Building surveying: planned maintenance
Doing more with less
18 October 2013
While arguably one of the less exciting and unprofitable activities for a building surveyor, planned maintenance is the key to making the most of finite resources, says Mat Lown
Planned maintenance has become a cost-driven, commoditised service that is often referred to as 'bread and butter' building surveying work, suggesting it is a necessary evil and not something of great value. That is a shame because taking care of our buildings is essential, especially when it is possible that as many as 80% of the buildings that stand today will be around in 2050. That is particularly true for domestic property.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that in 2008 people used the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support their activities. Maintaining rather than renewing our built environment provides an opportunity to reduce our environmental impact. Repairing, restoring and prolonging the life of buildings and their components can be an efficient and cost-effective use of our finite resources. Such practices promote a concept increasingly referred to as resource efficiency. Surely repairing must be inherently more sustainable than renewing buildings and their components?
There are also embodied impacts to consider. When constructing new buildings or replacing elements we consume energy and other resources with the manufacture, transportation and assembly/installation of components. Construction also generates significant quantities of waste that is sent to landfill. It is therefore important that we make the most of our resources and it is no surprise the consideration of embodied impacts is becoming increasingly important to leading organisations. That is particularly true for carbon.
Planned maintenance has become a cost-driven, commoditised service that is often referred to as 'bread and butter' building surveying work, suggesting it is a necessary evil and not something of great value
When preparing a maintenance plan there is a chance to consider the inclusion of measures that would improve the sustainability of a property. Energy efficiency enhancements are of particular note given the introduction of minimum energy performance standards on 1 April 2018 under the Energy Act 2011 and the prospect that buildings with an F or G Energy Performance Certificate could be unlettable. Implementing appropriate improvements as part of a planned maintenance programme could help to spread the cost of the works and mitigate any potential risks.
Specifying and devising maintenance works is a real skill and requires the appropriate expertise, especially when working with historic buildings or more complex ones with innovative materials and assemblies such as the Grade I-listed Lloyd’s Building. Crafting elegant repair solutions is an art form.
Consideration of larger and more complex buildings involves other professionals. Typically, on commercial buildings that entails working with building services consultants and a property manager. A building surveyor has a key role to play as lead consultant, coordinating the involvement of others and making sure that the works are integrated in an holistic and cohesive maintenance plan. Maintenance planning is also a fertile training ground for less experienced surveyors. It covers many areas including defects analysis, leases, budget costing, service charge and wider commercial considerations.
With respect to commercial considerations, from a client’s perspective a robust planned maintenance programme can help a landlord to make a case to its tenants to carry out works and ultimately optimise the recovery of costs through the service charge. Tenants can use such a plan to manage their dilapidations liabilities and avoid a nasty shock when leases end; with cash flow advantages.
A building surveyor has a key role to play as lead consultant, coordinating the involvement of others and making sure that the works are integrated in an holistic and cohesive maintenance plan
For property companies and investors, maintenance can stretch the service life of an asset. That creates flexibility in the timing of major refurbishment or redevelopment works; to counter negative market trends or to buy time until more favourable conditions return; as experienced in 2007-08.
Carrying out maintenance works can also position an asset or assets in readiness for a potential sale, letting or a sale and lease back. A commercially minded building surveyor can establish what works are necessary to counter the curiosity of a diligent prospective purchaser’s surveyor. There are commercial benefits for surveyors, too, in terms of follow on project work and annual reviews/updates of plans. It is also a chance for surveyors to demonstrate leadership through the development of best practice especially in relation to sustainability.
Taking care of our built environment is an integral part of place making. A mix of old and new helps to give a place its identity and provide context for new developments. Thoughtfully repaired buildings can add to the fabric and grain of a city, and that in turn contributes positively to local market conditions. If a place is considered attractive, it is likely to command higher rents and sale prices. That in turn provides a business case to maintain buildings underpinning the sustainability of a place. That is one of the reasons why leading property owners take care of their buildings.
Significant value can be derived from carefully considered and properly integrated strategic maintenance advice. In the future we must do more with less; be thrifty and that is where surveyors can help. That is what we are good at doing.
Mat Lown is one of the Lead Authors of the RICS Sustainability: improving performance in existing buildings guidance note and Sustainability Partner at Tuffin Ferraby Taylor. Twitter: @matlown