Preventative Maintenance

New Commercial

What is Preventative Maintenance?

Preventative maintenance, as opposed to reactive maintenance, refers to actions taken to prevent building systems, equipment or components from failing and extend their useful life by performing regularly scheduled repairs and improvements before apparent problems occur. More specifically, preventative maintenance serves as an essential element of a Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) program that encompasses several types of maintenance applications including reactive, preventative, and predictive (see Table 1).

Table 1 – Reliability Centered Maintenance Element Applications

Table 1 – Reliability Centered Maintenance Element Applications. (Source: FEMA’s O&M Best Practices Guide: Chapter 5 – Types of Maintenance Programs)

Reactive maintenance (i.e., breakdown or run-to-failure maintenance) occurs after a building component fails. Preventative maintenance (i.e., time-based) performs repairs on a time-based or predetermined schedule. Predictive maintenance initiates repairs and upgrades only when necessary and as determined by periodically monitoring building components for damage or degradation. RCM programs integrate a mix of maintenance strategies and take advantage of their respective strengths to maximize reliability and safety while minimizing life-cycle costs.[1]

How to Implement Preventative Maintenance

The following list provides basic steps for implementing RCM that incorporates preventative maintenance principles.

  1. Develop a list of equipment in your building.
  2. Prioritize the list based on importance to building operation (i.e., cost of system downtime, safety concerns).
  3. Group similar components together.
  4. Determine schedule and required maintenance tasks for each component using manufacturers technical manuals, historical maintenance records, failure analysis, and engineering expertise.
  5. Assess maintenance staff and identify appropriate tasks based on skill sets.
  6. Analyze equipment failure modes and impacts on components and systems.
  7. Develop maintenance guidelines with input from all stakeholders (e.g., government-legislated requirements, requirements of accreditation bodies, health and safety regulations; fire and building codes, recommendations of equipment manufacturers, quality standards and experiences of facilities personnel).


Scheduling of preventative service and maintenance extends the life of the equipment and building materials, reduces costs, and provides other potential benefits such as:[2]

  • Conserving energy and water by optimizing the performance of building systems
  • Improving equipment reliability and reduces costly equipment failure and system downtime
  • Providing a high-quality indoor environment that improves occupant comfort and reduces occupant complaints


A preventative maintenance program reorganizes and reallocates existing resources and does not significantly impact operating costs. Implementing a best-practice O&M program can reduce facility energy use by 5–20% without significant capital investment.[3] Preventative maintenance helps reduce costs through extending the life of equipment and materials, optimizing the performance of systems, and maximizing the use of local resources.


Preventative maintenance strengthens building performance and bolsters resiliency by regularly identifying and fixing vulnerable building systems and features, such as a leaking roof or windows, and helping to prevent additional damage and loss during extreme weather events.

[1] The Federal Energy Management Program’s Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Best Practices Guide: Chapter 5 – Types of Maintenance Programs (accessed April 17, 2019).

[2] Whole Building Design Guide. (accessed April 1, 2019).

[3] PECI. “The 15 Best Operation and Maintenance Practices for Energy-Efficient Buildings.”

Prepared with funding from the U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE, updated September 2016.  (accessed April 17, 2019).