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In the Eye of the Storm

25 November 2016 | Updated 01 January 1970

In the wake of Storm Angus, Chris Eldridge questions how prepared our properties are for Britain's barmy weather.

Over the last week, parts of the country have been severely affected by Storm Angus, with ferries unable to dock, railway lines cut off, travel chaos and - for many - heavy flooding. I have no doubt that FM’s in the eye of the storm will have been holding their breath.

In 2007, when much of the UK was subject to flooding, the cost of repair to buildings was estimated to have been around £2 billion; almost £800 million of that attributed to commercial properties, affecting approximately 7,000 commercial. A further cost to consider is the impact on business, adding a further £160 - £200 million*.

Since 2007, rainfall has increased significantly, with seven of the wettest years on record being in the last ten. In fact, 2015 was the second wettest year on record! Turning our attention to temperature, eight out of ten of the hottest years have occurred since 2002**. Not surprising then that our buildings - residential and commercial alike - are feeling the strain!

Dealing with the aftermath of flood damage, roof leaks, blocked drains, gutters or gullies is time consuming and costly. Before you know it, the day has passed and everything that needed to be done, hasn’t been! Such is the nature of the reactive side of FM, you have to be versatile, able to change your plans and react quickly to events, including severe weather related damage. There is a lot that can be done to prevent such an arduous task and many of the preventative measures are simple and cost effective, especially when compared to the potential costs of repairs and replacements following weather related damage. This is not to mention insurance claims and tenants pursuing loss of earnings for not being able to trade or for damaged stock.

It will probably not come as much of a surprise to learn that the extremes of weather, due to climate change, are having a significant impact on our buildings. As a result, the costs of keeping them running and open for business have risen dramatically over the last decade too.

Whilst we can’t stop the rain, we can minimise the damage and disruption to our property.

Picture the scenario: the rain starts to fall and it just keeps coming, day after day. A property manager with a large portfolio of buildings located across the UK, is desperately and frantically ringing around, trying to find contractors to patch up the holes where the leaks are springing across multiple properties. Inevitably, the phone rings off the hook, time and again. To add to the chaos, the building manager or Facilities manager is unlikely to be able to respond to the myriad calls and (frantic) messages from tenants.

For many, at this stage, it's about survival - corners are sometimes cut just to make sure that a job is being attended. As a result, compliance and financial impact can fail to be properly addressed as you battle to jobs underway. A contractor that can attend, and says they can do the job, sounds just what you have been hoping for – especially when you have tenants screaming at you. However, the fact is, if you send a contractor to site, that doesn’t have the correct insurances, accreditations, can provide the necessary RAMS and health & safety documentation, you and your business are at risk should anything happen on site. That’s before you are billed for minimum call out charges of two- four hours!

Quibbling about call out charges at that point does not even register, neither does detailed accounts of went on with a building, where the problem was or what’s going on to solve it. Let’s be honest, in the majority of cases these are secondary to ensuring 1. The asset is protected and maintained, and 2. The tenant is placated and left satisfied.

Now, imagine an alternative scenario, a solution that means you can call just one number, to organise a pre-qualified and actively managed contractor to attend. One where you can keep up to date with ongoing jobs in real time, wherever you are, at any time. One with compliance and RAMS attached to each job, minimising your risk. One that automatically tells you a contractor has been dispatched, their ETA and when jobs have been completed. One where you are still very much in control of your day and can minimise the disruption caused to your tenants by inclement weather. And one that logs and records for reporting on any fabric related problem like broken windows, blocked toilets or guttering issues together with other unforeseen circumstances.

That capability exists, 24/7 across the UK for any building fabric eventuality; coping with the affects that extreme weather conditions are having on our properties.

It is vital for property managers to build a comprehensive picture around where future funds will need to be directed in any planned maintenance schedules, to overcome underlying issues with the building fabric - specifically relating to the impacts of adverse weather.

Some might say being so well prepared may take away all the fun of the reactive property maintenance roller coaster. They could even look back with rose tinted spectacles on those frantic times with a wry smile and a quiet sigh of relief that they weren’t 'caught out'. Bit, as we move into winter, and no doubt a new deluge of weather related subsequent issues, I would ask whether any property manager really wants to relive those experiences again?

By Chris Eldridge, Group Sales Director of Propertyserve UK


Propertyserve procures, manages and delivers facilities support services to UK commercial and residential organisations. We currently provide reactive fabric maintenance solutions to more than 4,000 properties nationwide through our fully managed and compliant supply chain.  

Article written by Chris Eldridge | Published 25 November 2016


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