Making the dreams of clients come true
The industry can no longer ignore the financial and social implications of poorly performing buildings, says Mike McCloskey.
At the recent Building Services Summit in London, Deborah Rowland from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) issued a plea on behalf of the many clients who endure buildings that fall far short of their needs and expectations. She said, ‘The project might be the designer’s dream come true, but we have to maintain it — and if that is difficult then you undermine the value of the property and its purpose.’
It is a sad fact that far too many buildings were designed with little thought given to how they might be serviced and maintained throughout their operating life. For example, important elements included in the initial design are often ‘value engineered’ out by the contractor in a bid to save capital cost, with little consideration given to how that might impact the long-term performance of the building.
How often have we seen control systems removed or downgraded, energy meters omitted at the installation stage and cheaper pumps substituted for those in the original specification. Such short-term thinking might be needed to meet budgetary constraints, but they undermine the designer’s vision and leave clients with a poor (and expensive) legacy.
However, things are changing, and Ms Rowland acknowledged as much: ‘I am glad to see that the construction industry now recognises [projects are] not all about construction,’ she told the summit, which was co-hosted by the Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES) and the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA). ‘It’s about reforming the process because we were not getting the outcomes we wanted.’
Constructors now have to look beyond construction at the long-term impact of their short-term decisions — otherwise increasingly savvy clients will start looking elsewhere for their suppliers.
The MoJ was an early adopter of the of ‘soft-landings’ approach, where the building user benefits from the ongoing involvement of the professional supply chain once the building has been handed over to iron out any operational problems.
|Considering maintenance from the design stage — CIBSE Guide M.|
Ms Rowland said she was an ‘evangelist’ for this approach and urged the supply chain to consider everything that ‘impacts on the running and maintenance for [a building’s] lifecycle’.
End clients and property investors are now keenly aware of the financial implications of poorly performing buildings — both in terms of running costs and the long-term value of their investment. And this is not just about energy — it is also about occupant comfort, health and productivity.
Another speaker at the summit, Debbie Hobbs from Legal & General Property, which manages a large portfolio of buildings, talked about the ‘social impact connected with what we do’ and how that adds ‘another type of value’.
She said her company’s investors were increasingly insisting that their buildings were managed sustainably ‘because they recognise the value this adds to their asset’. Energy efficiency is part of the due diligence L&G carries out. ‘We ask very detailed questions about systems installed in the buildings and operational issues. Reducing energy, water and waste is part of corporate governance,’ said Ms Hobbs.
The industry is now taking ambitious steps to address what has come to be known as the ‘performance gap’, where buildings significantly underperform when measured against their original design and purpose.
The new CIBSE Guide M ‘Maintenance engineering and management’ is the result of an historic, long-term collaboration between B&ES, CIBSE, BSRIA and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
The guide is a template for how our supply chain can work together from the outset to ensure the building that gets handed over can be properly maintained and will remain close to its designed performance level — in terms of energy and comfort — throughout its lifetime.
In the words of CIBSE chief executive Stephen Matthews, the building engineering design professions must now ‘grasp the nettle’ and make sure buildings are capable of being operated properly. He believes CIBSE members have a responsibility ‘beyond design’ and that if they fail to deal with this increasingly important issue for clients ‘other people will come along and do it for us’.
In other words, if we adopt the ‘soft-landings’ approach and link it to the strategies and principles outlined in the new Guide M, we have no more excuses for handing over buildings that are difficult to operate and maintain.
Operational problems are often the legacy of poor design decisions and problems during the contractual process. It is a stain on the industry’s reputation that too many of our ultimate clients are disappointed, so it is hugely positive that some of our leading professional bodies have been working together for many years to produce the most comprehensive guide to building operation, performance and maintenance ever published.
Guide M looks in detail at the cost to end users of ignoring operational issues at the design stage and explains how FMs and building owners can risk assess their buildings for ongoing performance issues — right across the board, not just health and safety issues.
Guide M includes chapters on design considerations for health and comfort, maintenance, commissioning, handover and operation and maintenance (O&M) manuals — including current Building Information Modelling (BIM) guidance. On the operational side there are chapters dedicated to maintenance strategy, business risk assessments, maintenance contracts, condition surveys, maintenance audits, training and competency.
It also embeds in the design process the best practice and values outlined in the B&ES service and maintenance guidance SFG20. This has also been revised and improved to give building maintainers a menu for structuring their programmes and creating bespoke schedules and user standards.
|Insight into SFG20 — www.sfg20.jpg|
SFG20 provides ‘fit-for-function’ and ‘keep-out-of jail’ standards in a single, digital package that ensures building owners can be legally compliant and cover everything required to save energy and avoid over- or under-maintaining assets.
The MoJ was the first major client to adopt SFG20 to manage all aspects of its extensive estate, but its example is now being followed by a wide range of property managers — covering airports, schools, stations, retail premises and even sports stadia
The convergence of soft landings, Guide M and SFG20 means our sector now has the tools at its disposal to move beyond the archaic supply-chain structure that created so many operational problems. The facilities manager is now a key part of the early decision-making process — rather than being left as the ‘tail-end Charlie’ helplessly trying to put things right long after the building has been handed over and the professional team disappeared over the horizon.
The performance gap is not, and never has been. purely an FM issue, but something for the supply chain to tackle as a team. Greater collaboration will go a long way to ensuring the right decisions are made at all stages of a project, and it is becoming almost mandatory with the adoption of BIM on all Government projects from next year.
BIM can only work in a collaborative environment, and private clients will be quick to follow the Government’s example as they see more and more evidence of the improved value on offer from an integrated approach to supply-chain management and technical decision making.
It might be going a bit far to suggest we can make the dreams of building clients dreams come true, but surely we can stop letting them down.
Mike McCloskey is a former president of the Building & Engineering Services Association and chairman of B&ES Publications.
Printed or electronic copies of Guide M are available for purchase from B&ES Publications on 01768 860405 and for more information about SFG20 visit the second link below