NHS estates managers are struggling to balance ever tightening maintenance budgets with the need to upgrade vital built assets. Kevin Kingaby key accounts manager of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has some suggestions.

Last year the Chartered Quality Institute Construction Specialist Interest Group published some research which showed that poor quality workmanship and bad specifications were costing building clients between £7 billion and £12 billion a year.

In too many cases, building projects are rushed or badly designed in the first place. Many are delivered by companies short of the necessary skills to meet the needs and expectations of clients. Often the work may look superficially correct, but there are hidden problems.

Projects are regularly awarded to the lowest bidder. This race to the bottom on price means that, unless the specifications are tightly enforced, clients are at risk of corner cutting as project teams look for areas to ‘value engineer’ i.e. cut up front costs because they have made it difficult for themselves to make a profit.

Members of BESA promote their expertise around the 10/80/10 equation, which represents the fact that 80 per cent of a building’s value is realised during its operational life – its ‘whole life performance cost’. Just 10 per cent is accounted for during its construction and a further 10 per cent on demolition and decommissioning.

Powered and maintained

In other words, hospitals and other healthcare buildings earn their corn when they are full of staff and patients as well as the expensive equipment that needs to be powered and maintained. Yet the building industry is almost exclusively focussed on the upfront 10 per cent when they are trying to get something built and handed over as quickly as possible.

Trying to force a project over the line quickly and at the lowest cost can lead to serious long-term operating problems. It is also essential that properly qualified contractors are used to deliver the quality of work necessary, particularly in the healthcare sector.

A recent publication from King’s College London and the UK Health Alliance showed that seven out of 10 hospitals and health centres in London suffer from the effects of toxic air. Research showed that 577 of these buildings were in areas where nitrogen dioxide levels breached EU guidelines. All 800 buildings surveyed were shown to be under threat from harmful pm10 particulate matter because they are in areas where levels are above the World Health Organisation limit.

Vehicle emissions, power generation and tobacco smoke all contribute to air pollution and, unless a building’s ventilation system has been properly designed and then maintained, pollutants find their way inside.
People spend around 90 per cent of their life indoors. The elderly and infirm are particularly at risk if the indoor air quality is not well maintained, which means air filtration will be needed. The higher the grade of filtration the more maintenance is required.

Poorly performing ventilation systems have a direct impact on occupant health, wellbeing, and productivity. Putting them right retrospectively is not a particularly difficult or expensive task, but it is a prime example of why estates managers need access to real building engineering expertise and excellent maintenance tools.

The SFG20 maintenance standard developed by BESA and used by its members is playing an increasing role in helping managers tackle these vital maintenance issues. SFG20 is a dynamic online tool so makes best practice widely available and easy to access. As well as featuring over 500 core maintenance schedules, covering more than 60 equipment types, SFG20 also gives users the opportunity to customise maintenance schedules, including service times, frequency, and criticality ratings.

It helps a facilities manager produce schedules covering all the main types of equipment found in buildings and it is constantly updated with changes to standards and legislation to ensure the building remains compliant. Schedules display how often tasks need to be carried out to avoid over or under maintaining assets and what skill set should be used to perform the work.

Addressing vital tasks

Maintenance schedules and tasks can be created within SFG20 to ensure that vital tasks such as cleaning or replacing air filters and the regular inspection and cleaning of ventilation ductwork are carried at the right intervals.

More building owners – including increasing numbers in healthcare – adopt SFG20 to establish a cost-effective strategy that closely matches user requirements to investment in planned service and maintenance. Many users have recorded savings of up to 20 per cent in their running costs by adopting SFG20 and embedding its measures into their building management processes.

It was also recently updated to include over 100 customised sets of maintenance schedules linked to the Healthcare HTM (Health Technical Memoranda) and developed with the healthcare industry, including professional bodies and practitioners. This provides maintenance schedules directly drawn from the requirements of the HTMs that underpin the design of all healthcare buildings.

Having the tools is one thing, but estates managers also need to be able to rely on the expertise of the contractors they employ to deliver high performance buildings. Yet few private or public-sector clients use a standard method of establishing a contractor’s expertise – with only 6 per cent of authorities using trade association membership as their main criterion. 18 per cent rely on references and around 20 per cent simply use companies they have appointed before.

BESA operates a quality assurance process that requires all its members to undergo a Competence Assessment Scheme (CAS) to join or remain in membership. This provides clients with a ready-made method for establishing the quality of a potential sub-contractor and vital peace of mind that the firms they employ have third party independent evidence to verify their competence.

For further information visit www.thebesa.com