How to ensure your building is operationally efficient and easy to maintain

How to ensure your building is operationally efficient and easy to maintain

When undertaking a refurbishment project there can be many factors to consider when evaluating costs. Not only do you have to price up materials and labour, but also the projected costs to maintain, run and repair the building after works are completed.

It is important that designs promote longevity and long-term maintenance is key to this. Unfortunately, the UK construction industry underperforms in this area; this is usually because the responsibility of maintaining the building usually falls on the end user or the appointed FM company.

In this article we review five construction strategies to ensuring your building is easy to maintain and delivers value for money. Whether your project is a retrofit or a new build, the principles remain the same.

1. Collaboration is key!

The construction sector has always been fragmented, which has only worsened over the years. As buildings have become more complex, contractors have become more reliant on the use of subcontractors to undertake specialist works. The situation becomes even more complicated on large projects where subcontractors may have an extended supply chain of their own.

As a result, it can be difficult to align construction with design; this typically leads to a disparity between the needs of the client and the cost of the project. Collaboration is key to overcoming this issue – consultants, designers, contractors and suppliers need to work together to ensure a project is a success.

Partnering with a construction firm and design team at the initial planning stages is vital to ensuring project outcomes are met. Construction firms normally have a close working relationship with suppliers and should have a good product knowledge to support the design process. Combining the knowledge of the design team and the contractor, can help ensure the project is low cost without compromising on long-term maintainability.

Engage with a construction firm that has a good working relationship with its suppliers and subcontractors. A company that has a strong ethos towards collaboration and a united approach to design and construction can transform a project. The same applies when selecting your design team.

2. Include long-term maintenance into building design

When it comes to the initial planning stages of a project, there are two basic techniques that can be used to increase a property’s cost effectiveness – the value management model and the whole life costing model (WLC). The purpose of both these models is to help maximize the property’s value over its lifecycle.

WLC model, however, provides a more accurate picture as to the true cost of a building once works have been completed. It helps identify the present and future durability of the materials used as well as energy and water consumption. Not only does this determine the true cost of the project but also its impact on future expenditure.

This approach to planning not only provides better strategic decisions on cost savings from a maintenance perspective but also from an operational point of view. Installing an inefficient system or asset such as lighting or an air conditioning unit, can end up costing a lot in repairs and energy waste over its lifetime.

Strategic spending in the present can provide high savings and even high rates of return in the future. The lifecycle of any property starts at the initial planning stages, which is why opting for the cheaper option can sometimes be most costly in the long run.

3. Consider the long-term effects of heat and moisture

Thermal expansion can have a significant impact on a building and can cause cracking on walls or plaster and fractures in structural elements. Making sure a building is properly insulated is vital to avoiding these issues.

Moisture and water can also lead to ruination within a property. Failure to ensure a building is watertight can result in a wide range of problems including condensation, dampness, leaks and mould growth.

To prevent the effects of heat and moisture from shortening the lifespan of a building, these need to be considered early in the planning stages. The building fabric used within a construction project or fit out should not require significant investment to keep the property in a good condition.

This why it is important to speak with a contractor early on. They will be able to advise on suitable suppliers, and materials as well provide guidance on how to improve the condition of a building.

4. Operational efficiency = low energy waste!

The operational efficiency of a building is directly linked to tenant complaints, energy performance, and capital expenditure on maintenance and repairs. There is an opportunity with refurbishment projects to claw back some of the money spent on works by addressing operational performance.

Making improvements requires more than just selecting assets that are energy efficient and low cost to maintain. You need to consider the original purpose of the building as well. Where have the air and cooling systems been placed? Where are the controls and sensors located?

Changing a buildings use is a common and widespread issue impacting operational efficiency and energy waste. Quite often the equipment or controls are not adapted to meet the current needs of the building as it progresses throughout its life.

Whilst it is important to consult with fabrication specialists when undertaking an internal layout or refurbishment, building services and M&E experts should also be included in the planning stages to advise on this matter. You may find opportunities to recover costs from making small alterations to designs.

Refurbishments and alternations of a floor space without considering the layout of services such as ventilation, air conditioning system and controls can lead to occupational discomfort and high energy use. Another aspect to consider is occupancy density and internal heat gains which can compromise the original design intent of the building.
Improving operational efficient will not only save money on maintenance and energy consumption, it will also provide environmental benefits.

5. Chose the right materials for long-term maintenance

When it comes to finalising the design and specification, you need to make sure the equipment installed can be easily accessed for future maintenance work. Even if repairs and inspections are infrequent, maintenance providers need to be able to carry out works easily.

Careful consideration is also needed to make sure the right materials are used. Fixtures and fittings need to be durable and right for purpose of use, not just design. For instance, if you know a room will experience heavy wear and tear, you may want to avoid installing expensive furnishing that will only be replaced in within a couple of years.

Quite often it is possible to save money by speaking with your contractor who can source similar materials. They may be able to locate a particular style of furnishing that has the same level of durability but at a lower cost based on the requirements of the building.


It cannot be emphasised enough how important it is to work with a skilled Architect and contracting firm, who will allocate a dedicated Project Manager. Engage with a consultancy and construction firm that understands the demands of long-term developments.

In order for you maximise the true value of your project, you need to harmonise the design, construction and operational elements of your scheme. This starts with speaking to a construction firm that can bring those components together.

We have an established working relationship with a number of designers and consultants which we can bring in at different stages of a project. This is how we can make sure our clients receive true value for money.

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