Maintenance Strategy can be extremely influential to the sustainability and expenditure to a given building. It is recommended that all building owners and occupiers, if not having already done so, adopt a maintenance policy that relies on preventive rather than corrective maintenance excluding “run to failure” components and routine (daily) unplanned maintenance. Such a policy aims to satisfy various statutory instruments as well as the terms of tenure and provides to keep costs down to an absolute minimum while providing a framework with which the operations and maintenance of a building are ascertained. Such a policy can therefore be seen as a major business objective to the owner/occupier since their financial interests are at stake. The more “sustainable” aspect of a maintenance policy includes its environmental requirements i.e. waste disposal, material acquisition, local environmental policy and energy management. This article aims to help inform policy with respect to the maintenance of buildings in general, it could be seen as best practice (although not comprehensive) guidance for the owner / occupier of a property and should help resolve and clarify repair obligations while aiding any corporate social responsibility or sustainability issues associated with building maintenance.
How do we actually maintain a building?
The underlying principle in sustainable maintenance is to repair that which defected rather than to replace it, the philosophy underpinning such methodology implies that there is no subsequent carbon footprint and as little embodied energy in manufacture as possible. The first thing for an inexperienced building owner / occupier to consider is using a building surveyor . Such a surveyor can use experience to spot and analyse defects ensuring that serious defects are prioritised and that compatible repair is undertaken earlier rather than later. While inspections should be frequent, it really depends on the area of the building.
- Roof inspections could take place every five years
- Structure and fabric of the building may not necessarily need to be inspected for 10-15 years; however, where poor workmanship has resulted in the accelerated degradation of building fabric it could be advised that more frequent inspections take place, particularly on large public buildings where such failures could cause injury and manifest themselves as a health and safety threat.
- It is advised to the occupier of a building that small, regular maintenance is a preferential option as to avoid larger failure and dereliction, to this end the importance of cleaning out gutters once in the spring and once before winter cannot be underestimated and if not, at least annually. Defective guttering surrounds a maze of issues surrounding damp and component failure due to persistent damp conditions.
- All rainwater goods should be inspected and maintained annually: defective rainwater pipes leading to penetrating damp and blocked drains and gullies leading to subsidence.
- Damp proof courses are further areas where damp can accumulate due to bridging by earth or debris – 150 mm should be the space between the DPC and the ground level.
- Bad plumbing and service installation is yet another prime cause of unwanted water within buildings, a particular point within such inspection is to ensure there are no leaks in the water and heating systems and to check pipes are lagged to avoid bursts in winter.
- All main electrical and gas installations should be checked by a qualified professional with the interval between inspections dependent upon the size and use of such plant.
- Dripping taps waste an estimated 5,500 litres of water a year and when considering any maintenance strategy their repair should actioned as soon as possible.
- Airflow through the building particularly underneath timber floors is important to avoid damp conditions causing rot.
- Repaint decision time of wood and metal components must be made far enough in advance to ensure the preservation of the fabric of the building – every 3-5 years being a nominal figure.
- Unkept vegetation can cause massive structural damage if left unattended, ivy should not be climbing a building in any case and as a general rule of thumb trees be at least as far away from the building as their trunk length.
By bearing such factors in mind the life of a building can be greatly increased and thus its carbon footprint reduced, it should also help to reduce and identify costly and contentious building repairs during the acquisition or disposal.