Building surveying: planned maintenance

Bridging the gap

1 November 2013

Planned preventative maintenance has many different meanings to different groups, says Gary Bulloch


For clarity, let us first consider planned preventative maintenance (PPM) in the context of typical multi-let, office investment. Here the structure and fabric PPM report is one of a series of 'technical tools' that include lift and services maintenance registers, accessibility and sustainability audits plus health and safety and fire risk assessments. These tools are, in theory, relied on by the owner and managing agent when setting the maintenance approach, with the scope extending beyond the merely 'preventative' and capturing the bulk of non-routine expenditure.

Planned maintenance is not sexy. The technical tools are generally procured across large portfolios, with cost often being the main driver. They are prepared and considered in isolation by people who often lack experience as the complexity increases. There is also the question of whether these tools are fully understood and integrated. For example, are the 'red flagged' items addressed and the remainder filed away, or implemented by contractors on term maintenance agreements?


Planned maintenance is not sexy. The technical tools are generally procured across large portfolios, with cost often being the main driver

So how do we actually maintain and refurbish buildings? Is maintenance implemented following strict life cycle parameters? Are different property types and asset classes in diverse locations and markets approached in the same way? Do regulation, technology and working practice remain constant over time? While life cycle costing and building information modelling might suggest that we know how assets will be maintained in 25 years' time, history does not.

We often see unfortunate instances where an element such as a chiller has been replaced in a building without any meaningful consideration of the condition and effectiveness of the wider system, current and future occupant requirements or a sensible and planned approach to sustainability. The owner is effectively committing to a 20 to 25-year strategy, but are they aware of the environmental agenda?

Numerous influences

The reality is that there are numerous, highly fluid influences on the approach to planned maintenance that are becoming more complex. So how do we 'bridge the gap' to a more holistic and intelligent approach?

Consider the process. The owner or managing agent is seeking to engage a number of specialists to make recommendations on related works, to be undertaken over a given period, usually between five and 10 years. The extent and value of these works can be substantial. If the recommendations were condensed into a single 'project' rather than each specialist progressing their own work independently, the result could be quite different. A suitably skilled and resourced design team would be engaged under an experienced project manager or contract administrator. The approach would be based on a clear brief and should be both collaborative and challengable. The relative success of the project would depend on this approach.


The reality is that there are numerous, highly fluid influences on the approach to planned maintenance that are becoming more complex. So how do we 'bridge the gap' to a more holistic and intelligent approach?

However, if this project were approached from a planned maintenance angle, 'value for money' specialists would be engaged under a generic scope of services to prepare recommendations in isolation. There would be no project manager, no collaboration and no challenging; not the recipe for project success.

Keys to success

So how can we improve this approach and ensure that the building surveyor becomes central to a more successful process?

First, by accepting that a one-size-fits-all approach is often inappropriate. The purveyors of the technical tools must have levels of experience and capability commensurate with the likely complexities of the property. A simple review should be sufficient to identify these.

Second, where more complex strategy considerations are likely (the 20-year-old building with original services) the structure and fabric surveyor should take the role of project manager. The often-heard sentiment that "services are a dark art – someone else does that" won’t allow us to be the ones to bridge the gap. Understand, brief, question and challenge, but most importantly, collaborate.

Finally, accept that things change and change accelerates, so the planned maintenance process cannot be overly prescriptive. Service charge budgets are generally set a year ahead. As long as the quantum of potential medium- and long-term liabilities is understood, retain flexibility to review and adjust annually. We should again be taking a proactive project management role in this.

This is not straightforward and requires both experience and resourcing. Implemented effectively, however, there is real value to be generated for clients that should more than offset the costs of a bespoke and holistic approach.

Gary Bulloch is Director of Building Project and Consultancy at Savills

Further information

Related competencies include: M009, T053, T003