The benefits of planning ahead
Ian Purvey shares his views on the proven benefits of a planned maintenance programme for building-services systems.
Ensuring there is an effective and planned programme of maintenance and refurbishment in place can significantly extend the life span of buildings and related systems. No matter how well designed a building and its systems are, there is natural deterioration, which can be influenced.
It may to many seem obvious to undertake maintenance. However, some companies have neglected it for many years, to the detriment of their buildings’ infrastructure. A key point is that the long-term financial and environmental benefits of regularly maintaining building system, far outweigh the view that maintenance can be delayed or avoided.
The Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform reports that typically companies spend up to 4% of their sales output on maintenance. However, an efficiently applied maintenance strategy can result in a 5% cut in disruption to business through breakdown and an 8% reduction in direct costs. On a sales output of £5 million, this equates to a 32% increase in pretax profit.
It is widely believed that unplanned and unexpected maintenance and refurbishment of systems may amount to half of all money spent on existing buildings, with estimates ranging from £8 to £20 billion a year. Whilst it is often easier to justify such ‘necessary’ expenditure, the inconvenient truth is often that the avoidable maintenance spend may well have been cheaper.
In the current economic climate, it is understandable that businesses will want to avoid or reduce costs. However, to do this through decreasing maintenance frequency may ultimately lead to unplanned maintenance and unexpected costs later.
The words ‘unplanned’ and ‘unexpected’ in conjunction with costs are not popular in anyone’s vocabulary and should be high on any building owner or operator’s list to avoid.
However, like most unexpected events, such costs can be avoided with foresight and planning — in short, good business practice. Ultimately, by regularly maintaining your building and its systems you will protect your asset, reduce the risk of emergency call-outs and associated business disruption, and reduce costs in the medium to long term.
So, is there a ‘best’ way to maintain systems such as air-handling units, heating and lighting?
The answer is that as every building is different, there is no, single, right way to approach a planned maintenance programme. However, there are many common elements of good practice that can be benchmarked and solutions to problems that can be shared.
Best practice in maintenance and refurbishment is to be proactive, ensure that maintenance is both regular and programmed to prevent potential breakdown. Modern maintenance programmes employ predictive techniques that take account of various aspects, including health and safety, plant life, plant performance, energy savings and environmental elements.
Inviron’s maintenance programmes, for example, initially perform a risk assessment of the effectiveness of current maintenance regimes against plant failure. This approach provides an inventory of all items covered by the programme and identifies those items of plant and systems that are critical to the client’s operations.
A maintenance programme can then be established with the following goals.
• Reduce dependence on crisis-management approach to maintenance, through a planned programme of activities.
• Sustain maintenance to allow facilities to be operated efficiently.
• Reduce the frequency of component failures.
• Ensure facilities are maintained to comply with health and safety regulations.
• Ensure capital renewal projects are based on lowest life-cycle costs.
We believe these goals capture the essence of good management and maintenance practice and focus on the efficient and effective use of resources — ultimately providing benefits by reducing unplanned maintenance costs and lowering carbon emissions for clients.
As climate change is such an important issue in today’s world, planned maintenance needs to support good practice, and ensure sustainable working practices. A system that is inadequately maintained (whether a heating, cooling or lighting system) will be inefficient and can consume large quantities of energy. Greater energy consumption equates to greater carbon emissions.
Inviron has recently played a significant part in helping property giant Land Securities achieve the coveted Carbon Trust Standard. We were able to demonstrate, at selected sites across London, how through efficient, on-going and planned maintenance of systems, Land Securities saved energy and reduced its carbon footprint.
To conclude, the right financial investment in planned maintenance will help minimise business disruption due to breakdown, keep services running at optimum levels, ensure the comfort of a building’s users and, ultimately, save money in the long-term through preventative maintenance practices.
Ian Purvey is a general manager with Inviron.