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How building maintenance enhances aspiration and quality of life

The role buildings play in supporting local communities and wider society can often be forgotten when there is so much pressure to cut costs and environmental impact, but maintenance plans should never ignore the “human factor”, says Paul Bullard.

At a recent industry conference, the President of Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) reminded her audience that buildings need more investment for social and economic reasons; not just to meet safety and climate change goals.

As well as being President of the Association that developed the industry’s maintenance standard SFG20, Claire Curran is an experienced building services specialist who understands the link between a well-functioning building and the quality of life of the people who live, work, and play in it.

She told the BESA Annual Conference that the government’s “flip flopping” on net zero and infrastructure policy should not be used as an excuse to delay investment that would “make buildings work better”.

“It makes no difference that the government has got cold feet over its net zero timetable and the cost of vital infrastructure,” she said. “We still have a built environment that is desperate for an upgrade.”

SFG20 was developed by BESA over 30 years ago and is the long-established and respected ‘go to’ standard for planned preventative maintenance in the UK and, increasingly, internationally. It evolved from a series of printed maintenance schedules to become a highly sophisticated, but easy to use, digital tool. It is continually updated to ensure users can maintain their buildings in line with latest technical standards and best practices as well as national legislation.

Complying with SFG20 allows a building manager to remain on the right side of the law while ensuring occupants have the best possible environment to support their daily activities. However, more than that, it makes all this possible at the lowest cost because it allows facilities managers to target precious resources and effort in the right places.

Curran pointed out that “the ‘crumbly concrete’ scandal in schools and hospitals” was proof that the UK’s existing building stock was not being properly maintained and needed urgent attention.

“Vital investment in refurbishment and retrofit has fallen so far behind the curve that many of our built assets are no longer fit for purpose,” she told the Conference, adding that improving the built environment should be a priority, as it was critical to “the hopes and aspirations of this and future generations”.

“The buildings we live and work in are crucial to our well-being and quality of life – and there is nothing more fundamental than that.”

She added that if the government was serious about wanting to help families who are struggling with rising costs, then it should support a major programme of building refurbishment and retrofit to reduce their energy bills. “Whether you think net zero is achievable or not, making buildings better is surely a basic social responsibility,” added Curran.

By complying with SFG20, building maintainers can ensure occupants have a sense of safety and security, which contributes to their mental health and confidence. Also, simple low-cost activities like regular cleaning of ventilation systems to prevent the buildup of harmful substances like mould and dust mites, is important in the battle against rising respiratory problems.

Better buildings make for a healthier living environment that positively impacts the overall health of whole communities, and well-maintained properties increase in value and are a better return on investment They help to attract businesses and investors to an area, which leads to more job opportunities, boosting the community’s financial well-being.

On the other hand, poorly maintained facilities undermine public services, such as education and healthcare, and have a negative impact on overall quality of life.

There is also an aesthetics argument. People often complain about the lack of ‘joy’ created by their local neighbourhoods, while good buildings can create a sense of pride in communities. When people take pride in their surroundings, they are more likely to engage in community activities, fostering social cohesion. Clean and well-maintained spaces also encourage social interactions, community gatherings, and events.

So, building maintenance is not just about fixing things. It is critical for sustainability, it has a direct impact on the environment and helps to educate residents about the importance of conservation, leading to a more environmentally conscious society. It is also important for inclusivity as well-maintained buildings improve accessibility for people with disabilities and the elderly.

However, all these factors mean there is a lot for building owners and managers to consider when putting their maintenance strategies in place. This means it is important they have access to best practice and can use benchmarks to compare their own facilities with comparable buildings and national standards.

SFG20’s comprehensive guidelines ensure that buildings don’t just meet the bare minimum but are robust in terms of safety, longevity, and efficiency. It demonstrates how and why maintenance is often more cost-effective than repair or replacement – and, therefore, can help to foster a built environment that supports wider social, economic and sustainability goals.



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