News

Back to the workplace: The first step to safe building use

While every business disrupted by COVID-19 will be making plans to return to full operation, a return to workplaces will be tricky for SMEs or large businesses without dedicated health and safety risk management support.

Analysing a building’s layout, physical contact points, HVAC systems and more besides for potential hazards in-use can be a complex process. Government guidance states that all employers must have a full risk assessment for their business which addresses the risks of COVID-19.

This requirement is not just for offices and includes construction sites, shops or retail branches, warehouses, leisure and hospitality settings too.

Following recent risk assessments of our clients’ workplaces and of course all TFT offices, we have developed a comprehensive process for measuring and responding to risk.

Our goal is to help employees, clients and visitors feel at ease when returning to these buildings.

Photo by TASK

The process takes one to two days.

In that time, our assessments begin by discussing how the client has used the space in the past and wants to use the space in the future – to determine norms and expectations for the workforce. Then, after a physical site inspection, we will produce a full report identifying hazards, establishes who might be harmed, evaluates the risks, records the findings and provides an action plan.

It is also possible to prepare a COVID-19 risk assessment in-house.

If you are planning to take this approach, have a look at the re-opening guidelines produced by RICS, which includes steps and a helpful building checklist to follow.

The Health and Safety Executive also has detailed advice, in plain English, which explains what you need to be thinking about. Read it here.

If you have any questions while you are going through this process, or would like formal advice from one of our Chartered Health and Safety practitioners, please get in touch with Shoaib Shaikh.

How can WELL v2 inform your wellbeing strategy?

The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) the body responsible for the WELL™ Building Standard (WELL™), has released interim guidance to prepare buildings, communities and organisations to support health and wellbeing in the workplace, in the midst of COVID-19. The advice is useful for organisations and building owners preparing to receive greater numbers back to workplaces following the latest official advice.

Though it draws on the existing WELL™ version 2, this guidance does not provide a new badge or certification. It is still very useful for understanding the most relevant WELL™ version 2 requirements in prevention and preparedness, resilience and recovery from the current pandemic. The guidelines touch on different aspects of the built environment including cleanliness, air and water quality, organisational resilience, mental health and comfort.

Following the interim guidance is the August launch of IWBI’s full Guidelines for Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery and the graduated WELL™ v2 Standard.

In June IWBI will also launch the WELL™ Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management, which applies to a range of other facility types and market sectors including: offices, hotels, retail, grocery stores, warehouses, manufacturing, theatres, recreation, restaurants and schools.

Our team at TFT include WELL™ Accredited Professional and we are part of the recently instituted IWBI Task Force on COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Infections. We draw upon our wellbeing expertise to help organisations occupying buildings, and building owners themselves, to understand which WELL™ strategies are most appropriate for their buildings and users to maximise opportunities to enhance wellbeing.

Get in touch to find out how we can support you and your company on your workplace wellbeing journey, at: tftsustainability@tftconsultants.com and stay tuned for more news over the summer months.

You can read the interim guidance document here.

Back to the workplace: safer heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems

To support workers who must return to offices and other workplaces while also mitigating COVID-19 spread, building owners, managers and occupiers must assess their spaces and HVAC systems with new challenges in mind. How prepared are buildings to limit the transfer of the COVID-19 virus in working environments?

Building HVAC systems are a key part of the solution for both occupied and partially-occupied buildings.

Where buildings remain vacant, please take a look at our article on managing buildings with reduced usage.

REHVA (the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations) has released a guidance document on practical measures that can be applied to HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air-Conditioning systems). This is intended to work alongside and support the government’s social distancing requirements and advice from NHS England and the World Health Organisation. The recommendations are applicable to support those employees which must travel to work, to limit the risk of infection spread between building users.

First and foremost, despite usual instincts, managers must not simply switch off plant and equipment to save energy during times of reduced usage. Anything we can do to minimise the transfer of infections in the current outbreak is a higher priority than potential energy savings (which would be minimal during the current Spring season in any case).

Research from previous epidemics shows us how viruses similar to COVID-19 can be transferred in small droplets which can in turn be caught in the air movements of ventilation systems. So, supplying as much fresh air as possible and exhausting air to atmosphere can help to remove contaminated particulates from office spaces, before they are inhaled or land on and infect surfaces.

We have outlined 12 practical measures to help prepare building services, per REHVA guidance:

1. Secure ventilation of spaces with outdoor air

Supply air should be provided from outside air wherever possible. If this is not possible, it is recommended that you consider not using these areas.

2. Switch ventilation systems to nominal speed at least 2 hours before the building usage time and switch to lower speed 2 hours after the building usage time

It is not always possible to alter speed dependant on the age of the building. Where it is not possible to change the fan speed, we recommend running at nominal speed 24/7.

3. At nights and weekends, do not switch ventilation off

Keep systems running at lower speed – May not be able to reduce speed, recommend running at full speed where this is not possible.

4. Ensure regular airing with windows (even in mechanically ventilated buildings)

Where buildings have opening windows, it is recommended that these are opened as much as possible, even if this causes some discomfort. (Note: toilets and W/C’s should always have their windows shut).

5. Keep toilet ventilation in operation 24/7

This is to create negative pressure within the toilet areas, as these areas are considered to be of higher risk. (small areas, lots of contact areas, more likely to be sneezing, toilet flushes spread particles as well). COVID-19 has been sampled within stool samples in some studies.

In this higher risk area, avoid open windows to ensure the right direction of ventilation. Building occupants should flush toilets with closed lid to further limit the amount of droplets released into the air.

6. Switch air handling units with re-circulation to 100% outdoor air

Re-circulating air may allow airborne viruses to re-enter the building. The filter media within these systems are generally not able to capture airborne particles with sufficient efficiency.

7. Inspect heat recovery equipment for leakages

This is generally to do with thermal wheels and actuators, which may not “seal” as well as they should, due to wear and tear, or faults. Any leakage may recirculate airborne virus particles as above.

8. Switch fan coils off or operate so that fans are continuously on

This is to avoid spreading the virus around internally, or where necessary keep them running to avoid the virus contaminating the fan coil unit filters and chassis.

9. Do not change heating, cooling and possible humidification set points

There is no evidence that a change in temperature or humidity will impact the proliferation or destruction of the virus. It is noted that relative humidity of 30% or less can increase the likelihood of spreading viral infections.

10. Do not plan duct cleaning for this period

Ductwork cleaning has no theoretical or proven effect on reducing the spread of the virus and could expose the workers to potential infections.

11. Replace central outdoor air and extract air filters according to your maintenance schedule

Please note: the size of the droplets typically expected are unlikely to be caught in conventional filter media installed in an office environment. The types of filters required are generally specialist, for pharmaceutical/laboratory/operating theatres.

12. Regular filter replacement and maintenance works shall be performed with common protective measures including respiratory protection

There’s no evidence that the virus is likely to be completely removed from incoming air by filtration, but it may get caught within the filter media, creating a contamination risk. In addition, filters should be “double bagged” once removed.

Read full CIBSE and REHVA guidance on HVAC systems here: CIBSE guidance, REHVA guidance.

Our highly-experienced building services experts can provide commercial advice in relation to the requirements above 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

How can construction projects achieve circular economy ambitions?

TFT has supported UKGBC's circular economy guidance since it launched in 2018

One of the greatest opportunities about the circular economy is also its greatest challenge: success will deliver, and relies on, systemic change. In the context of sustainable construction that means investors, contractors, consultants and construction supply chains must work together and follow the same strategies to do things differently.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) issued its latest guidance on putting circular economy principles into practice. It highlighted that, of 50,000 buildings demolished every year, much of the 90% of waste which is recovered is then recycled into less valuable products or materials, as opposed to being reused. This leaves a huge environmental and financial opportunity for our industry to resolve.

The circular economy brings clear benefits to construction, including:

  • Reduced embodied carbon
  • Reduced landfill costs
  • Help to secure planning permission more easily
  • Reduced depletion of natural resources

TFT has supported UKGBC Circular Economy guidance from its conception in 2018. We do so because we believe it is becoming the most important tool for our industry to act on replacing material waste and carbon emissions with circular principles through our day-to-day work.

The latest stage of its guidance focusses on three changes of mindset and practice. Together, they will drive us closer to a circular process which results in a better environmental impact and lower project costs too.

1. Use the circular economy to inform building design (not the other way around)

Some investors and developers – those initiating the build or works in question – are more aware of circular economy principles than others, but invariably the steps they take to achieve them must come sooner.

Material inventories and assessment tends to be part of the design process, which results in a diminished scope for designing a building for circularity, so the advantages of the process are already proportionally reduced. These steps need to begin as early as RIBA Stage 0-1.

Our circular economy consultancy typically kicks in before this stage. At this point, we can advise on setting ambitions for the work then organising and communicating the process so that design teams can understand what existing materials we are working with, and coming up with the best design to suit their re-use.

2. Procure products as a service (PaaS) to improve installation, maintenance and replacement

As well as reuse, the UKGBC has released guidance on embracing products as a service (PaaS). The principle is to create a feedback loop which engages suppliers of building products such as lighting fixtures, steel tubing or flooring on a contract basis. This way, products are installed, maintained and decommissioned for refurbishment by the supplier, as opposed to being bought, used and discarded or recycled by different parties through the building or product lifecycle.

UKGBC describes lighting as a service (LaaS) to illustrate and encourage the demand for servicing over purchasing. The model results in greater efficiencies, longer product lifetime and specialist refurbishment and reuse or, as a last resort, recycling.

This How-to Guide takes project teams which are working on projects that are replacing lighting, through the process and project teams’ roles and responsibilities for applying LaaS. This guide provides an understanding of what information is required, who to involve and at which point in the programme.

A huge advantage we see for this approach is in re-evaluating the way maintenance contracts are procured. A closed loop approach owned by the manufacturer lends itself to better-performing fittings and a fully accountable maintenance regime by the product experts.

Furthermore PaaS can help support dilapidations-free leases and more flexible models of tenancy. If components are created and installed with ease of removal, dismantling and re-use in mind, that could be one less hurdle for tenants and landlords to negotiate at the end of a lease.  

Illustrating how the circular economy applies to product procurement, maintenance and replacement. From the UKGBC Circular Economy How-to Guide

3. Share circular economy responsibility across the whole design and construction team

Though the impetus will come from the client at the outset of a project, responsibility for meeting a circular ambition rests with the client’s entire delivery team. Over the course of the works, everyone from procurement, project management, main contractor, demolition contractor, design team, facilities management and inventory auditor will play a vital role and have responsibilities in progressing circular outcomes.

In our Development and Project Consultancy roles, TFT helps to orient project teams toward greater material reuse and waste reduction, using resources such as the UKGBC guidance. Doing so effectively means early involvement, as we suggest in point 1!

Further reading: UKGBC innovation insights

You can find out more about the UKGBC’s Circular Economy work, including the above points, here. In our support of the programme we have also been involved with two further pieces of guidance relating to how apply circular principles to construction works.

You can find out about those, here and here.

Sustainable building services: 3 steps for building owners and managers

This post is adapted from an article written by Mat Lown, TFT Partner and Head of Sustainability, for the CIBSE blog. Mat spoke at CIBSE’s Build2Perform event about how building surveyors and engineers could deliver sustainable and resilient buildings by working with landlords and tenants to adopt a customer experience focus.

Sustainable building is often understood in material terms – from use in construction to energy efficiency in operation. But better management of building services can contribute significantly to a building’s resilience to future climate change as well as evolving requirements of occupiers.

How can building owners create more resilient assets?

There are three ways that property managers and facilities managers can overcome unsustainable practices. Standard practice currently splits responsibility and organises maintenance in silos, resulting in a disconnection between the work of surveyors, engineers, facility and property managers. Each of these points helps to overcome this barrier to building resilience and sustainable performance.

1. Use contracts and procurement to set sustainable building priorities

As with many procedures in the building industry, contract content, structure and mobilisation is critical. Current procurement practices tend to favour the lowest bidder that often under-prices the maintenance element, while maintenance contracts and contractor performance is monitored against statutory compliance alone.

This is a short-term approach for a building which could be in use for decades, subject to a great deal of change in that period. It also does not reflect increasing market demands in relation to building performance, sustainability and user experience.

Instead, a closer and more consultative relationship with contractors can result in a better long-term strategy and delivery of more sustainable and economical outcomes. To make this work, the building owner must be clear about specifying the right maintenance and performance measures at the outset, while also engaging with the contractors’ own expertise early on to assess overall viability.

By better understanding the condition of building plant and equipment, one can determine what repairs and maintenance are required to ensure optimal performance and a long service life. Then independent verification can ensure that maintenance is undertaken and that occupiers feel they are receiving value for money.

Understanding of system design and settings is essential to ensure that the building is operating as designed thanks to its maintenance regime. 

2. Combine surveying and engineering skills for sustainable building maintenance

Surveying and engineering roles don’t always overlap, but they should work in tandem. Join up the process to mitigate wastage of equipment and time for access, and to anticipate potential problems and save money on future repair or replacement works.

For instance, if an engineer is commissioned to replace equipment on the roof, allow a surveyor to access and inspect the entire roof area and recommend simultaneous works or identify developing issues.

Even if there are no additional works resulting, surveyors and engineers can be useful consultants for a building manager. While their language and viewpoints are different, surveyors’ understanding of service charges, leases and landlord obligations can put the engineers’ deep technical expertise into context and help owners prioritise and plan for more effective maintenance.

3. Maintain sustainable building services for user experience and occupier needs

Prospective occupants now view building performance not simply in terms of energy badges and due diligence reports. Instead, they consider how spaces will function for the comfort and performance of their users, the people within it. That functionality might change as occupiers spend time in a space and adapt it to their needs, so the role of maintenance becomes crucial to adapt and optimise performance of services rather than only to keep them functioning.

That requires regular and quality dialogue between those using the building and those maintaining and managing it. Surveys and measurement tools can provide metrics, while qualitative feedback by occupiers’ employees for instance can contextualise the experiences of individuals against what they use the space for, and how that might change.

Questioning assumptions of value and supersession amid market disruption

In the latest of our articles tackling pressing commercial property issues amid COVID-19 disruption, we suggest that now is a good time to re-assess your property valuation assumptions.

What will the commercial property market going to look like in a few weeks’ or months’ time? We don’t know for sure but we can refer back to 2008 for similar shock when the financial crash hit. At that time, tenants whose leases were coming to an end were mostly comfortable in the knowledge that their landlords were due to redevelop or refurbish the premises. This would largely eliminate their dilapidations liability. When the crash happened, those sensible assumptions became wrong assumptions.

We might well be in a similar situation now. We don’t want to paint a negative picture of the immediate future, and we hope that commercial property remains a strong investment. But, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Planning for the worst might well mean that tenants should now be reconsidering those assumptions about their landlords’ redevelopment plans and perhaps should be updating their strategy.

Perhaps tenants should budget for a greater liability, now assuming that their landlord might well want the premises returned reinstated, repaired and decorated, so that the property is available immediately for new tenants to occupy. 

If tenants’ premises are vacant due to home working, or if home working policies now mean that premises can be made available for contractors to complete dilapidations works then perhaps that should be considered again by tenants nearing the end of their tenancies (if construction work is permissible during COVID-19 restrictions of course).

We aren’t valuers but we wonder whether future valuations back-dated to a period shortly before COVID-19 restrictions were in place would take account of the then-future restrictions. From what we know of valuation assumptions, we doubt that COVID-19 would be taken into account, which might well be a blessing for tenants who are wanting to demonstrate that, on the valuation date (the lease end date) the landlord or the market would or should have intended to refurbish or redevelop.

Current circumstances may, unfortunately, lead to disputes about these sorts of issues. Supersession and valuation matters are complicated and expensive to argue at the best of times, so we hope all parties in this situation are able to come to an amicable solution.

For those who need guidance and support in working through these matters, please contact either Jon Rowling or Neil Gilbert to discuss how we can help.

Alternative arrangements for conditional break options

COVID-19 has implications for a few areas of the landlord-tenant relationship, which we’ll explore over the next articles. For the first, we ask: where do site closures leave tenants who have to carry out construction works in order to satisfy a conditional break option?

It is not uncommon for tenants to have to provide ‘vacant possession’, to comply materially with all obligations or to complete other specified works; either by the purported break date or (sometimes) when the break notice is served on the landlord.

In circumstances where construction activities are restricted by covid-19, where does this leave a tenant who is now unable to carry out that construction work?

It is worth checking whether the construction activity really is restricted. For example, the tenant might be an NHS entity and complying with the break might save the NHS significant funds; does that make it ‘essential’ work? At the time of writing, UK government guidance appears to be that construction activities can continue so long as social distancing is maintained, whereas the Scottish government has indicated that all construction activities should cease. Some contractors have unilaterally taken the decision to pause work (the contractual implications of which is another matter).

Uncertainty abounds.

Where these break option cases have made it as far as court, judges have been very rigid in their requirement that a tenant has to comply with its obligations precisely. That doesn’t bode well for tenants who find they are unable to comply with their obligations.

The usual approach for tenants has been, prior to starting their construction works, to engage with their landlords to try to negotiate an exit from the premises without having to comply with the break option conditions. It is generally accepted that the landlord has the upper hand in these negotiations; presumably if a landlord knows that a tenant has no opportunity now to comply with its break option conditions, the landlord’s negotiating position improves substantially.

All things being equal one has to expect that landlords will not be keen on their tenants moving out just when rents are not being paid, when the future market might be weaker and when tenants are perhaps less likely to want to renew. 

Maybe there is an opportunity for landlord and tenants to be collaborative; if complying with the break option conditions isn’t possible it might be possible to agree a different way round things – maybe joint marketing of the space until such time as a suitable new tenant appears, at which point the departing tenant is allowed to surrender the lease.

Whatever happens, the implications of COVID-19 will have changed the landscape for many considering exercising break options.

We offer advice to help parties involved in this or similar situations come to an amicable solution, even in the midst of disruption.

Contact either Jon Rowling or Neil Gilbert to discuss how we can advise you.

Welcome to TFT: Louis Maycock

When Louis Maycock joined TFT as Senior Party Wall Surveyor in March, he wasn’t expecting to still not have set foot in an office by April. But, this is on-boarding in the time of social distance. We caught up with Louis a few weeks in to hear about his role in TFT’s Neighbourly Matters team and how remote working affects his day job.

Welcome to TFT Louis! Tell us about your role and what brings you here:

Hi – it’s great to be here, even if ‘here’ is just my kitchen table for now! I joined in late March and my role is a Senior Party Wall Surveyor.

I’ll be based in the London office, though working with all our different regional offices and clients across the country. Party Wall sits within TFT’s Neighbourly Matters team, alongside our Rights of Light and Daylight & Sunlight specialists. It’s great to be part of a much larger and multi-disciplinary firm as my background includes over 10 years of specialist consultancy. I’m very excited to expand our Party Wall offering, to plug in to all the great work going on across TFT’s services.

How have you found settling in to work away from the office?

So far, so good. This would have been my first ‘commuter job’ coming in from Hertfordshire, so was expecting some time to get to grips with that. But so far my commute from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen table is proving quite relaxed.

The biggest challenge was getting to grips with new systems etc. Luckily, I got plenty of induction to set me straight. It’s generally been really easy to settle in with the team itself. I’m a people person and I was hoping to find a firm with some soul which shares my values, and TFT has definitely fulfilled that so far. It feels more like joining a family.

Thanks to the technology in place it’s also easy to connect with everyone I need to speak to throughout the day, and they’ve been so supportive – even apologising that we can’t meet face to face. All in good time!

What’s filling your time in these first few weeks?

I’m getting stuck right in to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of my role: client liaison, service of notices, preparing and agreeing awards, undertaking schedules of condition, attributing and contributing to design team meetings, repairing reports, preparing and agreeing scaffold and crane oversail licences. Generally being the go-to man for everything relating to party walls.

Just a few things then! How much of your day job is impacted by social isolation?

Every job is different, but I usually advise a site visit to undertake a schedule of condition (recording the condition of the adjoining owner’s property) and to identify how the building owner’s proposals will affect the adjoining property. Often these are done first, but given the impacts of current travel and social distancing restrictions, I can progress the bulk of party wall work remotely and then conduct schedules once we’re able to start travelling again.

I’m also planning a CPD session – for clients, industry friends and the wider TFT team, held over Microsoft Teams naturally! I’m looking forward to developing this service line a lot more – the first step is getting our surveyors and partner firms up to speed with the latest party wall matters. Then I can start working together with our teams to help our clients better navigate them.

Sounds like you’re a busy man, Louis. We’d better let you get back to it!

If you’re in need of support for your party wall matters, get in touch with Louis at lmaycock@tftconsultants.com, and find out more about our services here.

Two-stage TDD: progress property transactions amid disruption

There is a lot of discussion about the impacts of COVID-19 which we’ll feel in our daily lives even after the immediate disruption is resolved. We’ve adapted our ways of working and daily habits to embrace a ‘new normal’, and to help mitigate disruption for our clients. One of these initiatives is a new approach to technical due diligence (TDD) commercial property surveys.

We believe two-stage TDD not only makes the best use of remote working capabilities today, but also provides greater efficiency to progress sales and acquisitions of built assets in times of future disruption.

Site visits and inspections, which are a key part of TDD work, are now subject to significant restrictions and are not able to proceed without being risk assessed. Where the risks are manageable, and where we can inspect in accordance with current government guidance, these inspections can go ahead. 

However, a different process is needed for sites where access restrictions apply and we are unable to prevent COVID-19 exposure risks for our teams and on-site contacts. We’ve found that surveyors can undertake significant remote work to progress transactions, using the sheer wealth of building knowledge available to us as commercial building surveyors today. This requires a different reporting structure than some clients may be used to, but it will ultimately make for a more efficient process at any time. 

We have trialled and seen success with a two-stage TDD solution led by a primary desk study, applicable to pre-acquisition and vendor’s surveys. The second stage is an on-site inspection which is closely informed by the desk work to make the best use of time and resources.

A key advantage of this approach is mitigating the risk of time lags should the follow-up process to investigate issues in the building delay the issuing of a report. Building document research and further specialist inspections can add time to the transaction. Those risks are greater at a time of COVD-19 travel restrictions but are also applicable in business as usual circumstances.

In stage one, a commercial building surveyor and building services engineer (as relevant) review the technical documents including statutory consents, as-built drawings, specifications, construction contracts, warranties/TPRs, O&M/H&S files, maintenance records and other relevant items. While there are limitations to some documents, particularly for older buildings, this process is supplemented by interviews with property managers, facility managers and maintenance teams to raise queries relating to property condition and maintenance.

The outcome, a desk study report, would flag notable investment, health and safety, and continuity risks from the available documents and interviews. Further input from our cost consultants would explain the cost/value of known issues such as combustible cladding, or where is it obvious that major refurbishment/plant replacement is necessary.

Coordination with environmental consultants remains an essential aspect of this work, and successful environmental desk studies and flood risk assessments can also be produced with remote working arrangements. However, site-specific requirements may need local authority input such as from the contamination and petroleum officers.

This adjusted model for TDD reporting will help our clients progress with investments and disposals, but we advise that a site survey should follow in any case to establish the condition of the property and identify defects that would not necessarily be captured by existing documentation. This will be achievable once the UK Government lifts travel restrictions and should be a more efficient process as a result of the prior investigation work.

Meanwhile, clients might be able to address the risk with a condition precedent in the sale agreement, such that there are no other notable risk (perhaps defined by a cost threshold and absence of life safety issues) identified in the final Stage Two report. Retentions might also be used (say for the cost of recladding) but a deal commitment prior to a site survey would be high risk and should only be considered on the advice of a solicitor.

When travel restrictions are lifted, conducting TDD surveys in this way has the merit of informing a full-team presence at site visits, directing time spent on key areas and running a more efficient inspection process in terms of man days on site. This would also identify the need for specialist input/laboratory analysis for things like deleterious materials in advance.

We always consider the needs of building surveys on a case by case basis, so talk with us to discuss how we can help you progress your property transactions. To hear more about this, get in touch with:

David Mann

Chris Gibbons

Protecting M&E building 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