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Building maintenance: protecting M&E systems in reduced usage

As official plans and advice regarding COVID-19 require many building owners and occupiers to vacate or significantly reduce the usage of their premises, we face a new and under-appreciated challenge to building maintenance. A building cannot simply ‘run itself’ or sit in low-usage for a period of time until normal service resumes. The transition to reduced occupancy (and subsequently returning to normal usage) presents risks to mechanical and electrical (M&E) services which will need additional attention to ensure they remain compliant, safe, efficient and protected from degradation.

Furthermore, contractors completing these works must also be fully compliant with all Government requirements and Public Health England (PHE) defined social distancing requirements.

Where should building owners and occupiers begin, to understand and respond to these issues?

Here, we lay out some key considerations for owners and occupiers looking to service and manage M&E services within partially occupied or vacant buildings. But, as each building has its own nuances and needs, we encourage readers to get in touch with us directly to assess the systems in their own right and review your existing maintenance plan and create a bespoke a short-term modification for your circumstances.

The M&E systems and services that may create operational problems or be adversely affected due to buildings being vacant or partially occupied may include some of the following services:

  • Hot and cold water services
  • Fire safety systems
  • Closed heating and chilled water systems
  • Mechanical ventilation systems
  • Building Management Systems (BMS)
  • Security systems
  • Passenger lifts

A number of M&E maintenance contractors are already proposing to reduce or stop on-site servicing and planned maintenance works due to the current restrictions and this presents a number of considerations including:

  • What measures can an owner take to meet ongoing statutory compliance and maintenance requirements for vacant or partially vacant buildings, to keep them safe?
  • What works must be completed to mechanical and electrical services installations prior to re-occupation of the buildings or areas that have been vacant/ partially vacant for a period of time?
  • What could happen if these services are not maintained correctly?
  • How to prevent inefficient plant operation and deterioration in plant condition?
  • How to manage excessive energy consumption?
  • What are the contractual considerations? Can PPM be completed? If not, can this be caught up later? Should maintenance contract costs be reduced/ reimbursed?

It is recommended that companies who own and operate any type of buildings and are responsible for maintenance activities should contact their insurance companies in the immediate term to establish whether there are any further implications.

Our highly-experienced building services experts can provide commercial advice in relation to M&E maintenance requirements to landlords, managing agents, end users and asset, property and facilities managers. If you would like to discuss the above further, please contact: maintenance-management@tftconsultants.com