Until recently at Eastern Illinois University, Ted Weidner is now the associate vice chancellor, facilities and campus services, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts. He cochairs APPA's Trades Staffing Guidelines Task Force and can be reached at tweidner@admin.umass.edu.

Just as APPA's Custodial Staffing Guidelines have become a standard in the industry and an invaluable tool for facilities professionals with responsibilities for the custodial/housekeeping function, the developing Trades Staffing Guidelines too will become an indispensable resource for the facilities profession. The creation of APPA's Trades Staffing Guidelines Task Force was intended to provide similar assistance for the much more complicated job of building maintenance.

How is the creation of staffing guidelines for building maintenance more complicated than cleaning? First, campuses have facilities that range from old to new. We construct new facilities every year that are often very different in operational or maintenance characteristics from the buildings constructed many years earlier. Second, a classroom/office building does not demand the same maintenance activity as a research-oriented chemistry or biology building constructed the same year.

Third, the overall condition of the facility as measured by the facility condition index (FCI) may dictate that employees spend a great deal of time addressing problems rather than maintaining it or preventing degradation; reduction of need is dependent on a major expenditure over two or more years.

Fourth, an environment of customer service may redirect employees to non-maintenance activities; it is often more politically correct to renovate an office at no cost than to maintain some chiller equipment. Knowledgeable facility officers know the difference and can justify doing the right rather than the politic thing.

The goal of the task force is to create a tool to assist managers and administrators in determining how many people may be needed to maintain a campus or the distribution of the trades or skills. In addition, the guidelines will provide the facilities professional with tools to predict the time-based trend of facility condition; is the facility condition index growing or shrinking?

The purpose of this article is to present preliminary information, descriptions of the levels that have been proposed, and a matrix of indicators for the Trades Staffing Guidelines. The levels and matrix are intended to mimic features of the custodial staffing guidelines.

Why a Guideline

In 1992, APPA published Custodial Staffing Guidelines for Educational Facilities to assist facility officers in determining the staffing needs for cleaning or to identify expectations from given staffing. The guideline became a valuable tool for facility officers to make quantitative adjustments to staff in order to meet user needs and to provide qualitative justification to administrators as to the capabilities of staff. There were facility operations that were challenged by the guidelines either to increase productivity or to adjust staff or expenses to better meet the guidelines. Facility officers and administrators challenged the guidelines; they were either too favorable to the custodial staff or not favorable enough. Did anyone else have a president tell you that Level 4 staffing should be pushed to deliver Level 2 service?

Those campuses with union agreements may also have met with significant resistance to purported time-motion measures. We do not work in a perfect world; the challenges of individual performance introduce anomalies in any guideline. But the Custodial Staffing Guidelines remain popular, and the book moved to a much-expanded second edition in 1998. Something was right about the custodial guidelines. And a guideline needed to be created for trades staffing too.

The condition of facilities, good or bad, affects the demand for facilities, either down or up. The institution's mission affects what the campus looks like and how buildings are constructed and maintained. Climate and regional differences affect whether there is a need for air-conditioning or heating maintenance activities or the mix of both. Older buildings, constructed of heavy masonry or timbers, require different maintenance activities from modern, lightweight steel and glass facilities. The differences between campuses and buildings on a single campus are potentially so great that they cannot be ignored. The task force remains undaunted. We are open to suggestions both before publication of the guideline and after; this is not a one-time effort.

Maintenance Definitions

While some would prefer to stick with a definition along the lines of "I know it when I see it," that won't hold water with a dubious supervisor or campus administrator. The task force looked at what constitutes maintenance activity. Below are working definitions of maintenance used by the task force.

Planned maintenance was divided into two groups, preventive maintenance and corrective maintenance.
Preventive maintenance comprises those activities that are performed on a scheduled basis annually, or more frequently, that prevents or predicts a larger maintenance effort or systems testing that is code required or for other programmatic needs. Examples include replacement of filters and belts, lubrication, vibration analysis, tightening of fasteners and connections, infrared analysis of equipment, debris removal, tube inspection, fire alarm, and emergency generator testing. There are several other kinds of preventive maintenance that occur less frequently, i.e., painting, tuckpointing, tube replacement, equipment rebuild, that are more capital in nature and will be discussed below.

Corrective maintenance consists of activities that are scheduled in advance and initiated by the facilities organization without the need for an external customer request. Examples include responses to preventive maintenance investigations such as a misaligned motor/fan assembly and replacement of overly hot circuit breakers or lamp ballasts that continue to function. Major (capital) maintenance is not included.

Reactive maintenance are activities that range from a minor problem with equipment operation and hot/cold calls to some vandalism repairs. These are unplanned and are a response to campus needs and activities. Many organizations refer to these as trouble calls or service calls. You may consider these to be of a nuisance nature requiring low levels of skill for correction; however, these are the efforts that facility organizations are often measured by; we will address these in another article. The task force subscribes to the belief that more planned maintenance greatly reduces the reactive maintenance.

Emergency maintenance can sometimes vary by campus or requester (as described above) but consists of activities that stop or significantly reduce immediate damage to facilities and protect human or animal life; they restore essential services. Examples include failures to utility distribution systems, sudden structural failures, and other interruptions that adversely affect other building systems. Additionally, some campuses consider graffiti removal an emergency.

Non-maintenance includes activities that are often performed by trades employees but do little to maintain or extend the life of campus facilities. Examples include construction of staging for graduation or other university sanctioned events, repair of furniture, and maintenance of research or laboratory equipment. Some of these activities cannot be avoided. If these services are expected, they must be figured into the annual workload and staffing planned accordingly.

Capital maintenance is typically done as a separate effort outside of the maintenance trades and outside the annual operating maintenance budget. Research by Biedenweg and Hudson, Kaiser, and others have identified the funding level required to perform this work on a regular basis to control the accumulation of deferred maintenance. Examples of capital or major maintenance include large equipment rebuild or replacement, roof or window replacement, and system rehabilitation.

The Matrix

The Trades Staffing Guidelines are designed to be similar to the Custodial Staffing Guidelines by displaying characteristics in a matrix. We have developed the matrix of facility characteristics to assist the facilities professional and non-facilities administrator in understanding the guideline. It is divided into five levels. These levels provide a general description of the essential characteristics one might use to measure the effectiveness of maintenance and the level of service. They have been categorized with descriptive terms, similar to the custodial guidelines. The highest level is 1, described as showpiece facility. The lowest level is 5, crisis response. Between these extremes are Level 2, comprehensive stewardship, Level 3, managed care, and Level 4, reactive management. There are several characteristics described in the matrix that further assist with the understanding of the levels and maintenance performed. The entire matrix is displayed on pages 46-47.


There are many different characteristics to determine whether good facility maintenance services are being delivered. The list of 11 characteristics identified herein may not be complete or the final word in facility maintenance. The task force believes this is an important starting point to describe essential elements of higher education facility maintenance.

We begin with customer service and response time. The first line of defense for a facility maintenance department is its ability to quickly meet the requests of customers. Is the staff large enough to address the reactive requests in a timely manner or are requests ignored because the entire staff is focused on emergencies and administrative changes to priorities? Some customers assume that the maintenance staff is waiting for a call to come in requesting service, good managers know that a lower level of staffing can still present that appearance while still keeping all employees assigned to important tasks.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a staff so small that it can only address emergencies or respond to requests from top administrators. While some customers receive immediate response based on rank or position within the university, this outlying datapoint is more political in nature and is not the intent of the metric. Between the extremes lies customer service that may be more typical on our campuses. Level 2 recognizes that good customer service is the result of a majority of work, including non-maintenance, being accomplished within one week of request. Level 3 service response is completed within one month but may come at the cost of preventive maintenance work that customers don't immediately recognize as important. Level 4 service is so poor that improvements in response time come at the cost of essential maintenance. Level 5 service addresses emergencies only. While reactive maintenance requests may not have the same import on preservation of facility life or condition, they are likely the primary measure of the service by most campus customers or users. They should not be ignored. Even when time to completion of a request is long, if there is a service response to the customer-waiting problems can be mitigated.

Customer satisfaction is a common measure for all service industries. In our case, the customers are often internal and take personal pride in the appearance of the campus. They want the facilities staff to provide good buildings that operate well. There is a synergistic effect when customers are satisfied; they become more tolerant of facility issues when anomalies occur. They are tolerant of costs for maintenance because they consider quality facility maintenance to be worth the price. They trust the facilities staff and can provide frontline information that will assist in preservation of the building.

When preventive maintenance tasks are completed in a timely and thorough manner, other maintenance tasks are reduced. This characteristic recognizes the truism by focusing on the organization's ability to prioritize and address preventive work. As described above, in order to keep customer satisfaction up, some organizations ignore preventive maintenance. High levels of maintenance are characterized by accomplishing most or all preventive maintenance work.

As part of the balancing act that must be performed when staffing is not at an ideal level, the facility manager cannot ignore preventive maintenance completely. However, when preventive maintenance drops to very low levels, it is likely that the majority of time is spent on reactive or emergency maintenance resulting from poor customer satisfaction and facility condition. The maintenance mix is a similar and important measure that allows the facility manager to balance his or her workforce to address the many changing needs of the campus.

Interior aesthetics is the one characteristic that we all think we know. Does the building appear new? Are the surfaces clean, paint fresh, unblemished? Are accessible ceilings or access panels free of fingerprints from the maintenance staff? Are surfaces smooth or rough? Some of these are difficult to achieve because they are dependent on the original design of the facility. If the designer or builder of the facility were to see it today, would they recognize it as they remember it on opening day? And in some other cases, is the facilities staff able to maintain the building so visitors feel welcome and comfortable in the building rather than concerned for their safety. Interior aesthetics is not to be confused with cleaning issues addressed by the Custodial Staffing Guidelines. However, it is likely that facilities with a high "CSG" level will also have a high "TSG" level, reflected in part by the interior condition.

Exterior aesthetics is similar. In the best facilities, windows have a good finish with no apparent holes at the sash/façade interface and no broken or cracked panes; moving elements fit and operate well. Walls are straight and solid, free of efflorescence, spalling, distortion, or gaps. Roof drains function properly, preventing streaking and staining; there are no roof leaks. At the opposite end of the spectrum, windows are cracked, do not operate correctly, and are drafty. Walls exhibit gaps in the vapor barrier via stains, efflorescence, or spalling; expansion joints do not work properly resulting in cracks or gaps. There are roof leaks and both interior and exterior elements are damaged. Some of these factors are affected by major or capital maintenance more than annual maintenance, but many can be controlled through sufficient staffing, the focus of the guideline.

Distinguishing between architectural decisions and operating maintenance performance can be a challenge with lighting. Designers sometimes want subdued or reduced lighting to create a mood or atmosphere. However, in areas that are intended for reading, study, and other detail activities, a well-run facility exhibits bright and clean, attractive lighting. Fixtures are clean and free of dirt, not clouded as the result of age or burned from an overly hot ballast or lamp. Diffusers, reflectors, and/or shields are all in place and functioning as designed. Custodial staff, depending on regional or contractual norms, can address some lighting issues. However, mechanical or electrical elements of luminaires are a trades issue to address.

Click here for the "APPA Technical Trades Staffing Guidelines Task Force" table.

Independent of customer service and measurable primarily through adherence to departmental policies is service efficiency. This characteristic focuses on the organization's ability to predict, prepare and address, record, and follow-up on maintenance activities. Is the message from a preventive maintenance service call or building review becoming a planned corrective repair in an orderly manner? Are materials and tools for a service call prepared in advance or must the worker make several trips back to the shop to get everything? Is there a clear record of work completion with fault and correction codes accurately recorded? Is the repair long-lasting or does it require numerous callbacks? Was the customer informed of the completed work and given an opportunity to comment? Modern maintenance management systems can assist the facilities professional in predicting when building components are failing at a high rate if the data is gathered following a service call. If service information is gathered and maintained, the manager has the opportunity to recommend or delay major system repairs that affect the accumulation of deferred maintenance. If the organization is not efficient, system failures become the normal initiator of service calls and user activities are affected by frequent outages.

In a similar manner, good maintenance is measured by building system reliability. It is desirable to have major building systems serviced on a planned basis so that building users are notified in advance of an outage and can plan. When there is inadequate staff to perform preventive or corrective maintenance building systems become less reliable and fail without warning. Some system failures produce secondary damage or failures to other systems, i.e., roof leak or pipe break. In some cases, unreliable systems cannot be ignored and must be repaired, on an emergency basis, to protect life safety.

Harvey Kaiser and others have proposed measuring the facilities maintenance operating budget as a percent of the institution's current replacement value (CRV). Large operating budgets result in large facilities staff and the resources needed to support the staff with equipment, materials, training, and supervision. The Trades Staffing Guidelines Task Force has proposed using the Strategic Assessment Model values. These still require some testing for validity.

Similarly, the well-known average facility condition index (FCI) has been used to indicate facility challenges facing a campus and operations. The values presented in the matrix reflect the task force's proposal, which we believe more accurately represents existing conditions. These are very different from the long-standing norms. We encourage continued discussion and comments about this characteristic.

The TSG task force finds it desirable to integrate other APPA models in the matrix and has included the Strategic Assessment Model (SAM) Levels. In his article "SAM in a Nutshell" (Facilities Manager, March/April 2000), Larry Givens indicated that "an organization may be at a different level for each perspective." That sentiment likely applies to the Trades Staffing Guideline matrix as well.


There are many characteristics that describe annual maintenance. Each characteristic of annual maintenance can be performed at different levels of thoroughness and intensity. They have been assembled into a matrix that allows for comparisons between levels as well as across characteristics. These characteristics and levels can then be used to develop a model that will provide recommended staffing for trades personnel to maintain educational/institutional facilities. With such a model the facilities professional may use it to determine how many trades personnel are required to meet institutional goals for facility maintenance, or to report to the administration and trustees how funded staffing affects facility maintenance. The information can also be used as a benchmarking tool for improvement or financial decisions.

The work of the Trades Staffing Guidelines Task Force continues, and we still have a goal of completing a final draft of the guideline this year. We will be contacting volunteers soon to beta test portions of the model. Additional volunteers, particularly from small, private, colleges, will be most welcome.