Understanding the Role of an O&M Manual in Construction

by Alexander Fraser

As you may already know, closeout is the final phase in the life cycle of a construction project. With closeout comes a list of documents you must provide to complete the job. 

One of these documents is an operation and maintenance (O&M) manual. 

If you’re on the office side of construction, there’s a good chance you’ll have to create an O&M manual yourself. And I’ll be honest, generating an O&M manual is not the most enjoyable task. 

Creating the manual consists of compiling construction documents to turn over to the customer. The customer shall keep these documents on record to reference in the future. 

The O&M manual can be a valuable tool for a building owner. Making sure you provide the necessary documents is essential. They would look at the manual should they encounter issues or need to perform preventative maintenance for their building. 

It doesn’t take much brain power to complete an O&M manual, so I find it boring. Unfortunately, every plan and spec project will require you to complete one, so best you get comfortable with the process. 

This article will cover the basics of an O&M manual, its importance, and how you can create one yourself. 

It’s pretty easy to create, but I’ll provide some examples of what you should include. That way, you know what to look for when performing this task yourself. 

What is an O&M Manual in Construction? 

An operation and maintenance (O&M) manual consists of a batch of construction documents provided to the owner for their records. The documents included are as-built drawings, test reports, warranty letters, product data sheets, and contact lists, to name a few. Once compiled, you’ll need to provide a hard copy to the project owner in a binder along with the digital copy. 

What is the Importance of an O&M Manual? 

The manual is a valuable resource for any building owner or facility management crew. The best way to show you why is to list each item in the manual and how it brings value. 

  1. As-Built Drawing: The as-built is a record drawing providing important information on the construction of a building. If you need to find a utility that is hidden in a wall or better understand your HVAC system, you refer to the as-built drawing. 
  2. Product Data Sheets: These documents tell you exactly what was installed in your building. They provide valuable information on how the equipment should be performing for troubleshooting purposes. Additionally, if you need to replace something, just give the vendor the data or cut sheet. 
  3. Installation, Operation, and Maintenance Manuals (IOMM): The IOMM is self-explanatory; it tells you how to install, operate, and maintain your equipment. You can gain more information, such as troubleshooting tips and startup guides from this manual as well. This document can be the most important in the O&M manual. 
  4. Test & Commissioning Reports: These reports tell you the outcome of specific performance testing. If something goes wrong, you can refer to these documents to see if the testing was done correctly. If not, the contractor is responsible for correcting the issues. 
  5. Contact List: Should issues arise, the building owner may need to contact the contractor for help. This readily available list will allow them to contact someone capable of correcting their problems with their equipment. 
  6. Warranty Letter: The warranty letter is more reassuring and informs the owner when the warranty period ends. It validates that the contractor will back up their work and repair any issues if they’re at fault. 

As you can see, there are a good number of benefits that come with the O&M manual. That’s why plan and spec projects require it. 

If you’re a good contractor, you will provide the O&M manual after every project to help your customer. 

You now know what an O&M manual is and its value. Time to get to the most important part, how to create the manual!

How to Create an O&M Manual 

As you start working on the O&M, you should look at your project specifications first. If your job doesn’t have this, that’s less work you need to do!

If not, you’ll need to provide each document called for in the specs. 

This article will cover some of the primary documents you will include in the O&M manual.

Note that these documents don’t necessarily have to go in any specific order. If you have a project spec that lists the required documents, just follow the order they go by. 

Next, you’ll need to gather the documents to include in the O&M manual. We will cover the following documents that you will include. 

  1. As-Built Drawings
  2. Product Data Sheets
  3. Installation, Operation, and Maintenance Manuals (IOMM)
  4. Spare Part List
  5. Test & Commissioning Reports
  6. Contact List
  7. Warranty Letter

I’ll provide some examples so you’ll know what to look for when gathering the documents. 

As-Built Drawings

The as-built or record drawings will be the reference for the building owner. It also will be valuable if they decide to conduct any renovation work in the future. 

The maintenance crew for a building should keep this on hand, and you should always provide an as-built drawing if you can. It’s one of the most valuable documents in the O&M manual. 

Below is an example of an as-built drawing that you may include in your O&M manual. Typically, these drawings will have labeling to identify that it is an as-built.

I’ve identified the as-built labels in the example image below.

as-built drawing, O&M manual, how to create an O&M manual

Product Data Sheets

Data or cut sheets provide information on the equipment installed for the project. 

The document will contain some general information about the product and provide you with performance data. 

The image below is an example taken from a cut sheet that provides performance data for various models of a fan coil unit. 

Data sheet, cut sheet, how to create an O&M manual, O&M manual

If you want to look at the entire datasheet, click here. You’ll be able to find things such as dimensions, wiring diagrams, and equipment specifications as well. 

Installation, Operation, and Maintenance Manuals (IOMM)

Here’s a document that is even used by the contractor when it comes to installing new equipment. It’s also valuable for many other reasons. 

From troubleshooting to starting up the equipment, the IOMM contains a plethora of information. Just take a look at the image below to see the contents on a single IOMM.

You can find an example of this manual in the image below. If you want to check out the entire PDF manual, you can click here

IOMM, installation operation and maintenance manual, how to create an O&M manual, O&M Manuals, O&M Manual

Spare Part List

When it comes to the spare part list, you’ll need to read the requirements of the specs carefully. You want only to provide what is required, nothing more. 

I almost made the mistake of putting down one of each item installed on the spare part list. We only needed to provide a couple of fuses and a relay instead. 

That’s why having someone check your work should be considered for catching things like this. 

I suggest using a spreadsheet to create the list of spare items you’ll provide. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just list each item, the quantity, and the purpose. 

Here’s an example:

Item No.Part No.Part DescriptionQuantity
1ADC-10Bussman 10A Fuse5

Test & Commissioning Reports

Reports are a type of validation that the contractor did the work correctly. 

When you perform the startup of a new piece of HVAC equipment, you need to go through a list of checks and balances. You must complete these tasks before you turn over the job. 

You’ll perform these test requirements with someone acting as a witness, which validates the equipment’s installation. You’ll also need to check the performance of said equipment to ensure it meets the design requirements. 

You can find all the required testing parameters in the test reports. You can think of it as a form of quality control as well. 

The report provides peace of mind when you know something was done correctly. 

You’ll find an example from a commissioning checklist in the image below. You must go through each of these checks to provide to the owner. If anything looks unusual, the person reviewing the report will require you to correct the issue. 

Commissioning report, Cx report, how to create an O&M manual, O&M manual

Contact List 

Your contact list doesn’t have to be too extensive. I would suggest you just include the following numbers in the list:

  1. Main office number
  2. 24/7 hotline number (If applicable) 
  3. Service/Maintenance Department (If applicable) 

You should simply include the phone number that the customer can use should they have any issues requiring a contractor. 

Also, consider including the address of your company so they know where they can find you if needed. 

Warranty Letter

For this part, I suggest you find a template warranty letter that you can provide in the O&M manual. The basic idea of the letter is to include the following information:

  1. When the warranty period starts
  2. Duration of the warranty period
  3. The scope of work covered by the warranty
  4. Signature from an executive approving the letter

If you need an example, you can find this in the image below. 

warranty letter, O&M manual, how to create an O&M Manual

Notice with this that they have a section for a notary. I don’t think this is necessary, but it can help make the letter more official. 

Before you go, I want to leave you with some best practices you should consider following.

What are the Best Practices for Creating an O&M Manual?

Best practices are always good to implement into your workflow. They help you to become more proficient with a task and help to improve the quality. 

Let’s look at some best practices you can use when creating an O&M Manual. 

  1. Review project specifications thoroughly: When working on a plan and spec project, they will almost always provide you with set requirements for the O&M manual. Make sure to carefully read what the specs call for, as it will mention each section to include. There may also be some information on the document type required for your clarification. 
  2. Ensure All Documents are Up to Date: Documents such as product data sheets or IOMMs change as the equipment improves. When you request the document from your vendor or search online, ensure you get the most current file. You don’t want to provide your customer with an old or inaccurate document. 
  3. Have Someone Review Your Work: This may seem silly, but I highly recommend it. That is because the O&M Manual will usually consist of hundreds of pages, so it can be easy to miss something. Having another set of eyes will help improve the quality of the manual. 


Essentially, wrapping up a construction project necessitates creating an Operation and Maintenance (O&M) manual. Although it might seem tedious, it’s a crucial component.

The O&M manual is a comprehensive guide for the building owners and their maintenance team. It contains all the essential details they need, such as as-built drawings, data sheets for the installed products, operation manuals, test reports, a contact list, and warranty details.

Putting together this manual might not be the most exciting task, but it plays a crucial role in ensuring the smooth operation of the building in the future. Therefore, it’s essential to be thorough when collecting the needed documents, ensure they’re current, and pay close attention to the project specifications.

While the manual can be lengthy, having another set of eyes review your work can help catch potential oversights. So, even though the task might seem mundane, it’s vital to put in the effort and follow the best practices to create a practical O&M manual. This way, the building owners will have all the information they need.

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