Industry Specific Insights

MIII Recap: The Future of Architecture is Maintenance

Ryan Chan

We learned so much at the Maintainers III Conference, but one of the most interesting presentations was by Roy Decker of Duvall Decker Architecture.

Roy spoke about shifting the practice of architecture to include the entirety of a building’s life, bringing maintenance to meet architecture.

His firm is leading the way in changing how architects think about maintenance. No longer an afterthought, maintenance is essential in building planning.

Where We Are Today

Roy discussed how architects often view buildings as a spectacle that is frozen in time; but really, buildings are transient things. They’re semi-permanent and begin degrading the moment they are completed. Though buildings appear sturdy and stable, they are really just deteriorating at a slower rate than we are paying attention. From their moment of completion, all buildings begin to need maintenance.

So if all buildings need maintenance, it’s interesting that their architects rarely go back once they are completed. Maintenance is passed on to someone else, often individuals who are far more unfamiliar with the intricate details of that building’s design.

Expanding Architecture in the Future

Roy Decker argues that the future of architecture should include responsibility for a building’s life after completion.

This  means that maintenance would be accounted for starting with a building’s inception and architects will be more engaged with the consequences of their work and decisions.

Roy shared one example of a building at a community college in Mississippi that his firm designed, developed, and continue to care for. At the start of the project, they were told, “Design a building that will last 100 years.”

Roy shared that this mission had quite a few wrinkles. Roofs only last for 25 years… You’ll be hard pressed to find a mechanical system that will last beyond 20 years… and data systems can become outdated within five years.

In thinking about it, it’s not really possible to design a building that lasts for 100 years.

What is possible, however, according to Mr. Decker, is to design a building that can be updated, improved, easily changed out, and maintained throughout 100 years.

Incorporating these aspects of care into the design process will improve how communities interact with these buildings and how we all understand maintaining them.

Do you agree? We’d love to hear your opinion! And thank you once again to the organizers of the Maintainers III conference for hosting such interesting and thought-provoking sessions.

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