Comprehensive Facility Operation & Maintenance Manual  

by Glenn Hunt
Peripheral Systems, Inc.



In the past, during the facility design/build phases, it was uncommon to devote substantial resources to life-cycle Operation and Maintenance (O&M) concerns. However, it is now widely recognized that O&M represents the greatest expense in owning and operating a facility over its life cycle. The accuracy, relevancy, and timeliness of well-developed, user-friendly O&M manuals are becoming increasingly important. Hence, it is becoming more common for detailed, facility-specific O&M manuals to be prepared prior to commissioning. The goal is to effectively and efficiently support the life cycle of the facility by eliminating unplanned shutdowns and realizing life-cycle cost savings.

This page presents a typical O&M manual development process (see Figure 1). Based on as-built information, comprehensive facility O&M manuals should include:

  • System-level O&M information:
    • Physical Descriptions
    • Functional Descriptions
    • Troubleshooting
    • Preventive Maintenance (Procedures and Schedules)
    • Corrective Maintenance (Repair Requirements)
    • Parts Lists
    • Operation-/Maintenance-Significant Drawings
  • Equipment-specific O&M information, organized into a vendor/manufacturer data library


Sustainable design being an integral part of any facility management philosophy, the O&M manual provides a means to reduce operating costs as part of a comprehensive Maintenance Program, which includes the Maintenance Plan (MP).

O&M manual content and format requirements are conveyed through a detailed Statement of Work (SOW), sufficiently tailored to satisfy the Owner's Facility Management (FM) needs. This effort should be considered in the planning and design phases, and is typically carried out in the construction phase. Building Information Modeling (BIM) and, in particular, COBie, introduced at the front end of the project helps facilitate the entire process.

Flow chart with top box as 'Collect Date (Site Survey, Personnel Interviews, Maintenance Philosophy, As-built Drawings, Specifications, Submittals File / Vendor Data, Finishes/Materials List, COBIE Data / CMMS / CAFM Files, Completion/Test & Balance Reports)'; this flows to two boxes 'Operating Procedures (Systems Overview, Theory of Operation, Operating Procedures)' and 'Maintenance Program (Analyze Data, Identify Preventive Maintenance (PM) Requirements, Identify Corrective Maintenance (CM) Requirements)'; Mainteance Program flows to two boxes 'PM (Procedures / Intervals, Personnel Scheduling, Logs, Cost Tracking, Spares Control, Inventory Control, Historical Feedback, Data Input-COBIE)' and 'CM (Level of Repair (LOR), Task & Skills Analysis, Supportability (Reliability & Maintainability (R&M)), Troubleshooting / Fault Analysis); PM flows to 'Deliverables (O&M Manual, IE / CMMS / CAFM, Training Materials, Electronic Formats - IEM / CBT)'

Figure 1. Operation & Maintenance Manual Development Process

O&M manuals should be developed in a modular, building block style, to simplify the incorporation of new/additional data, such as design/configuration changes, and to reflect as-built conditions. The manual should be available no later than facility start-up/commissioning. However, fast track programs can be 'front-end loaded' to meet immediate goals; i.e. only that information necessary to train personnel in preparation for systems start-up/commissioning can be developed first. It can then be integrated with the overall O&M manual for completion and turnover to the Owner within a specified timeframe. Using the manual at start-up/commissioning affords an additional opportunity for its contents to be verified against installed systems.

The efforts of experienced technical writers, editors, engineering technicians, trainers, 3D modelers, illustrators, and software specialists can ensure that an Owner receives comprehensive, site-specific (as-built), user-oriented documentation of the highest quality. Those selected to perform the work should have the following capabilities:

  • Collect pertinent data through interviews with staff, engineers, equipment manufacturers / installers / integrators, etc., submittals, and on-site verification of as-installed systems/equipment and related physical data collection.
  • Review, analyze, and evaluate the facility at the system level using engineering/technical data collected.
  • Identify/develop procedures required to attain the most efficient systems integration.
  • Develop the O&M manual contents using terms that maintenance personnel with general technical expertise understand.
  • Provide a high level of confidence to the Owner's staff, e.g., through accurate content and user-friendly format.

O&M procedures at the system level do not replace manufacturers' documentation for specific pieces of equipment, but rather supplement those publications and guide their use. For example, system-level troubleshooting will fault-analyze to the component level, such as a pump, valve, or motor, then reference specific manufacturer requirements to remove/clean/inspect/repair/test or replace the component.

Training for new personnel is considered a vital element of operation & maintenance, especially when new equipment is installed or emerging technology is being employed. It's important to the overall facility management program that facilities personnel be properly instructed and motivated. Training courses will familiarize personnel with the procedures necessary to operate and maintain complex systems and equipment, often using the system-level O&M manual as a basis of information. Courses can be developed for presentation by subject-matter experts/trainers, or if specified, through computer-based training (CBT) and multimedia technologies, ideal for individual/self training in either a classroom setting or through the company intranet or over the internet.

O&M manuals, likewise conducive for use in training, can be provided in both paper and as an 'on-line' interactive electronic manuals (IEM) developed using web-based and other accepted applications (html, xml, PDF, etc.). Training should be ongoing to keep pace with technology and equipment changes in the facility.

A. Maintenance Program

Preventive Maintenance (PM) consists of a series of maintenance requirements that provide a basis for planning, scheduling, and executing scheduled maintenance, planned versus corrective for the purpose of improving equipment life and to avoid any unplanned maintenance activity/minimize equipment breakdowns. These can be defined through a Maintenance Plan (MP). PM includes adjusting, lubricating, cleaning, painting, and replacing minor components. Time intensive PM, such as bearing/seal replacement (as identified by predictive maintenance), would typically be scheduled/planned for regular plant or 'line' shutdown periods.

The O&M manual itself, and particularly the CMMS or CAFM datea, should be maintained on an as-needed basis, typically whenever systems/equipment are "changed out."

Maintenance Plan (MP)

The purpose of a Maintenance Plan (MP) is to describe the best means to maximize equipment operational availability, while minimizing equipment downtime. Once developed, the MP will typically identify PM task descriptions and schedules, troubleshooting, corrective maintenance (repair) task descriptions, and spare parts identification, stockage (quantity), and any unique storage requirements. This information will be incorporated in the manual, both as tabular data and text.

Preventive Maintenance Data

Preventive maintenance (PM) data includes equipment tag information, procedures, replacement parts, special tools, lubrication requirements, service providers, warranty information, etc. It is often presented in tabular format in the O&M manual. Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie)—If specified (based on the draft guide specification, COBie facilitates the capture of real-time as-built asset information by using the collection of contractor submittals. COBie may also be applied through Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, although BIM is not necessary to implement COBie. Any project can take advantage of/utilize COBie to increase the accuracy and timeliness of data that can be incorporated into system-level operation and maintenance manuals as well as CMMS.

The collection of data can start early in the process as it has been determined that up to 48% of the data is available at the 100% design phase. Stretching out the process avoids the tsunami of information at handover. The BIM should be used for commissioning, and then the information can be provided immediately for O&M use the day the facility opens. Using the National BIM Standard-United States™ open information standards will help ensure that the project is not locked into any one vendor and can use any product that supports the open standard for BIM.

CMMS/CAFM applications typically support facility management needs associated with personnel, leasing, furniture, construction, equipment (including fleet vehicles), labor, spare parts inventory (with bar coding), PM scheduling, work order generation, and associated costs tracking. The CMMS/CAFM products should have the ability to be tailored to Owner-specific requirements.

B. O&M Manual Layout and Contents

O&M Manuals provide procedures to operate and maintain a facility's various systems and equipment. It is important to analyze and evaluate a facility from the system level, then develop procedures to attain the most efficient systems integration, based on as-built information and the Maintenance Program philosophy. The following paragraphs provide an example of system-level O&M Manual layout and technical content/description that can be successfully applied to many facility types.

System-Level O&M Manual Layout

  • Introduction: Introduces the reader to the facility. Outlines the structure, content, how to use the manual, and includes a brief outline of the various systems covered. In addition, this chapter contains a list of emergency contacts and a list of supplementary material available on the facility such as:
    • Design/Construction Specifications
    • Submittals File
    • Completion Report
    • As-built Drawings
    • Materials List
    • Certified Tests and Reports
      • Civil/Sanitary
      • Mechanical/HVAC
      • Electrical
  • Safety Data: Safety hazards commonly associated with the operation of system/equipment applicable to the facility are identified and their prevention is discussed.
  • Utility Systems: Discusses the various site utility systems that interface with the facility. These include water supply systems, sanitary waste, electrical, natural gas, communications, security, and storm water, etc.
  • Building Interior & Exterior: Includes housekeeping and general maintenance of the facility. The importance of conducting an annual inspection is discussed together with record keeping forms for conducting the inspections.
  • Plumbing: O&M of the domestic water and sanitary waste systems.
  • Fire Protection: O&M of the fire protection wet/dry pipe sprinkler systems.
  • Heating, Ventilating & Air Conditioning (HVAC): O&M of the building's HVAC systems, including automated controls and exhaust, space heating, and central air systems.
  • Fire Detection & Intrusion Alarms: O&M of fire detection, intrusion detection, and alarm systems (wet/dry pipe sprinkler).
  • Electrical: O&M of power distribution equipment and backup/emergency electrical systems (uninterruptible power supply, generator).
  • Conveying Systems: General information and preventive maintenance for elevators, escalators, wheel chair lifts, conveyors, etc.
  • Other Systems Based on Facility Requirements: General information and preventive maintenance requirements for other systems and equipment not already identified.
  • Operating Logs: General information and instructions for using maintenance log forms. A listing of maintenance tasks with their recommended frequencies of performance is included.
  • Maintenance Charts: Maintenance charts include maintenance frequency checklists, maintenance summary, lamp replacement data sheet, equipment data sheets, recommended maintenance and service contacts, and a recommended work order form.
  • Manufacturers' Literature: Identifies manuals, cut sheets, etc., from equipment manufacturers that amplify information provided within the system-level O&M manual. Manufacturers' literature generally provides procedures to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair specific items at the equipment level. This information is contained in a separate volume of binders, identified by facility/system, for easy reference. Specific material or complete documents can also be electronically scanned for its 'on-line' use, such as linking from the system-level manual.

System-Level O&M Manual Technical Content/Description

  • Description - System-Level: Description of the system and its purpose, how it operates, and any interfaces it may have. A table can provide overall system design criteria, i.e. flow, pressure, temperature, capacity, power requirements, etc.
  • Operating Procedures - Controls/Start-up/Shutdown/Emergency Over-Ride/Seasonal Changeover: Operating instructions include equipment configurations for each mode of operation, e.g. valve positions, control settings, intended operating strategies, and break-in procedures.
  • Problems and Solutions - Troubleshooting: System-level troubleshooting tables guide maintenance personnel, via fault tree analysis, in a sequential, step-by-step isolation of a system problem to identify faulty equipment. Typical malfunctions, tests, or inspections, and corrective actions or recommendations to correct malfunctions are included.
  • Preventive (Planned) Maintenance (PM) - Procedures/Intervals: Maintenance tasks are developed for equipment that comprises the system. Preventive and corrective maintenance are discussed. Scheduled intervals (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) are determined and assigned to PM tasks to maximize systems' run time, thereby reducing corrective maintenance tasks.


Operation-/ maintenance-significant figures/illustrations should be included in the manual and referenced from the narrative text. Illustrations can provide the layout of the overall site-campus/facility/floor down to systems/equipment and area/room locations. They can be generated for O&M Manual use from BIM/3D models and engineering drawings that are modified for ease of readability in the manual. They typically include the following:

  • Area floor plans with system/ equipment tags and physical (room) locations identified.
  • Safety warnings and cautions regarding potential hazards, both to personnel and to equipment.
  • Photographs of systems/equipment with identifying callouts.
  • Electrical schematics, piping diagrams, and air flow schematics provide equipment interconnections and are important for troubleshooting.
  • Valve schedules indicating valve number, location, type, size, normal position, and description.

C. Electronic Formats

The elements of narrative text (pdf, html, xml, etc.), graphics including BIM, sound, photographs, and videos can all be organized into a user-friendly, interactive, stand-alone PC or web-based (e.g., Intranet) application or platform.

For O&M manuals, it is often referred to as the Interactive Electronic Manual (IEM), for training materials, Computer-Based Training (CBT). Similar to this document, text and graphical information is typically linked to related data within the O&M manual, or to external sources such as an Owner's intranet or the internet, accessed by a click of the mouse. One caution relative to linking to internet sources is that of security. The Owner's information technology (IT) department should be consulted in these instances.

Screens can be printed on demand. All information, including text, BIM / 3D models / animations, CAD drawings , illustrations, and digital photographs can be viewed and manipulated (read only) by on-line viewers and can only be modified off-line. Updates/modifications are typically through a configuration management process and formal authorization.

D. Typical Task Performance

Based on the owner's SOW/scope requirements and maintenance philosophy:

  • Perform a review and extract as-built information from engineering data such as the basis of design, specifications, as-built drawings, and submittals, vendor/manufacturer documentation, site visit(s), etc., to prepare a comprehensive facility maintenance plan.
  • Organize and develop information into a clear and concise system-level O&M manual.
    • Physical Descriptions
    • Functional Descriptions
    • Troubleshooting
    • Preventive Maintenance (procedures and schedules)
    • Corrective Maintenance (repair requirements)
    • Parts Lists
  • Organize and tailor scanned / electronic versions of graphical information (e.g., CAD drawings, BIM/3D models, illustrations, digital photographs, etc.) to support text.
  • Compile warranty information.
  • Compile spare parts lists.
  • Enter pertinent data via COBie for its transfer into the owner's CMMS or CAFM application for use by the operation and maintenance staff.
  • Create equipment-specific O&M information (vendor/manufacture data) library.
  • Develop training plan, student/instructor guides, presentation materials, etc.
  • Develop IEM/CBT.

E. Caution

Avoid having independent redundant information, such as data in the CAFM/CMMS application and data in a hardcopy facility O&M manual, that are not integrated. If the information is not linked, then any equipment changes will require updates to both the CAFM/CMMS database and the facility O&M manual.


This information is applicable to governmental; military; industrial; and commercial facilities such as offices, laboratories, institutions, historical buildings, manufacturing, water/wastewater treatment, hangars, test facilities, etc. The philosophy behind the development of supporting O&M documentation is often predicated on the Owner's O&M organizational capabilities. This in itself may require the performance of a task and skills analysis to ensure that any given facility is staffed appropriately.

Related Issues

With the advent of the National Building Information Modeling Standard-US™ (NBIMS), part of the buildingSMART Alliance™ initiative, as-built data will still be required to support facilities operation and maintenance. COBie is a method of capturing information typically required during construction and provided to Owners, typically the same information that is required at project handover.

It is not uncommon that the Owner/Procuring Activity includes its O&M Manuals requirements in the construction contract. When system-level manuals are specified, contractors who may not have the capability internally will typically outsource (subcontract) the effort. However, the Owner/Procuring Activity should consider the following:

  1. The Owner's specifications should clearly delineate the system / subsystem / major equipment breakdown (usually a functional versus physical breakdown) and identify the content, format, quality, and quantity of equipment providers' documentation.
  2. The Owner's specifications should indicate that all system-related documentation (system-level O&M manuals, drawings, correspondence, etc.) adhere strictly to the system breakdown.
  3. The Owner should contract directly with the system-level manual developer, not via the construction contractor. The manual developer should report directly to and be responsible to the Owner, not the contractor. The practice of burying the O&M requirements within the construction contract may streamline accounting and project management, but it tends to add layers of inefficiency, inaccuracy, and confusion—all which can affect timeliness of delivery—to the actual O&M manual development process.
  4. The Owner's specifications and/or procedures should ensure that equipment providers' documentation is available to the system-level O&M manual developer in a timely manner, consistent with expected delivery dates.

Relevant Codes and Standards

Custom-developed documentation should meet or exceed the Owner's existing or other accepted commercial standards and practices for both format and content.

However, many organizations have developed their own standards which vary from organization to organization. Much is dependent upon the O&M philosophy and the particular nature and purpose of the facility. For example the U.S. Department of Defense requires the development of a Facility Electronic Operation and Maintenance Support Information (eOMSI) manual for a facility that houses engine test cells. Others may simply require that equipment vendor/manufacturer commercial manuals be organized by service or trade, and compiled in 3-ring binders.

Major Resources