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Taking a whole-life approach to asset management

It’s been well documented that a whole life asset management approach to a building’s maintenance and management can build value, reduce liabilities, and reduce costs. What initiatives and innovations can the built environment take to support a more strategic approach to asset management and promote a whole-life cost approach to property strategies and investment decisions?


A whole-life approach to asset management has many well-documented benefits, yet implementing this approach requires a shift in thinking towards a data-centred future.

Asset management has traditionally been difficult to contextualise within the built environment. However, when utilised effectively, it can provide the foundation for a building’s life and guide critical activities, including maintenance, asset replacement, and refurbishment.

Recently asset management has found greater influence as organisations accelerate their journey towards achieving net zero targets. Here, a whole-life approach has never been more important. Calculating how and when to decarbonise buildings is a critical investment decision and having in-depth knowledge of your assets is vital to do this effectively, allowing you to understand when to retrofit or which part of your estate to prioritise. Making the right decisions at the right time can transform the future of a building and maximise the return on investment; leave it too late and both risks and costs begin to multiply.

There are several initiatives that we have been using to promote a more strategic approach to asset management and support our customers on their net zero journeys. This process has involved helping customers develop an asset management programme from the ground up and advancing planning for building decarbonisation.

The first step in this process is to gain access to data. While it may not seem innovative initially, having the ability to collect, store and maintain a rich asset data set is a challenge that we’ve seen with many of our customers, especially for those that do not have a comprehensive BIM model to draw on. Once collected, asset data forms the foundation of the asset management programme and can be used to positively influence maintenance programmes, plan future capex spend and identify assets for decarbonisation.

The next step is to exploit data to your advantage. Traditionally, building data can be quite siloed, making it difficult to analyse and form a quantitative picture of a building’s condition, operational costs, and performance. However, our approach is making it easier than ever before to layer various data sources and inform actionable insight. Where asset registers and lifecycle reports were once isolated data sets, we can now layer on top increasing levels of detail regarding asset performance, operational effectiveness and maintenance costs, to build a deeper and more rich view of immediate priorities.

By utilising these innovative approaches to data, companies can develop a net zero business case for their building, backed up with the numerical facts to justify their proposed investment. Adopting this whole-life approach to asset management is therefore a vital step towards achieving net zero targets, with companies that prioritise this approach placing themselves firmly at the forefront of the decarbonisation transition.


Setting a whole-estate strategy around asset management is the key approach that all organisations should be taking in order to protect their investment and budget-plan effectively for the next 5-10 years.

This has come more to the fore since the pandemic, with so many changes to how facilities are now being used. Whether it’s an office facility where staff are working in a hybrid approach, a university where students are learning through a mix of face-to-face and virtual learning, or catering outlets within a building that have embraced the use of click and collect services; the list goes on.

This should be viewed as an opportunity. An opportunity for organisations to review and take stock of their facilities portfolio (something which may well have needed to be done long before the pandemic), to realign and create a new estates strategy that will work now and into the future.

The strategy should cover the entire estate and detail planned acquisitions, change of use of buildings, and any mothballing of facilities or planned disposals.

The next step is to understand the assets across the facilities and to implement a long term, whole-life approach to managing them, which will enable budgets to be controlled far more effectively. For example, instead of investing in the upgrading of facilities and then later down the line selling assets that are no longer used, this could be done the other way around and any capital from assets sold could go towards upgrading the remaining portfolio. Getting to grips with assets, capital allowance and the lifecycle of upgrading and renewing will essentially mean clients reduce the need to invest ‘new’ budgetary allocations into facilities and rather recycle new from old.

Once the estates strategy is in place, it’s essential that a planned preventative maintenance (PPM) programme, which ensures all of your assets are properly maintained over their lifetime, is in place. A PPM covers assets such as heating ventilation and air conditioning assets, electrical systems and fire safety and security systems. It will record what equipment and assets are installed, the manufacturers details and serial numbers, any service details and provide an indication on the asset’s residual life.

A Forward Maintenance Register (FMR) can then be created. This will capture the remaining service life of each asset or piece of equipment and when maintenance work will be needed, thereby allowing budgetary planning. The FMR would normally span five years and detail the maintenance and capital expenditure required over this period, or it could be developed further into a full lifecycle programme to cover a 10, 15, 20-year period.

About Sarah OBeirne

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