In May, the Washington Post brought to readers the story of the nation’s most historic church, Martin Brandon Episcopal, on its 400th anniversary. As the article illustrates, relics of history like this church carry great historic value. Travel overseas, and you’ll find many churches and cathedrals that are thousands of years old. These buildings attract not just churchgoers, but also tourists, so they must be maintained on an ongoing basis in order to keep up with regular services and accommodate foot traffic. Preserving these structures not only ensures that future generations understand and appreciate our American heritage; their maintenance safeguards these architectural treasures.
A Fight Against Time — Maintaining Historical Church Buildings
Ongoing maintenance is the best approach for preserving historical buildings, versus having to engage in extensive repairs and/or replacements. When maintained regularly, these structures can stand the test of time, but the manner and schedule in which maintenance is performed are both critical elements determining the lifespan of historical churches and other aging structures.
The Technical Preservation Services division of the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior offers extensive information regarding best practices for historic preservation. Sharon Park, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, says, “Decay is inevitable, but deterioration can accelerate when the building envelope is not maintained on a regular basis. Surfaces and parts that were seamlessly joined when the building was constructed may gradually become loose or disconnected; materials that were once sound begin to show signs of weathering. If maintenance is deferred, a typical response is to rush in to fix what has been ignored, creating additional problems. Work done on a crisis level can favor inappropriate treatments that alter or damage historic material.”
The Importance of Maintenance Schedules
With that in mind, then, maintenance schedules of historic churches must be carefully planned and followed in order to preserve the integrity of these structures. Preventative maintenance – a term which describes ongoing and regular maintenance performed with the intention of keeping equipment running smoothly – is key here. Such maintenance depends on a schedule created to keep valuable assets working and reduce or even eliminate downtime.
Isn’t preventative maintenance expensive? Wouldn’t be simpler and less expensive to have equipment serviced only when something is wrong? No. In fact, unplanned maintenance can run you anywhere between three and six times more than planned maintenance due to the speed and more intensive work typically required to fix broken assets. Most critical, however, is the safety of the public and church employees. From every standpoint, an investment in preventative maintenance is something that historic churches simply can’t afford to ignore.
Updating Historical Churches for Modern Needs
For these historical churches to be able to accommodate visitors and churchgoers for years to come, there are a number of modernizations that will need to take place, including plumbing, electricity and Internet.
Park recommends that administrators take several factors into consideration when hiring contractors to perform this work, including:
- Become familiar with work done on similar historic properties in your area so you can obtain names of potential preservation contractors.
- Request multiple references (three to five) from each potential contractor and visit their previous work sites. Contact the buildings’ owners or managers and ask how the job proceeded.
- Familiarize yourself with the preservation context of the work to be undertaken. Use the written procedures in your maintenance plan to help define the scope of work in accordance with preservation standards and guidelines.
- Always request that the gentlest method possible be used.
- Use a preservation consultant if necessary to ensure that the work is performed in an appropriate manner.
Business as Usual — Keeping Up Regular Church Services
Of course, while all this maintenance is going on, you want to keep your historic church running as smoothly as possible. Modern technology – specifically, asset tracking software – can help greatly in this regard.
Technology in Today’s Churches
Asset tracking software delivers a host of efficiencies to the maintenance process. Administrators can use the software to create milestone notices for scheduled maintenance, warranty expirations, calibration deadlines and more. They can also look up the complete maintenance history of an item, the identity of the person who conducted the service, and the cost. Asset tracking software centralizes asset data in one location, so no more lost paperwork, wasted time and guesswork. Additionally, the software makes it easier to submit work orders and share information with contractors.
Let Asset Panda show you a streamlined, yet incredibly powerful and flexible solution that will help you maintain your church and ensure its loving preservation for years to come. For more information, visit assetpanda.com
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