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:

Newcastle’s The Gate: creating the future of leisure and retail

We know all too well that the retail sector is undergoing a period of transformation, but whether that means decline or rebirth seems to depend increasingly on the vision of a brand or store in question. Yes, shopping habits are changing, rendering many tricks of retail past irrelevant and unproductive, but we’re seeing new innovators and fast-moving incumbents take steps to get ahead of the curve. Familiar shopping centre and leisure brands are highly exposed to these challenges but, equally, by leveraging their large estates in the right way they can create a major advantage in a changing landscape.

The Gate is a retail and leisure complex situated in central Newcastle, which originally opened in 2002. It now plays host to 19 venues including nine food and drink outlets and five unique leisure activities including increasingly popular activity: escape rooms. With 18.65m tourists visiting Newcastle & Gateshead in 2018, a 3.5% increase from 2017[1], the Gate has had to rethink its offering to remain a popular destination for a broad range of visitors.

TFT has been lucky enough to be part of the transformation of The Gate, Newcastle, since it has been in the hands of investors The Crown Estate. As lead building consultant, we’re supporting its reinvigoration as a modern leisure destination by incorporating new and unique features to position it as a one-of-a-kind destination.

Jake Honor, project lead and Associate at TFT said:

“Since our involvement commenced on site in 2013, we have seen a shift in the retail and leisure market to becoming a much more challenging environment for landlords and tenants alike. We have also seen individual tenants more and more determined to overcome these challenges and best position themselves with a unique market offering.”

With several vacant units at the start of the 2019, it was all hands-on deck to achieve a complete makeover over the last 12 months. The transformations are clearly oriented towards a new generation of entertainment, including Cineworld’s first 4DX cinema in the North East which boasts ‘extreme sensory cinema’ capable of simulating effects like water, wind, scent, strobe lighting and motion to put you in the middle of the action. It was the largest project to date at The Gate at a value of £7m. But that’s not the only immersive entertainment on offer, with one of the largest gaming and virtual reality entertainment centre in the UK, YuMe, and The WonderBar and Mayfair Pub & Kitchen which offers guests interactive multiplayer darts tournaments, live music, sports events and more.

The 220,000 sqft retail wonderland is now able to set itself apart from its competitors by combining forward-thinking market insight and a readiness to adapt for a changing leisure sector. Supporting this transformation, TFT provided proactive and technically informed advice to ensure that the works would achieve the vision of The Crown Estate and the expectations of The Gate’s many future visitors. As more venues appraise the potential of a new generation of retail, leisure, or perhaps more accurately a hybrid of the two, the specifics of how such projects are carried out could be a deciding factor in their long-term viability.

Our projects and work streams for the site have been diverse; ranging from large scale full common area refurbishment work to individual unit enabling works, dilapidations and fit-out reviews, which has covered multiple TFT offices, disciplines and skill matrix’s.”

It is no secret that there is a high street crisis in the UK and the decline in shoppers is at a growing rate, but do experience-led retail offerings promise to reverse this loss? The Global Wellness Institute have reported that fitness and wellbeing industry sales have been thriving as more and more health-conscious individuals are making efforts to incorporate fitness into their daily regimes. Similarly, we are seeing more funding going into inclusive leisure activities for a wider customer profile, including disabled, elderly and young consumers.

“Looking forward we see significant potential for growth in the North East, with key infrastructure programmes rolled out with this family-friendly leisure centre paving the way for the sector, proving to be the best in its class.”

If you need a team of consultants with retail and leisure experience, and deep understanding of building materials and systems which those sectors demand, get in touch with us, we’d love to hear about your challenges.

To get in touch with Jake Honor, click here

TFT’s involvement in the 2019 upgrades to The Gate included:

MAP Works

  • Project Management, Principal Designer & M&E services for The Crown Estate to replace sections of the main roof, the air handling units and provided a building management system and fire alarm upgrade works for the centre. 

Empire to Cineworld Refurbishment

  • Fit out review and monitoring of £7m refurbishment of the whole second floor level at The Gate to convert the old Empire cinema into Cineworld.

Sam Jacks to Mayfair Refurbishment

  • Fit out review and monitoring exercise of G10 fit out for new bar area.

Tiger Tiger to Eden Refurbishment

  • Fit out review, cost consultancy and monitoring of G11 fit out of new restaurant and bar area.

Bar Beyond to Wonderbar Refurbishment

  • Fit out review and monitoring of G5 to create the new Wonderbar from the former Bar Beyond.

Handmade Burger and Vacate unit F4 to YuMe Refurbishment

  • Landlord enabling works to facilitate YuMe occupation.
  • Fit out review of YuMe to create one of the largest virtual reality units in the UK.

General Building Surveyor Roles

  • Maintenance Action Plan (MAP) for the next 10-years’ worth of maintenance works.
  • Dilapidations of various units.
  • Further feasibility appraisals for proposed projects.

[1] Major Events Help Tourism Grow In Newcastle and Gateshead. UMi. 2019.

Happy International Women’s Day!

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March, we wanted to share stories of inspiration from the women in our lives. This week we’ve been hearing from the team about the women from all fields – from our families to activists, sporting heroes and our own TFT colleagues who inspire us to follow their example and, in turn, to inspire the next generation too.

Take a look at the stories below, and let us know who inspires you!

Margherita Pende, Senior Project Manager

My mother Flaminia taught me that nothing is impossible if you want it. I hope to be able to continue my mum’s legacy and philosophy, that you need a bit of juggling skills and energy but if you love what you do, you will be just fine!

Neil Gilbert, Partner

My fellow TFT partners Chris and Jacqui… they’re very strong, motivated women and they both have a special place in my heart. My dear mother was instrumental in shaping the life I have today – I look after her now, in gratitude for my early years.

Julia Cox, Office Manager

I am inspired by all the strong women in my family, my mom, my sister and my twin daughters who have all coped with adversity and have shown incredible resilience and fought back stronger.

Sheridan Vickers, Secretary

Monika Polnik, (RoL CAD Surveyor). She is my inspiration – she is a single mother, works very hard and has stresses but doesn’t show them. She deserves recognition on how she manages her work and personal life. She is a star!

Jan Mason, Secretary

I know they’re no longer with us, but Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa spring to mind. They may not have changed the world, but they did important work that helped many people and they’ve made history. My mum was an inspiration in many ways too.

David Mann, Partner

I’m inspired by those who go out of their way to effect change in our industry, because all too often it can feel like an uphill battle. So I would like to mention Dame Alison Nimmo DBE, The Crown Estate CEO until December 2019. She not only led significant change within TCE, increasing diversity including a female CFO and COO, but also drove a sustainable and industry-leading portfolio of places for people. She’s been a great supporter of Freehold and other industry networks too!

Deborah Brown, Associate

Emmeline Pankhurst the leader of the Suffragettes was most inspirational to me. Every time I walk past the new statue of her here in Manchester it gives me tingles. What she did for us women in the past goes without saying.

Chris Gibbons, Partner

For me it has to be Mary Anning. As a woman, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London and she did not always receive full credit for her scientific contributions. But my 3 daughters are fascinated by the story of Mary Anning and the two eldest want to become palaeontologists as a direct result of hearing of her life and work.

Sarah Gunn, Marketing & Communications Executive

The young female Finnish ministers who are inspiring diversity in politics and leading from the front. They are such a progressive country and I really think this has a big part to play in that!

Jacqui Allen, Partner

Zaha Hadid, she was an Iraqi–British architect and was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004. To inspire the next generation, I want to lead by example! It’s as simple as that.

Dan May, Associate

Elise Christie – She’s been very successful but also had a lot of setbacks… And from those she always dusts herself off and goes again, which I admire.

Neil Wotherspoon, Partner

Little cheesy I know, but it has to be my wife; Jane. The way she has learnt to be a new mum and cope with all the pressures of raising twins, is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen. We both think it’s important that the twins see Jane and I pursuing careers, splitting the home stuff and having some independence too.

Sophie Willetts, Associate

My mum, she worked in the 70s when not many women did. My gran, because she was always happy, how she managed it I don’t know. My single mum friends who do an amazing job of bringing up kids and working without seemingly breaking a sweat.

George Cunningham, Technical Partner

My big sister, who is battling cancer for the 3rd time in 30 years so far and she still going strong. In sport, Joe Pavey, Sophie Raworth and Eleanor Simmonds are three icons who made their mark against the odds.

TFT at MIPIM 2020

TFT will be attending the leading international real estate event, MIPIM, heading to Cannes for a week of networking and discussion of the big issues faced by real estate.

MIPIM 2020 will announce ‘The future is human’, and we’re looking forward to discussing how we can all improve the personal and social dimensions of the built environment to deliver a higher standard of urban living.

So there will be lots to discuss at our annual Drinks on the Beach. We’re kicking off the week by hosting clients, colleagues and industry friends to this easygoing and engaging event – as ever, the best way to start your MIPIM experience!

You’ll also find us out and about throughout the week, between 10 and 13 March.

If you would like to catch up with any of the team at Cannes, we’d be very happy to hear from you. Simply get in touch with

You can also keep up to date with our news and views from MIPIM by following @TFTconsultants on Twitter, or by connecting with us on LinkedIn.

Find out more about our co-hosts before MIPIM:

PIB Insurance Brokers are a leading UK insurance broker working with businesses and individuals in the property construction sector to make a real difference to your insurance buying and risk management experience through our combined skills, experience and partnership approach.  Find out more here

Arbuthnot Latham offers a full range of private and commercial banking solutions, wealth planning and investment management. We have been serving clients since 1833, and believe in operating at a human scale to ensure we meet your personal and individual needs. For more information visit

Moore Kingston Smith has an integrated team of advisers working with a range of real estate and construction businesses. We advise on all aspects of real estate taxation, structuring and accounting. Our real estate and construction team has an impressive wealth of experience, advising the residential, commercial and retail sectors. For more information visit

New RICS guidance improves health and safety reporting for commercial properties

TFT Partner and TDD specialist David Mann has co-authored the first edition of the technical due diligence of commercial property global guidance note, including a new scope of service, published this week by RICS.

What does the new guidance contain and what does it mean? Read on to find out.

RICS published the new guidance on 14 January, replacing four previous editions covering England and Wales as well as country-specific versions in New Zealand, Australia and Continental Europe.

The document defines technical due diligence as ‘the process of systematic review, analysis, discovery and gathering of information about the physical characteristics of a property and/or land (the property). The surveyor then undertakes an impartial and professional assessment of the property and provides a balanced and professional opinion of the technical condition of it, enabling a prospective purchaser, occupier or financier of property to make an informed assessment of the risks associated with this transaction.’

Some of the more prescriptive language used in previous editions on how to conduct a survey – or what to look for in a typical building element, for instance – has been omitted as it was felt this would be understood by surveyors through their experience.

The guidance note also states that the technical due diligence process must be methodical, assessing each key building element and answering the following questions:

• What, if anything is wrong?
• What would the consequences be if the defect were not rectified?
• What remediation is recommended?
• Who is responsible for the cost of repair?
• What further investigations are recommended, and when?

The note has also been updated to reflect modern practice, including the use of virtual data rooms, data collection software and drones.

The document sets out what a building surveyor must consider during the briefing or confirmation of instructions phase. It more clearly reflects that we often act as the lead consultant for the technical due diligence process, bringing together other specialist advisers such as mechanical, electrical and vertical transportation engineers, cladding consultants or environmental engineers.

The intention is to provide a more useful document than previous editions which better reflects the breadth and depth of the technical due diligence process, over and above what was traditionally considered to be a building survey.

References to fire safety as well as health and safety were reinforced following two tragic events in the UK in 2017: the Grenfell Tower fire and the death of Tahnie Martin in Wolverhampton who was hit by debris that came loose from a roof during Storm Doris. This includes the introduction of a risk rating for any defects that need ‘immediate’ action which requires a surveyor to point out anything considered as immediate danger. For example, a section of loose masonry would be appointed to an ‘appropriate person’, most likely the building manager, the vendor or their agent. Risk ratings can also help a time-poor client focus on the issues, either during the purchase or following completion of the transaction.

The arrival of the guidance note is a timely one in what is a critical part of the property transaction and management markets and it is an essential read for RICS registered members and firms undertaking technical due diligence services. Building surveyors must be aware of the guidance in relation to taking instructions, inspecting and reporting where professional standards are continuously improving. In this way they can ensure they deliver to the client and importantly they follow good practice and so demonstrate competence and protect their clients and themselves.

The newest edition of the guidance note can be accessed here.

For more information on the guidance note, or to understand how TFT’s approach to TDD can help you, please contact David Mann at

Welsh Government to enforce ban on combustible materials

The Welsh government has announced that as of today, it will be enforcing a cladding ban which applies the same restrictions as in England. However, in the run-up to the ban, reports have surfaced regarding discontent from Welsh firefighters about the application of the law.

TFT Partner, John Newton, who heads up the Cardiff office said:

There seems to be mixed views on the ban, directly on the extent of its effect when only applying to buildings above the height threshold. Firefighters here have been pushing for a ban to apply to all buildings, regardless of height in order to create a much safer environment.

A White Paper will be published by Julie James, Housing Minister for Wales, to lay out the details of the Government’s plans following the national enforcement.

The below provides more information on what the ban includes and how it will affect buildings in the relevant regions.

The ban is on combustible cladding (I.e Euroclass B or lower) materials to building facade cladding and relates to new buildings with floors above 18m and covers schools, residential (including hotels, boarding houses, hostels), hospitals, care homes and student accommodation.

In 2018, in a surprise move, the Government stopped short of a retrospective ban on existing combustible cladding systems. Whilst this does not necessarily mean that existing properties are unsafe (there are many factors to ensuring that a building performs adequately in a fire), investors and occupiers will wish to obtain specialist advice particularly in relation to residential assets over 18m in height.

Alan Pemberton, TFT Partner says:

Although the government has implemented a ban on combustible cladding and insulation for residential buildings over 18m, this is not to be applied retrospectively, but where does this leave existing buildings or developments under construction? Potentially blighted and unsafe to occupy?

Not necessarily.

Existing occupied buildings must be fully assessed and evaluated by a suitable qualified person, not only in terms of life safety means of escape, but property protection for risk of fire ignition and spread. Buildings insurance will also be a determining factor with construction approved by insurers to ensure cover provision.

In our view, for buildings under construction and not yet complete, the industry has a duty to construct safe buildings (irrespective of whether works were in compliance before the ban, not just when the ban came into force), especially based on the information now known regarding certain products and materials.

For more information, please contact Simon Young at

Five New Year resolutions for resilient built assets

2019’s news agenda seemed full of the effects of climate change and resource scarcity, and the situation fuelled global political debate, business decision-making and social activism more than ever before. The consequences for real estate are still being apprehended and dissected, although its immediate impacts are clear to see.

Just as most of us come out of the other side of the Christmas break ready to make some resolutions for a happy and healthy new year, our approach to sustainable buildings could do with the same treatment.

23 of the UK’s leading property owners (responsible for a combined £300bn of assets under management), have agreed to deliver net-zero-carbon portfolios by 2050. Their pathways for action will be published this year. Ahead of those announcements, TFT hosted 70 of our clients, colleagues and industry friends to discuss one of the most pressing issues facing the built environment.

We teased out five important points from our Christmas CPD session for property surveyors, investors and asset managers to consider as we look ahead to another year of developing more resilient, sustainable and viable buildings.

1. Enhance biodiversity to mitigate climate impacts:

Investigate the application of green infrastructure to help mitigate climate change effects in urban areas. Used well, green and blue infrastructure can promote cooling, drainage and mental well-being.” Helen Newman, Technical Partner

2. Redefine building performance:

“Expand the definition of building performance to include user experience, well-being and sustainability objectives together, to create a more realistic commercial objective.” Austen Bates, Associate

3. Review building services for climate resilience

“Future-proof mechanical and electrical (M+E) systems must be assessed against operational conditions and future climate risks to ensure resilience in a changing world.” Marc Hill, Partner

4. Measure and improve well-being and comfort

Assets which deliver the greatest well-being and customer experience of occupants will be commercially resilient – at a time of instant social feedback and flexible tenancies, it’s never been easier for occupants to be the voice of reason!” Giulia Mori, Senior Energy & Sustainability Consultant

5. Embrace a circular approach to materials and carbon

“Interrogate your supply chain to introduce circular materials and methods. It’s complex but crucial work to change the consumption model of building resources.” Natalia Ford, Senior Sustainability Consultant

Despite the uncertainty of the path ahead, if these five approaches get a front row seat at the decision-making table, we can only look forward to what’s around the corner.

To hear more about the topics covered from our CPD session or to hear about TFT events for 2020, get in touch with Jacky Bell at

‘Tis the season to give back

At TFT our communities are close to our hearts – this year we’ve been supporting and contributing to 14 local charities across our offices and, nationally, have continued our work for LandAid to help raise awareness and funds to put an end to youth homelessness. This Christmas, as before, we’ve donated to its yearly Christmas Card Alternative instead of buying and sending out Christmas cards.

But there’s always more we can do.

As the evenings close in and the temperatures drop, everybody can help those sleeping rough in some of the toughest conditions of the year. Over the years attending LandAid events, including the annual sleepouts, we’ve gathered three top tips on helping people who may be struggling on the streets:

  1. Check for signs of hypothermia (shivering, slurred mumbling, slow breathing, confusion, loss of consciousness) and call 999 if you feel they are in need of medical attention.
  2. Offer to buy them a hot drink/food.
  3. Report their location to StreetLink (you can download their app) so the charity can connect them to local support services.

2019 has been a busy LandAid year for TFT and we have thoroughly enjoyed taking part in their numerous fundraisers such as the LandAid 10k, Ambassador Challenge, LandAid Day, Steptober, Proptoberfest South West Tag Rugby Tournament and the Christmas Card Alternative, not to mention the 2020 SleepOut Series of which we are sponsoring the Bristol SleepOut on Feb 13 (secure your space here!)

We are proud to continue our involvement offering pro bono advice to LandAid’s national projects, most recently East St Mews, Bristol and Impact Hub, London.

We look forward to a prosperous 2020 working alongside all our partner charities to help them reach their goals and maximise the well-being of those they support.

Asset Extinction vs Adaptation: TFT’s annual CPD session

This year, TFT’s annual CPD session will demonstrate how surveyors, asset managers and investment managers can meet the sustainability challenges of their buildings. We’re inviting you to join us.

Beyond Brexit, economic cycles and political upheaval, climate change and resource scarcity are exerting major pressure on today’s property industry. Accordingly, 23 of the UK’s leading property owners (responsible for a combined £300bn of assets under management), have agreed to deliver net-zero-carbon portfolios by 2050. Their pathways for action will be published in 2020.

But how do we meet these goals? By integrating sustainable asset management practices with day-to-day operation.

In a 1.5 hour CPD session, TFT specialists will combine technical knowledge and commercial perspectives with the latest sustainability practice and principles. We will demonstrate how surveyors, asset managers and investment managers can all contribute to the sustainable performance of the buildings they work on.

Topics to be covered on the day include:

  • The climate and biodiversity emergency: Helen Newman, Technical Partner
  • Redefining building performance: Austen Bates, Associate
  • Building services: maintaining performance and coping with climate change: Marc Hill, Partner (M+E)
  • Wellbeing performance for asset resilience: Giulia Mori, Senior Energy & Sustainability Consultant
  • Circular buildings: Natalia Ford, Senior Sustainability Consultant

The session takes place on the morning of December 5th, in central London.

Are you interested in exploring methods of meeting the sustainability challenges of your buildings and portfolios?

To join us, contact Jacky Bell at

TFT provides Daylight and Sunlight advice for Osiers Road

We provided independent daylight and sunlight advice to the Greater London Authority, for the Osiers Road development in Wandsworth.

Photo Credit: Rolfe Judd Architecture

The scheme is a new mixed-use development in the Wandsworth Riverside area, made up of buildings between 8 and 14 storeys forming 168 residential units of affordable housing. Alongside the residential units, Osiers Road features green public space, a children’s play area and nearly 4,000 sq m of new commercial space too.

TFT’s independent daylight and sunlight and rights of light advice covers all property types in all kinds of settings. To find out more, get in touch with Chris Harris to discuss your challenges and see how we can help.