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Benefits in Hand

15 September 2005

BSRIA has recognised that computerising the work and activities of engineers by using hand held technology is one of the ways forward in achieving improved efficiencies across the industry. Paddy Hastings describes the benefits achieved in its pilot condition survey

THE BSRIA DESIGN and FM Innovation Group concentrates its research and consultancy work on building operation and life cycle planning for future capital expenditure budgets. Condition survey work conducted by the team contributes data on system reliability and maintenance strategies to the Operation and maintenance Benchmark Network database. This database enables organisations to benchmark their buildings' performance within their portfolio in comparison with other organisations.

A condition survey deals with physical condition - that is how long before an element or component wears out or breaks down. A building services condition survey is a systematic process of evaluating the condition of plant and installations.

The frequency of the survey will depend upon its purpose. Single one-off surveys may be appropriate in dealing with the assessment of repair liabilities in conjunction with a property transaction. On the other hand, if the purpose is to ensure the cost effective long-term maintenance of a building stock, the store of condition data needs to be refreshed periodically to maintain the time horizon, allowing for actions taken and for the monitoring unpredictable deterioration.

A building services condition survey is used primarily to consider the condition of HVAC and electrical plant and related health and safety/legislative issues. The appraisal of the condition of building services plant and installations generally requires an assessment of their ability to perform as well as assessment of their physical condition.

Normally the approach is to combine information from a variety of sources:
... a survey of external physical condition of the plant and installations
... specialist inspections and tests including for example, internal inspections of plant, thermal imaging, acoustic emission testing, pipe wall thickness testing
... data from functional checks to make an assessment of conditions affecting the ability to undertake operation and maintenance which may impact on the longevity of plant and systems
... information held in operation and maintenance records as an indicator of historical problems
... knowledge of on-site staff such as building owners, maintenance staff, facilities managers, etc.
... develop a property condition database that can be used for other purposes such as asset valuations
... prepare long term asset investment plans
... target scarce maintenance resources (people and funds)
... benchmark maintenance expenditure and property condition
... establish the condition of plant and installation before the decision to purchase or lease buildings (pre-acquisition due diligence surveys)
... assess dilapidation after a period of occupation
... establish the maintenance condition of plant and installations before maintenance contractors commit to lump sum maintenance contracts.

BSRIA has been at the forefront in the research into the incorporation of technology into construction, installation and maintenance of buildings for example the COMIT (Construction Opportunities for Mobile IT) research project. The BSRIA Design and FM Innovation Group has piloted mobile computer technology in a drive to reduce on-site survey time for engineers and subsequent office based data analysis and report generation. The benefits of computerised survey information can be that data is:
... taken into any spreadsheet/database/proprietary software package
... easily corrected and amended
... interrogated and manipulated
... reported on
... accessed by other users (on a network)
... reduced paperwork, and
... ease of movement in restricted areas

A proprietary software package used by BSRIA in the pilot condition survey was prepared in cooperation with Micro Computer Systems, where their Priority 1 package was customised to deliver the BSRIA AG 4/2000 condition survey of building services checklists. This AG 4/2000 condition survey was a collaborative research project targeted towards best practices. The objective of BSRIA'fs pilot was to find a way to reduce the amount of paperwork taken onto a site.

The use of palm top technology enabled the surveying engineers to pre-programme the handheld device with the building and client name/reference and the geographical configuration of the building (number of floors, external spaces etc). The engineers simply identified the location and engineering system under inspection and entered the data onto the palmtop via the touchscreen checklists.

When the surveyors returned to BSRIA offices, the information was download onto a PC, which then in turn generated the final report. The time saved in scrutinising copious amount of paper resulted in the final report being printed out and sent to the client and subsequently had a saving on consultancy time. The information can also be interrogated at a later date and any trend noted.

Computerising the work and activities of engineers by using hand held technology has achieved improved efficiencies across the industry. It is aimed at reducing manual communication to the office, reducing costs, providing instant information, providing history of events and also better control. Micro Computer Solutions who collaborated with BSRIA in preparing the software and hardware functionality, has first hand experience of this technology and is working within the construction industry where their Priority 1 package is being used for improving site co-ordination.

... A complete solution with central store of all customer information
... Survey checklists based upon existing good practice guides
... Real time costing, monitoring, statistics and reporting
... Customisable supervising of workload & PPM scheduling
... Cost effective real time communications options
... Reduction in paper-based reporting
... Engineers almost twice as efficient
... Customised engineer screens are quick and easy to use.

... For information about this work please contact BSRIA's FM Engineering Centre on 01344 426511 or email

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