27 May, 2020

Many operational properties closed at short notice when lockdown was announced, leaving little time for a systematic or orderly shutdown. With the gradual easing of restrictions in the UK now is the time to plan for reopening. It’s a process that starts with assessing the condition of your buildings and their many systems to see what has changed since the day everyone left for home. Beyond that, there are technical, operational, and practical considerations that need to be addressed in order to bring buildings back into full operational use - and make them ready for trading to resume.

Starting now will mean the pathway back to work will be as efficient as possible and put you in a good position, well prepared, when the government gives the green light.

I can just turn everything back on, can’t I?

Often systems were shut down quickly, without fully considering the consequences, so that equipment could have been damaged accidentally. At the same time, the absence of maintenance while buildings have been empty could mean systems won’t re-start, or their operation may be impaired. Older equipment will be a particular problem because replacement parts may be scarce or hard to resource. Early inspection and diagnosis will allow the time needed to bring everything back on line. Consideration should also be given to re-starting systems well ahead of time to identify whether repairs or reactive maintenance are required.

Ventilation systems in particular will probably need to be reviewed in the light of current advice about Covid-19. Systems using re-circulated air or certain types of heat exchangers may have to be adapted or replaced with more appropriate equipment to improve indoor air quality.

What are my statutory obligations?

Some of the statutory certificates for your property may have expired or renewal dates been missed. Even in periods when buildings are closed, or business has been suspended owners continue to have a duty to maintain compliance. Now is the time to review the status of certification and arrange re-inspections and testing to address any gaps. A typical compliance audit should include the following, although what is needed will vary between building types, so this shouldn’t be considered as an exhaustive list - 

  • Water system hygiene under L8 requirements
  • F Gas compliance
  • Electrical safety checks
  • Fire detection and life safety systems
  • Gas Safe Testing
  • Pressure system safety regulations
  • LOLER compliance for passenger lifts

How can I reduce my expenditure?

Most building fabric is relatively durable and while the lockdown may feel a long time to us it’s a small fraction of a building’s useful life. After checking for any urgent repairs that might have become apparent, it’s time to reconsider your mid-term maintenance strategy. Money will be tight so it’s time to prioritise and defer what can be left till later. Push larger planned projects out further so funds can be directed to more urgent matters. As a minimum make sure the property is wind and watertight before re-occupation, so no minor disrepair, like a roof leak, allows more significant damage to occur.

 Check -

  • Visible sign of external damaged caused by weather, vandalism, blocked gutters and the like
  • Have temporary security measures caused damage to the property? Hoardings, shutters for example
  • Have grounds, landscaping, gardens deteriorated and require attention?
  • Is there any evidence of vermin infestation? Have service contracts been cancelled or paused?

What should I do first?

Some restrictions are likely to remain in place for a time so working conditions will be constrained.

  • Make sure you have the necessary supplies, materials and access to the FM skills you’ll need to bring your building back up to speed, and, to make the necessary adjustments to meet new operating procedures.
  • There are material shortages already from interruptions in manufacturing and there will be a surge in demand when restrictions are eased, so ordering materials and supplies as soon as possible is advisable.
  • Start making adjustments now, keep essential supplies on site, work with your FM team and contractors to plan now for the work needed to re-open.
  • More staff and customers are likely to run or cycle to avoid public transport. Can shower and changing be provided or the current provision increased? That might bring additional management needs with it.
  • Increased travel by car is likely in the short term. Are there ways to provide or temporarily increasing parking provision?

How should I adapt to a new way of operating?

You should budget for enhanced cleaning, hand sanitizer, Personal Protective Equipment, screening services and increased communications. Space reconfiguration and changes to furniture, fixtures, and technology will all need to be part of your post-COVID-19 offering.

Pre-Covid procurement routes may no longer be appropriate or effective. Just-in-it time delivery of supplies and materials is likely to be less reliable, so bring forward orders where possible and find storage on site for stockpiling essential supplies.