As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, winter weather affects buildings and can cause damage that may not be able to be properly addressed until the spring—especially if you are in a colder climate. Avoid costly repairs and lower your building’s winter expenses with these winterizing tips.
Address issues with your building envelope
If there are any issues with your building envelope (roof, facade, window and door seals), you’ll be thankful you addressed these before they go through another winter. Cracks, leaks (air or water), and weaknesses will only get exacerbated by freezing temperatures which can cause the materials in the envelope to shrink and any water that has made its way in to expand and cause deeper damage. In addition, water leaks will be much harder to conduct testing on and fix in the winter. For instance, a roof repair will require the temperature to be above freezing and dry for consecutive days.
Speaking of roofs, this is especially vulnerable to issues in winter. Snow pileup and frozen drainage can create problems or accelerate deterioration on roofs. Check for any potential flags, such as pooling or weak flashing, and create a plan for snow removal and deicing should there be a big storm. Make sure any equipment is properly anchored in case of strong winds, and look for potential water entrance through vents or pipes.
An energy-saving enhancement is to ensure doors and windows are well sealed from drafts and air leakage by checking weather stripping, sealing gaps, or installing draft guards.
Check your HVAC and plumbing
Prolong the life of your HVAC equipment and look for energy savings as you head into winter. You may want to bring in a professional to make sure things are in good working order and to ensure water pipes are turned off, blown out, and covered where there are irrigation systems or unheated spaces (including external faucets).
Change your air filter regularly and ensure any air returns are not blocked to keep the system from being stressed. It can be helpful to cover outdoor air conditioning units that are unused in cold weather to prevent rust and water damage.
To find savings on heating communal areas, check for spaces that do not need heating turned on or lower temperatures to as low as 55-60°F in areas where there are no staff or foot traffic. A smart thermostat may also help find extra savings.
Prepare lobbies and common areas inside and out
With winter comes wet boot prints and salt from outdoors. Make sure high-traffic areas, such as lobbies, elevators, and stairwells are prepared for the wear as well as slippery conditions. Regularly keep floors clean to avoid salt or sand corrosion and put down mats and rugs. Have supplies on hand like a mop for especially slushy days, and a wet floor sign to keep residents safe.
Keep entry ways and sidewalks clean and cleared of any snow, and if budget allows look for alternatives to rock salt to de-ice sidewalks. Not only is salt corrosive and can damage hardscaping, lobby floors, and cars, it is unpleasant for resident dog paws and can damage landscaping. There are commercial alternatives such as magnesium chloride or natural alternatives like coffee grinds
Communicate and plan for extreme weather
Have a plan to keep residents and staff safe when there is extreme weather. Notify residents of upcoming storms and things they can do to keep their units safe, like storing patio furniture. Some of the things done at the building-level will be helpful for individual units to take action on too—like winterizing irrigation on a unit’s balcony or checking their HVAC system.
Staff should also be aware of protocols when there is extreme weather such as a snow storm. This includes the plan for snow removal and deicing as well as coverage if a staff member is unable to safely commute on-site during a storm.
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