The Ultimate Guide to: Operations & Maintenance (O&M) Manuals


O&M (Operations and Maintenance) manuals – also known as building owner’s manuals – play a vital role in ensuring the long life of a building and the smooth running of its infrastructure.

However, the sheer size and detail of O&M manuals added to the fact the contents largely depends on the individual building and its assets, often results in confusion around how O&M information should be defined, curated, accessed and maintained.

In this guide, we give you a straightforward overview of what should be included in your O&M, whether you’re an architect or designer in the early design stages of a project, a contractor gathering O&M data for handover, or a facility manager/owner researching what O&M information you should receive when construction is complete.

What is an O&M Manual?

Why are O&M Manuals important?

How much do O&M Manuals cost?

Who is responsible for O&Ms?

What is an O&M Manual?

Put very simply, your O&M manual should contain all of the information regarding the operation and maintenance of a building. It’s different from other documentation, such as the health and safety information, although there will be some content overlap.

The O&M information should also not be mistaken for the Construction Handover Pack that is given to the new building owner or facilities manager from the contractors at handover. It forms part of the pack – but isn’t the whole pack entirely. Although, again, there are some overlaps.

Why are O&M Manuals important?

Aside from typically being a requirement of the building contract, O&M information is essential for the efficent and safe operation and maintenance of a building.

And, this is important for several reasons:

  • Safety of occupants – when things are correctly maintained and operated, they are generally safer for the users and occupants of the building.
  • Cost savings – correct operation and routine maintenance and inspection can prevent costly repairs and replacements during a building’s lifecycle.
  • Longevity of the building and its facilities – properly maintaining equipment, systems and components of a building can help them last longer, again reducing the need for replacements or disposal.

On top of this, much of the information required in an O&M manual is legally required by the building safety regulator.

What’s included in an O&M Manual?

There’s no definitive guide to what must be included in an O&M manual, it all depends on the complexity of your facility and its equipment.

But, we’ve produced a list of the content that you may include:

Asset information aka asset register

Your asset register is basically a “cheat sheet” for your building – it contains all the details of the facilities components and acts as a go-to resource for the new building owners/managers.

Some asset registers cover every component in a building, while others may just have information for the ‘active’ assets that need regular inspection, maintenance, cleaning or replacement.

Examples of things to include in the asset register include:

  • Asset description
  • ID numbers
  • Location
  • Size
  • Access information
  • Supplier
  • Installer
  • Date of acquisition/delivery
  • Price at purchase/current value
  • Condition and defects
  • Maintenance requirements
  • Spares information
  • Drawing references
  • Energy performance
  • Health and safety information
  • Warranties

Operating processes and procedures

Your O&M manual should include instructions for operating the various systems and equipment in the building, such as heating systems, fire safety equipment and alarms, security systems and alarms, lighting, appliances and machines, such as elevators and electric doors.

Maintenance instructions/guidelines

Likewise, your O&M information needs to include instructions for how to maintain all the systems and assets in the building. This should include processes for routine maintenance, cleaning and inspections, as well as how to repair, replace or troubleshoot if/when the time comes.

This is essential for maximising the lifespan of assets and the building itself.

Some examples include:

  • Lighting – replacement bulbs
  • Plumbing – detecting leaks, cleaning drains, checking water pressure
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning – troubleshooting and repairs

It’s common for changes to be made as circumstances emerge on site during construction – some of these alterations could be minor, some of them more significant.

Because of this, O&M should include up-to-date drawings that accurately show any alterations made to the building and its facilities during construction.

If a building information model has been produced, this must also be updated to reflect any changes to the design.

The as-built drawings should:

  • Be to a scale not less than that of the installation drawings.
  • Show locations of all the systems and components, such as ducts, pipes, cables, busbars, pumps, fans, security and fire sensors and other equipment.
  • Have labels of the appropriate pipe, duct and cable sizes, pressures and flow rates.
  • Be marked with positions of access points for operations and maintenance.

    Safety and emergency

    Comprehensive safety and emergency procedures should be documented in your O&M to keep occupants safe and minimise risks.

    The types of safety information entirely depend on the building, but some examples include:

    • Emergency procedures – how to respond to an emergency, evacuation routes, assembly points and contact information for emergency services.
    • Safety equipment – details of the proper usage of fire extinguishers, first aid kits, emergency lighting and alarm systems.
    • Hazardous materials (chemicals, gases, flammable materials) – details about safe handling, storage and disposal.
    • Safe operating procedures for buildings equipment, systems and machinary – HVAC, electrical panels and any specialised equipment.
    • Health and hygiene considerations – waste management, cleaning procedures and pest control.

      Warranty information

      Many new appliances come with a guarantee, or the option to pay for a warranty – a promise from the manufacturer to repair or even replace products if they break down within a certain timeframe.

      Your O&M should include all the necessary documentation about warranties and guarantees for each asset so that the new owners know who to contact if something goes wrong.

      Warranty information should include:

      • How long the warranty lasts
      • What you’re entitled to (refund, repair or replacement)
      • How to contact the manufacturer/trader

      What is the average cost of an O&M Manual?

      On average, the market suggests that between 0.1-0.2% of project value is allocated to the provision of O&Ms

      Different factors affect the final cost, such as the complexity of the facility, size of the project and level of detail required.

      As you can imagine, gathering, curating, presenting and maintaining O&M information is time-consuming and requires skill and experience, so the cost reflects the extensive data collection, technical writing, graphic design, printing and distribution.

      Who is responsible for the O&M Manual?

      The responsibility of creating and maintaining O&M information falls on multiple people involved in the construction and handover process.

      Key parties include:

      Architects and designers – O&M should begin at the design stage of the building and architects and designers should provide detailed information about the buildings components, systems and equipment in their drawings, specifications and documentation.

      Contactors – During construction, the main contractor and their teams are responsible for making sure accurate information about the components, systems and equipment is documented. They should also collaborate with the architects and designers to ensure the as-built drawings are up to date if any changes occur on site.

      Building/facility owners – Throughout the building’s lifecycle, the owners of the building are ultimately responsible for the creation and maintenance of O&M.

      Facilities managers – After handover, and once the building is in operation, the facilities manager is responsible for using the O&M manual to carry out routine maintenance, inspection and repairs.

      Traditional vs smart O&Ms

      As the responsibility for creating and maintaining comprehensive and up-to-date O&M is split between several people and teams, clear communication and effective collaboration is crucial.

      Problems can occur with traditional O&M information, when it’s seen as a last-minute contractual obligation that produces inaccurate, multi-format data that is inaccessible and provides little value to end-users beyond handover.

      That’s why the Building Safety Act 2022 requires O&M information to have a digital audit trail, a golden thread of information that’s identified, stored and updated throughout the building’s life cycle.

      Operance is the world’s first purpose-built golden thread O&M platform that allows you to create and use O&M data to operate and maintain facilities in one app.

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