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The Art of Maintenance

18 December 2008

Planned preventative maintenance plays a vital role at ‘Persistence Works’, the building that houses the
Yorkshire ArtSpace Society, one of the biggest art workshops outside of London, as Peter Rose explains

THE YORKSHIRE ARTSPACE was established in Sheffield in 1977 by a group of artists and craftspeople in order to provide affordable studio space. The Society has been housed in various buildings in Sheffield over the years, but as the arts organisation grew, so did the need for a purposebuilt studio complex to meet the level of demand they were experiencing.

A survey of the needs of the Yorkshire ArtSpace artists, plus a further 30 artists on the waiting list for studios, resulted in a property profile that was very demanding. With the huge variety of processes and materials used by Society members, spaces were needed from 18sq m to 70sq m, their requirements for natural light varied from Northern light to bright sunshine or virtual darkness, and good access and working conditions were rightfully demanded by all. In addition, the Society also needed space for educational activity, as well as an area available to show artwork effectively to the public and an administration base.

In 1996, a site within Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter was identified and secured for the Society by Sheffield City Council. Three years of funding applications for the site followed and by December 1999, the funding was in place - £3.7m from the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England and £1.8m from the European Regional Development Fund and the contract to build Persistence Works was signed.

Persistence Works opened in October 2001 with 100 per cent occupancy, housing 68 artists and craftspeople who work in 51 studio spaces. It also boasts an education and public art space for project activity, a meeting room, a reception and display space and offices for the staff.

Persistence Works is a perfect example of just how vital planned preventative maintenance (PPM) actually can be. Here, artists, painters, jewellers, sculptors, ceramicists, textile artists, silversmiths and furniture makers work tirelessly to create some of the UK’s most stunning designs – many of which are priceless one-offs that, if damaged, are unlikely ever to be replaced. The artists and craftspeople have access to their
studios 24 hours a day, so it is essential that a PPM is in place to keep the building fully functional at all times.

Reduced disruption
A PPM model is so important because as well as reducing emergency response call outs and expensive repair costs for the client, it also aims to prevent disruption to the artists’ work time and damage to work by avoiding disasters in the first place.

The core service Powerminster Gleeson offers as part of its FM contract with Yorkshire ArtSpace, involves engineers attending once a week to carry out routine electrical and mechanical checks, including heating and lighting maintenance, making sure the air conditioning and ventilation are functioning, and that fire alarms and emergency lighting are fully operational.

It also carries out monthly PPM checks for the washroom and kitchen facilities, including sinks, toilets, pipework and fans with an aim to prevent break downs and leaks. Fans and heating within the artists’ studios are serviced annually.

In most FM contracts, a 24-hour, seven days a week emergency response service is necessary. At Persistence Works, we respond to all breakdowns within a two hour time period – and we feel that this is important to ensure that disruption to the artists’ working day is kept to a minimum.

The majority of repair work we undertake includes minor jobs such as fixing deteriorated sinks and broken lights, for example, but it is important these breakdowns are responded to immediately to make sure the building is fully functional for the artists and staff at all times.

It is important to understand the nature of the client’s business in order to develop a maintenance plan that fits around it. The Powerminster Gleeson engineers have to appreciate that the artists and craftspeople are
working often in silence, requiring the utmost levels of concentration, therefore disruption to their working day, or night, should be kept to a minimum. It is also important that the engineers respect the artists’ equipment, materials and finished pieces, being careful not to touch, knock or break anything when they are within the artists’ workspaces.

Adapting space
A recent example of where maintenance has had a positive effect is when it was asked to modify one of the workspaces to enable a silversmith to use different equipment. The studios on the upper floors are wired on a single phase energy supply, similar to that in the home, but the silversmith required more power as he wanted to bring in two lathes, a polisher and a variety of drills, which require three phase power. The engineers were able to modify the studio to three phase power. The silversmith might have had to end his tenancy with the Yorkshire ArtSpace Society and find an alternative workspace, with the power he required for his equipment. Instead, the studio was adapted to suit his needs.

Persistence Works has a high security need as many of the artist’s works are priceless, unique pieces, not to mention that the building also contains thousands of pounds worth of specialist equipment used by the artists to create their masterpieces. As the building is located in the city centre, in an area that is unpopulated at night time, the need for intruder alarms, security lighting and good locks is vital.

Compliance to HVAC and H&S guidelines is imperative so it is important to make sure correct procedures are followed and that the building’s operations’ manager is kept up to date with any changes.

On demand
PAT testing, in particular, is an important part of any health and safety policy as The Electricity at Work Regulations place a legal responsibility on employers, employees and self-employed persons to ensure the safety of electrical equipment through regular maintenance, inspection and testing. Through the PPM at
Persistence Works, PAT testing is provided on a ‘need to do’ basis whenever the operations manager or artists require it.

Businesses are increasingly outsourcing their PPM requirements and are finding that there are major financial and operational benefits from doing so. Almost like taking out an insurance policy, modern-day PPM provides peace of mind and is an affordable way to make sure that a building is operating to optimum efficiency and is meeting all relevant requirements.

With many FM contracts spanning over periods of years, it really does make sense to implement a PPM schedule from the outset. The starting off point for this is always the requirements of the building and its occupants.

PPM is vital at the premises of the Yorkshire ArtSpace society as it operates to make sure the building is fully functional 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as working to make any required repairs or modifications to the artists’ studios. This is of high importance so artists and craftspeople can work undisturbed and safe in the knowledge that there workspaces will always be operational and free from damage.

● Peter Rose is Operations Manager for the North East at Powerminster Gleeson Services

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