shaft, there should be a fan. A fan will give much better service under such conditions than an aspirating coil because there are so many feet of horizontal flues with a great deal of resistance".

As recently as 100 years ago fans were a new idea. However, William Phipson in his proposal for heating of St Thomas's Hospital in London, dated 20th November 1865, with a compete description and fully priced proposal being set out in 6 pages. He did propose 'in the centre building in basement, I propose fixing a small four horse power steam engine, working two fans drawing the fresh air from the exterior of the buildings through the air shaft and by means of an underground air channel to convey this cold air forth along by the fans to the different air chambers". He then went on to state that there would be a warming apparatus of simple construction in each chamber and to go on there through the building. His estimate for the cost of the installation was £1,928.

His operating and maintenance costs were fuel for 200 days, for the heating apparatus; fuel for the steam engine driving the fans for 365 days and two stokers at 30 pence per week. The total cost was £439 per annum including sundries, repairs, oil and wipings etc. at £38.

Talking of earlier ventilation and particularly ventilation of office buildings, Mr Baron, speaking at the 1896 Annual Meeting presented comments received from Mr David M Nesbit of London. This set out a point that American engineers were following British principals which 'only accentuates the fact, that you, the men of America, are part and parcel of this smaller island.'

He continues to make reference to dodges where salesmen of unproved equipment were misleading the public.

In the early days of the motor car, in the days when Milton Garland was designing refrigeration plant, when Carrier was introducing air conditioning it was taken for granted that the designers had a deep and practical knowledge of operation and maintenance. It was inconceivable that a designer embarked up on a design with no knowledge of maintenance.

The activities of design and maintenance separated during the war, possibly following the introduction of the Model T Ford and more efficient manufacturing processes. The HVAC engineer introduced air conditioning. Architects drifted in their teaching toward the theoretical rather than the practical. The HVAC engineer was drawn in as the servant of the architect to design ever more with innovation and theoretical justification.

It is possible to trace through the first twenty years of ASH&VE's history the movement from the practical empirical to the scientific and abstract.

Industry reacted by separating the role of designer and contractor into separate companies. At the beginning of consulting engineering a man of great practical knowledge and with above average theory and professionalism set up as a consulting engineer to advise.

This progressed by small steps to the consulting engineer becoming a design office and then a company which contracts to do a design. At inception the consulting engineer in the profession had costs of a pound charged a guinea (which was 21 shillings) of 5% profit margin and he provided his services. As the consultant became a designer, with big fees, he slipped further away form the installation indeed there was benefit to him commercially to be quite distinct. Our universities produced graduates in building services engineering and certainly in the UK the trend has been towards the more exciting intellectually pleasing activities of design and away from the site with its dirt, pollution and decay.

Similar things were happening in manufacturing. Without true knowledge of real maintenance needs, a conclusion was reached: that the obvious way to carry out maintenance was to list every item of equipment in the building, ask contractors to give their opinion on what type of maintenance should be carried out generally on a time basis. Thus the weekly, monthly, six monthly and annual planned preventative maintenance schemes were developed. They had a false assumption that plant had a predictable life and ignored the requirements of the specific installation in setting up a maintenance regime. May a fortune has been made and reputation lost by this over maintenance. It happened to coincide with the development of data based computer systems where the earlier schemes had boards with a sliding time scale backed up by filing cabinets of job cards completed on a manual basis. The computer came in and was a partial justification of the more sophisticated system.

A third generation of maintenance, be it reliability centred maintenance which grew out of the America Aircraft industry, or total productive maintenance which was founded in Japanese manufacturing each reduced the quantity of maintenance, one by reducing maintenance as far as possible to a zero base and TPM by designing out maintenance. This is where the building industry will be in five years time.

The development of computer power between now and the end of the century will be at least two orders of magnitude. Most commentators excuse themselves by saying it is impossible to forecast the future. Our science fiction writers have no such reservations. Look round the Starship Enterprise, which is perhaps not so very different to the legendary methods of travel and engineering of ancient Atlantis. Dirt, pollution and decay will be reduced. The British clean air act of the 1950 pushed contamination higher into the sky. Future legislation following the ecological movement will dramatically reduce pollution. The Starship Enterprise is driven by crystals. That is too much perhaps for us as engineers to accept. It is possible however to hypothesise that air will be cleaned locally to the room which is occupied, that a form of electricity will replace water as a heating and cooling medium. This was forecast at the first annual meeting of ASHVE in 1895 where it was generally accepted that electric heating would be important in the future but Secretary Heart did state " I believe that under the present method of obtaining electrical energy, the heating engineer today need have no fear of competition from that source. Gas would be more competitive."

I have said some form of electric energy. Our manufacturing procedures will become closer to the zero-defects image. This concept of design of building services is rejected by engineers now but accepted for component manufacture. Computers will drive our work. Next week I travel to Hong Kong where a computer giant is the main contractor in the total maintenance of a housing development. Perhaps we have become complaisant with the way things are. In Britain there is commercial advantage in manufacturers for construction being relatively small with tailor made products. The advantage in America is to have reliable catalogues of at least partially standard equipment. The American culture has grown out of a measure of standardisation, the British our of bespoke tailoring. The computer giant of the future will eat our breakfast while the engineer reminisces over the good old days when things were done properly.

Maintenance is part of design. The sophistication of ASHRAE and its high intellectual capacity has perhaps condemned the second half of the 20th century to complex installations which the occupants accept under sufferance and are not aware of half of the maintenance problems. I am much more optimistic than I was a couple of years ago that same intellectual drive, if it is sufficiently bold to reach forward, will again integrate maintenance with design, bring us to a starship enterprise culture and return us to a fifteen hour working week.

Copyright Richard Rooley 2001

Group Chairman, Tim Dwyer can be contacted at timdwyer@lsbu.ac.uk

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