Should a Deferred Maintenance Project Stop at Deferred Maintenance?

Jon Ziegler II, GLHN Architects & Engineers, Inc.

In recent years, many institutions have begun earnestly discussing the effect deferred maintenance has on their campuses. Decades of budget reductions have resulted in crucial building systems running well past their standard service lives. This unfavorable condition has led to high maintenance expenditures and occupant discomfort.

Such issues are currently being funded and addressed on a much larger scale than in recent history. However, deferred maintenance by nature often pertains to the unseen. Building users may not be aware of the 50-year-old air handling unit laboring away in the basement nor the ductwork that leaks air above the ceiling and behind the walls. Nevertheless, it is these occupants who may be most impacted during implementation, and the benefit they perceive is critical to project success.

This discussion will explore the need to take a project beyond strictly deferred maintenance objectives. This will be accomplished through the lens of a recent success story at the University of Arizona, where a 1964 vintage laboratory building underwent substantial renovation, a renovation that was deferred maintenance driven, but went well beyond replacement of the MEP systems. From wet lab reconfiguration to modernizing millwork to fume hood replacements, true project success required far more than the unseen.

Learning Objectives

  • Better understand the concept of deferred maintenance and the needs it engenders;
  • Reflect on what a successful deferred maintenance project truly entails;
  • Consider how energy efficiency improvements can be incorporated when the focus is on equipment renewal; and
  • Have determined one path for project success through a University of Arizona case study.


Jon Ziegler is a Senior Mechanical Engineer and laboratory designer with GLHN Architects & Engineers Inc. He has been with the firm since 2006. Jon is also a board member of the Arizona Chapter of the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL). In addition to his work in system design, commissioning, and analysis, Jon has presented on a variety of topics for professional organizations including I2SL, RMA, APPA, and the Arizona Tri-university Association.


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