When Deferred Maintenance Goes Wrong

We’ve all been there. A pesky maintenance job pops and we figure “Eh up, a later date what’s the harm in waiting? ” But before it really is known by us, that once-small job has snowballed right into a huge, hairy, expensive burden that gets the eye of one’s CFO or COO. (Yikes.) At what stage did we fail?

Having some items on your own maintenance backlog is perfectly healthy. However, most companies are well previous that healthy level. This season if you’re searching for a sign to get before your backlog, this is it! Continue reading to get three real-life types of deferred upkeep gone incorrect and what we are able to perform to bounce back again.

1. The Collapse of the Arecibo Observatory Telescope

December, 2020; Puerto Rico

For 57 years, the Arecibo Observatory Telescope helped the global world create great strides in radio astronomy. From helping NASA choose landing sites for the Apollo and Viking missions, to the discovery of mystical radio wave flashes in deep room, the Arecibo Observatory telescope performed a significant role in space discoveries.

In August and November 2020, two cables supporting a 900-metric-ton platform of scientific instruments broke unexpectedly. The first ever to fail was an auxiliary cable installed in 1996; the next was a main cable from the original construction of the telescope in 1963. 

After the initial cable snapped, the National Science Foundation assessed the damage and initially determined that the telescope couldn’t be safely repaired and should be torn down. But prior to the telescope could possibly be dismantled, on December 1st the complete instrument platform came crashing down. 

Major collapses don’t happen out of nowhere.  In accordance with John Mathews, a professor at the Pennsylvania State University who visited the website often, “deferred maintenance is a nagging problem for many years, and it’s only gotten worse.”

While the ultimate reason behind the collapse hasn’t been determined, deferred maintenance paired with a couple of natural disasters during the last a decade including hurricane Maria in 2017 certainly expedited this disaster. Had proper budget experienced place to manage probably the most critical deferred maintenance and preventive maintenance tasks, today and become available as a tourist attraction the telescope may be standing. As it is, we will know never.

Although the telescope was set to be decommissioned, deferred maintenance must be managed. This can be a key eliminate for building operators to be monitoring maintenance backlog constantly, even for older ones or buildings which are set to be decommissioned within the next few years.

2.  The Oroville Dam Crisis

February, 2017; Northern California 

Since 1968, the Oroville Dam has been useful for flood control, water storage, power water and generation quality improvement in northern California. It’s the tallest earthen dam in america, standing 770 feet tall (that’s about 55 stories!) 

Despite its impressive stature, because of its maintenance and age practices there  were known issues to the crisis prior. Actually, environmentalists requested $100 million to repair erosion issues in 2005 nonetheless it was rejected by the federal regulators. February 2017 in, heavy rainfall from the California floods caused harm to the dam’s main spillway. The California Department of Water Resources stopped the spillway’s flow to be able to measure the damage and determine next steps.

What started as a $100 million dollar request, converted into a $500 million dollar disaster. That old saying “a cent saved is really a penny earned’ certainly doesn’t apply when discussing deferred maintenance, as events such as this end up costing a lot more than proactive maintenance and repairs always. 

only was there a significant financial impact with this particular disaster

Not, but it created a significant safety risk for over 180,000 people. Breakdowns because of deferred maintenance frequently have much more than simply a financial impact, resulting in safety and medical issues often, insurance rate adjustments, and long-term harm to building valuations.

3. The Growing Maintenance Backlog at Denver International Airport

Today; Denver, Colorado

Opened in 1995, the Denver AIRPORT TERMINAL (DEN) is among the most fifth-busiest airport in america. It generates $33.a year and serves over 69 million passengers 5 billion, making it among the busiest airline hubs in the whole planet. 

In modern times, however, out-of-order escalators, broken bathroom fixtures, along with other backlogged maintenance projects have grown to be a standard occurrence in a once-gleaming airport. The airport has struggled to remain together with maintenance on thousands of devices, vehicles, machinery and moving parts.

A preventive maintenance program has been around the making for over eight years, the airport struggles to devote attention and resources to basic upkeep still, major renovations, and expansions. This led to an ever-growing backlog of routine inspections, check-ups, and preventive work on 7,000+ items (including building systems, parking lots, escalators along with other large equipment).

While nothing went terribly wrong (yet), the Denver AIRPORT TERMINAL is a notable exemplory case of the struggle between concentrating on new projects and dedicating funds towards deferred maintenance. Let’s face it, it’s fun and exciting to start a fresh building or put in a new service via an addition. But as building operators know all well too, the non-sexy maintenance work can be an afterthought often. 

While they are all extreme types of deferred maintenance gone wrong, there are essential lessons for building operators, owners, and financial executives to take into account through the next budgeting cycle:

  • For older buildings or those set to be decommissioned, deferred maintenance doesn’t stop
  • Failures caused by deferred maintenance bring about more than only a higher price tag
  • often

  • The have to balance new renovations and builds with ongoing maintenance and repair needs


Deferred maintenance: It is possible to run, nevertheless, you can’t hide!  All jokes aside, it’s an easy task to become frustrated by being unsure of where to start with regards to tackling your backlog. Fortunately that implementing a proactive process could be painless if you create a solid strategy and utilize the right tools. 

Download our latest Deferred Maintenance Planning Guide this season to really get your team moving towards a far more proactive strategy.