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The role of the buildings management professional

The role of the buildings management professional

Buildings management

 

Buildings management or asset management is a multi faceted problem with many variables, many answers and many viewpoints.

 

 

 

The meaning of managed buildings

The very definition of the word ‘management’ raises questions. What do we mean by ‘management’, and more precisely ‘a managed building’?

The word ‘quality’ by itself means ‘to a standard’. Add a qualifier and the meaning changes: High quality, Low quality etc. Much like ‘quality’, ‘managed’ means nothing without an adverb.

Are your buildings ‘well managed’ or ‘just’ managed? What does that ‘well managed’ actually mean?

  • On the one hand, it means bought and sold at a profit.
  • On another, it means full of happy tenants who are up to date with their rent.
  • It can also mean it has a well thought-through and beautifully executed maintenance plan.

The truth is that a ‘well managed’ building means all of these things. Having a stunning building with no tenants is a badly managed building. A full building that is falling apart also leaves a lot to be desired.

We, at IRT surveys, take the stand that

a ‘well managed’ building is about satisfying all of the criteria efficiently.

The importance of well managed buildings

Why it’s important ought to be obvious, but often clients don’t perceive the value and effort that go in to ensure that “managed” is appropriately qualified as “well managed”.

First and foremost, buildings management is about maintaining the built environment for future generations to enjoy, to live-in and work-in. Next up, must be about deriving value and revenue from those assets for the current owner. Somewhere in-between is the how, why, when of the inevitable maintenance, refurbishment, change of use, mitigating risk and complying with legislation.

With any building, whether it be a office block, shopping centre, airport, school, there are common issues that we can address when it comes to the building fabric itself.

There are three elements that go wrong with buildings: product, design and workmanship. These are universal truths and apply to just about every aspect of a building, from roof to floor, wallpaper to lightbulb.

Buildings management: TLC til the end of the shelf-life

New buildings are built with a shelf-life in mind. For some, it can be as short as 25 years. All that effort in the design, material selection and actual building activity, knowing it won’t last that long, deliberately is clearly a waste. However budgets have to be met, clients have finite resources at their disposal and if the building returns their investment within their desired timeline, so be it. Anything else is a bonus. This short-termism is detrimental to the health of our planet but it is reality.  The good news is that more and more clients are looking for longevity and sustainability. Consequently, buildings that aren’t  designed to last forever need TLC.

Buildings management: Evolving purpose of a building

Much of the built environment in the UK appeared in Victorian & Georgian times. Walk in any major city London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow for example, and take a moment to admire this stunning architecture around you. Turn a corner and you will see 60’s architecture next door to Shards, Gherkins and Walkie-Talkies, or OXO Cube and Armadillo if you are in Glasgow.  Some built to last, others less so. The variety is amazing, complex and presents managers with a smorgasbord of problems and solutions.

This is where the role of the building manager is vital. The manager has to take a Victorian building, built over 100 years ago as a bank, converted into a shop in the 60’s, then flats in the 80’s and now turn it into an open-plan coffee shop with mod cons. It is a difficult task. But it is one that starts with a decent survey of “as built”.

From as-drawn to as-built

The specification when the drawing leaves the architect’s virtual drawing board and hit the quantity surveyor’s desk and subsequently main contractor and sub-contractor changes at every stage to go from architectural vision to the ‘built on time and on budget’ reality. Taking as-drawn to mean as-built is a dangerous road for sure. The two concepts will never match exactly in almost every building in the country.

The manager’s role then is to avoid assumptions, treat every building as blank canvas, start from scratch, gather data then align reality with aspiration.

If you happen to be working for, or with, some of the professional companies like Gleeds, Knight Frank, WYG, Watts and CBRE then the task flows from one department to the next. One team values, buys and sells, another team survey and another does the Facilities Management side of things. Which sounds easy, but really isn’t that simple and specialist skill is under appreciated.  Everyone in that chain cannot be an expert in every aspect of building fabric analysis for example. Each person has their own objective. This approach is mirrored throughout the construction industry. Finger pointing and blame pervade the sector.

No information means no decisions. Indecision slows down the commercial side of life and therefore must be avoided where possible. The clean sheet approach may not be possible in every instance but sometimes the quality and quantity of data at your finger tips are so poor that you have no choice but to take that approach.

Buildings management: Establishing the building condition

A building manager / facility manager / asset manager must use their experience and the right tools to establish the condition of the building before their eyes. Specialist companies, like ourselves, who can survey a building from top to bottom and provide an accurate baseline of performance, track leaks, see delamination, wet insulation, voids, pipework, over heating distribution boards etc and help speed up the process whilst keeping the costs low.

There is also an army of companies out there pushing their own products. Some good, others less so.

Impartial advice ought to be in the forefront of every managers mind. Questions such as: Can I trust this advice? Does it conflict with my own thoughts? Why are they making this recommendation? Do they profit from their advice?

A decent building manager ought to be cynical, diligent, knowledgeable and suspicious! In many ways they need to be Sherlock Holmes but have Bob The Builders “Can we fix it? Yes we can!” attitude.

 

Do you manage old and/or new buildings? Do you want to manage them well and make data-driven decisions? Is this data currently missing from your portfolio? If your answer is ‘YES’ to these three questions, then please do contact us by clicking on the link below.

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