An informed perspective on maintenance and refurbishment

Published:  07 July, 2008

The opportunities and pitfalls of maintenance — John Armstrong.

John Armstrong shares his practical experience of maintenance and refurbishment.

Maintenance and refurbishment work present a greater workload to the building-services industry than new building.

Maintenance is all about keeping plant and equipment in a state in which it can perform its required function.

Refurbishment can be described as improvement and modernisation, but falling short of rebuilding or redevelopment. Such work can include reconditioning of defective plant to perform the intended function in a cost efficient manner, thus extending its useful life.

Recognising the difference between these two concepts can sometimes be difficult.

Maintenance

Obtaining information to benchmark maintenance costs for building services may not be easy, but some information is available (Table 1).

EXTRA PICTURE

Table 3: Average costs of building services refurbishment and maintenance
(Building Cost Information Service www.bcis.uk).

The costs of maintenance are now recognised as being significant, and some clients are beginning to manage them by considering the business risk of different services and components. A guide from BSRIA (BG 7/2004)* provides a toolkit for building operators, maintenance contractors and facilities managers to focus their maintenance activities based on a logical assessment of risk to the business.

Many buildings are coming to the stage in their lives where plant and equipment installed up to 30 years ago is having to be considered for replacement. This may be because it is no longer economic to continue its maintenance, components to repair it are no longer available, its energy performance is poor, it is no longer suitable or reliable for the task, it has been superseded by technological developments, or it fails to meet current compliance requirements. Questions needing to be answered include the following.

• What is the expected life of particular items of plant?
• How can a judgement be made on whether it will remain viable to support the business requirement?
• Do current expectations of plant efficiency match those likely to be achieved from the existing plant?

Clients are also increasingly aware of green issues, and some clients are prepared to pay a premium on the rent or purchase for a building that is demonstrably green or environmentally friendly. Many clients want to be seen to be occupying environmentally friendly buildings and are prepared to commit significant sums of money to improve their property portfolio.

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Table 1: Indicative annual maintenance costs, based on information from Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) from the fourth quarter of 2005.

In addition, to improve the indoor environment and the green credentials of a building, engineering services such as grey-water systems, photo-voltaics, solar water heating, CHP and wind turbines are increasingly being installed. All these become an additional maintenance requirement for the building operator or facilities manager.

Guidance for how to maintain most types of plant, equipment and services in buildings is provided in HVCA Standard Maintenance Specification SFG 20, recently re-issued in CD format.†

CIBSE is supporting those involved in maintenance and refurbishment with its recent publication ‘Guide M: maintenance engineering and management’.§ This is an update of the guide to ownership, operation and maintenance of building services published in 2000. One particular section which is very relevant to refurbishment, as well as maintenance and the need to put in place adequate funding for plant maintenance, repair and ultimately replacement is the section on economic life factors. This has been considerably enlarged to cover most types of equipment. It is divided into 23 headings (Table 2) to provide a structure for the user of the information.

In addition to the plant life information, the data has been mapped to the relevant HVCA SFG 20 reference and the BCIS cost group (Building Cost Information Service) to provide a definitive structure for identifying maintenance requirements and the recognised budgeting structure. It is hoped that this will allow detailed maintenance budgets to be prepared and provide building operators to with a powerful tool to mange their maintenance, plant replacement and refurbishment expenditure against.

Refurbishment

Refurbishment can be divided into three options, minor, medium and major. A minor refurbishment extends economic life by up to five years. Opportunities for payback are limited if the scope of work is confined to repair works, with minimal alterations to the building services. The focus of such investment is likely to be on common areas. Minor refurbishment is often carried out in an occupied building, with phased working and a decant plan being necessary.

Medium-scale refurbishment projects aim to renew the existing fabric and services to present-day standards of performance. The investment timeframe is typically 15 years and, as a consequence, fittings, finishes and elements of building services will be replaced or upgraded, taking advantage of technological advances. Limited structural alterations, including the formation of new service risers and the creation of feature reception areas may also be involved, together with any works required to comply with statutory requirements — e.g. for accessibility. Such work could also be carried out in occupied buildings but would require additional temporary works, services diversions and out-of-hours operations.

Major refurbishment schemes aim to secure the benefits of existing planning consents for the long term, or to exploit opportunities to increase useable floor areas, and are aimed at an investment horizon of at least 15 years. The refurbished building will need to meet modern expectations for specification and performance standards. All fittings, finishes and services will be replaced, and it is highly likely that the roof and/or facade will be replaced or upgraded, together with extensive work to improve accessibility. Structural alterations may include the reorganisation of vertical circulation, the infilling of redundant light wells, creation of atriums, or the extension of perimeter floor slabs.

Major refurbishment works will be carried out in a vacant building, and, as a result, should deliver projects faster than new-build.

Owing to the wide range of options available to occupiers and the effects that building condition and constraints will have on the works, the range of costs for each grade of refurbishment is broader than would be expected for new build construction. Some example costs are set out in Table 3.

The risk profile of office refurbishment projects can be high, because it means working in existing buildings with the constrained budgets and programmes required to deliver commercially viable schemes. Working in occupied buildings introduces further potential for delay and reduced productivity associated with, for example, the phasing of works.

John Armstrong was chairman of the task group producing CIBSE’s revised Engineering and Management Guide(Now Guide M) and past president of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.

Table 2: Example indicative life of plant and equipment (taken from CIBSE Guide M Appendix 13.A1).


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