Facility Systems Manual: What Is It, Why Do I Want One, and How Do I Get It?

Terry Williams, Washington State Public Health Labs
Mohammed Haq, Wood Harbinger

Your project is finished, record documents and O & M Manuals are received from the contractor and engineers, and then the lab stays exactly the same forever. Right? Operators never turnover and the original training you ensured they received is relevant forever, right?


In the real world, things happen, and in a progressive environment like a lab, change is inevitable. In this presentation, Terry Williams, Department of Health Capital Project Manager for the Washington State Public Health Labs, will outline some of the key reasons why a dynamic facility systems manual can be an invaluable tool in supporting lab operations and maintenance as well as navigating changes such as system upgrades, troubleshooting, and personnel changeover.

A systems manual is unlike a regular set of O & M manuals. While an O & M manual may contain an exhaustive listing of the equipment with the building, the systems manual's value is in communicating the complete picture of the components of the facility from a systems perspective. This means the operations and maintenance staff can see the comprehensive interaction of components in a system and the inter-system activities and reactions that make up building performance.

Systems manuals require additional effort to create and don't happen by accident; it takes a certain expertise to create one that effectively addresses the comprehensive systems concept while being practical and effective. Mohammed Haq, a mechanical engineer, associate principal at engineering firm Wood Harbinger, and VP of the I2SL Emerald City Chapter, will outline some key characteristics.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify elements about the current state of a working lab that could benefit from dynamic documentation of operations and maintenance procedures and training.
  • Confirm why a facility systems manual is an important tool for operations, maintenance, and change management.
  • Discover the key elements of a compelling systems manual.
  • Recognize that it takes a team effort to create and maintain an effective systems manual.


Terry Williams currently manages capital projects and the overall capital program for the Washington State Public Health Laboratories. Upon his arrival at the lab in 2008 he developed a 20-year master plan which he is now implementing. He works closely with the facilities staff as their "personal lab architect" as they keep the lab running on a day to day basis. He was a principal with Thienes/Williams Architects from 1991 to 2008.

Mohammed is Vice President of I2SL's Emerald City Chapter and Associate Principal of Wood Harbinger's Mechanical Engineering group. He has 16 years' experience providing mechanical design for HVAC, plumbing, and specialty lab systems for colleges and universities, hospitals, data centers, and municipal and industrial facilities. Mohammed is a keen project manager and also an innovative thought leader, with multiple articles published in Wood Harbinger's Insights blog.


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