CHICAGO - HVAC operations and maintenance (O&M) doesn't get any respect, at least until something big goes wrong and the building owner gets bitten, cost wise. That sums up the attitude of attendees of the ASHRAE forum on "Economic Justification for O&M," held here Sunday afternoon.

"Maintenance is a perceived value," said a performance-monitoring specialist for an industrial facility. "If you don't perceive the value, you won't do it." Typically, he said buildings whose mechanical systems perform well are those that have a champion on staff - someone who insists that the systems are maintained.

Chances are, this is someone who has been bitten before. They are shy of getting bit again.

Contractors in attendance were hoping to get some numbers that help justify the cost of maintenance. Apparently this is something the industry is crying for.