Plan of action

Steve McGregor

When refurbishing a fully functional building you are guaranteed a host of unexpected challenges. Steve McGregor advises that the key is in the planning – and application of technology.

There are often many variables to consider when refurbishing a working building. Let’s take super-prime luxury apartments, for example. Think of the requirements and expectations of these ultra-high net worth owners and occupiers. Then of course the luxurious facilities – spas, restaurants, bars, swimming pools. The interior design, fit out, refurbishment and upkeep of luxury houses and apartments requires specialist knowledge and training. It’s crucial to deliver to the highest and most exacting standards, to extremely tight deadlines, often while these high-profile residences are in occupation.

Hotels will continue to operate throughout the lifecycle of a refurbishment, aiming to retain their customers; to ensure minimal disruption to their staff; and to guarantee there is minimal impact on the bottom-line.

When it comes to the refurbishment of a hotel, ideally this would be completed via a series of phases, especially when entire floors are taken out of commission. On site, there are many issues to consider, not least developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with hotel’s management team. Speed is also a crucial factor when refurbishing any hotel, as is maintaining the continuity of work. The co-ordination of multiple trades is highly complex, particularly in bathrooms, where finishes and services trades are concentrated. Maintaining the sequence is critical.

This newly refurbished building created 41 spectacular super-prime 3-5 bedroom apartments and penthouses which include facilities such as a gym, a 25m swimming pool, underground car park, and business centre. In addition to looking after all the building fabric, fixtures, finishes, appliances, furniture and equipment, DMA also provides a 24/7 technical maintenance package for all the building’s engineering systems. Via resident and mobile teams all the landlord’s central engineering services, systems and equipment are maintained, including the management of specialist supplier and critical spares.

Caretaker maintenance of this sort of property is vital, to ensure all warranties are maintained, as well as enabling continued service once apartments are occupied often at short notice.

But what of heritage and listed buildings which the UK has in abundance? When working on older buildings, it is not uncommon to encounter unforeseen problems, such as asbestos, which can cause long delays. The key for developers and maintenance companies is how to best maintain them. History tells us that there are economic advantages that certain types of businesses have when they are located in older buildings.

It's clear that retaining historic fabric leads to the retention of cultural significance, with the most appropriate method to achieve this being to undertake maintenance on a minimal intervention basis, the aim of which is to restrain decay without damaging building character.

An example of this is One Great George Street, home of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Based in the centre of Westminster, this Grade II listed building was constructed in the early 1900s and features 21 function rooms including the reputed Great Hall which can host events for up to 400 people.

DMA delivers a planned preventative, breakdown and emergency maintenance service and introduced a dedicated mobile engineering team. This team carries out intrinsic maintenance on One Great Street’s mechanical and electrical equipment and systems including condensers, ventilation systems, boilers and all the catering equipment. All of this is underpinned with 24/7/365 emergency call-out response. In addition we have managed and delivered equipment repairs, replacements and building fabric improvements and enhancements.

Working closely with ICE’s property and estates team is a vital ingredient. It’s our shared commitment to ensure that the day to day operations are not impacted. However, when it comes to heritage buildings with stature such as One Great George Street, due care and consideration must be taken throughout the entire lifecycle.

We touched on the challenges faced when multiple suppliers and contractors are deployed to cover a range of maintenance tasks across one portfolio. With no central point of contact, no single supplier takes overall ownership of a building, meaning it can be harder to pinpoint who to call when something goes wrong.

Then there are the challenges of managing, storing and retrieving paperwork and e-records that demonstrate compliance with complex legislation that changes faster than the seasons. Not finding what you want, when you need it, can be exasperating. And depending on the problem, you may need it immediately. When disaster strikes, there isn’t the luxury of time to hunt for documentation and certificates.

Technology is ensuring a simplified and streamlined property management approach for building owners, occupiers and managers along with complete transparency. Not only does this save time, but it positively impacts the bottom-line of their business and reduces risk by removing the need for multiple contractors.

Our own technology, an online platform called BiO, enables real-time visibility and reporting, offering complete transparency anytime, anywhere and on any device, while guaranteeing statutory compliance and access to a 24/7 emergency call out and breakdown service. Our super-prime and heritage property clients particularly recognise the importance of moving from a reactive to a proactive model. Instead of a schedule determining when to assess a property’s performance, now on-the-pulse data offers the insight to deliver predictive maintenance. This means that our engineers can intervene before a problem arises and shut-down periods can even be managed to avoid disruption.

Steve McGregor is group managing director, DMA Group

Picture credit: Shutterstock.com/Poptika by Poptika  

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