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16 January 2019
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Bradford Keen finds out how widely CIBSE Guide M is used, the value of it, and how it fits into emerging FM standards advice.

Guide M

8 May 2018 Bradford Keen

First published 10 years ago, CIBSE Guide M provides practical guidance to FMs, building services engineers and others involved in building maintenance and management. Bradford Keen finds out how widely it is used, the value it has provided and how it fits into emerging FM standards

Every FM should have CIBSE Guide M: Maintenance, Engineering & Management on their desk is the advice from Joanna Harris, chair of CIBSE Maintenance Task Group and lead author of the updated guide.

Celebrating its 10th year in existence, Guide M was first published in 2008 and updated six years later in 2014. 

The guide began as a way for design engineers to highlight common issues operators were experiencing on “new-build properties where designers had not considered how the users and the operators interact and maintain their buildings”, explains Harris. “It has expanded over time to include everything you need to know about delivering hard FM.”

Since November 2014, Guide M has been downloaded from CIBSE’s website 13,102 times, as well as 6,365 times from the Construction Information Service, to which CIBSE has licensed Guide M. That is close to 20,000 copies downloaded in fewer than four years, which “for a small, essentially trade publication” indicates that quite a lot of people are using it, says David Stevens, vice-chair of CIBSE FM Group Committee. 

Rob Farman, one of the authors of the original 2008 guide, recounts how the first edition was sold in about 80 countries. Both he and Stevens note the interconnectedness of Guide M, SFG20, RICS’s third edition of New Rules for Measurement (NRM3) and Building Cost Information Service (BCIS).

This link is most pronounced in Guide M’s 12th chapter, ‘Economic life factors and end of economic life’, Farman says, noting how Guide M, SFG20 and NMR3 together allows for initial costing of building services maintenance and 

of future life cycles over the typical 60-year life of a building.

While Guide M has been written with designers, maintainers and owners in mind, FMs and technical operators are the primary audience, Stevens asserts. 

“If an FM with no technical background has absolutely no idea of how they have to manage their hard assets, they buy a copy of Guide M and look at the legislation and compliance table and it tells them what they have to do and when they have to do it – whether it is statutory, mandatory, business critical or good to have,” he says.

There are also life expectancy tables for every hard asset, such as an air conditioning unit, uninterrupted power supply or low-voltage switchgear, which indicates how long the piece of kit will last.

The cycle of life

Harris says Guide M “is the only published source of life cycle data – so when a designer tells you they have designed the boiler to last 20 years he or she is probably quoting the CIBSE life cycle table in Chapter 12”. 

For design engineer and principal at Elementa Consulting, Simon Ebbatson, Guide M “is part of the wider suite of documents you would probably look at but in and of itself it might not be a bible. It certainly helps building up collective wealth of knowledge for us as designers”. 

Compared with some of the older CIBSE guides, Guide M is probably not that well known among design engineers, suggests Ebbatson, noting that some sections are more useful than others. The design life guidance, through a straw poll at his office, is one such section.

Guide M and other similar documents tend to be descriptive rather than specific, adds Ebbatson. They’re more good practice than specific standards and “talk around the subject”, referring the reader to other documentation and standards. 

There are aspects of Ebbatson’s business in which Guide M is useful, particularly when helping clients make the “right decision beyond just capital costs from an M&E perspective”.

Take a heating system as an example. Ebbatson says his consultancy employs the ‘choose by advantage’ technique, which has the consultant engineer determine the client’s various priorities, whether it be maintenance concerns, capital costs, acoustics, comfort or carbon emissions, and has the client rank these numerically in order of importance. Based on a simple scorecard, the client is steered towards the best decision.

“The difficult part for us to assess when we’re doing life cycle costing is the maintenance cost generally speaking,” says Ebbatson. “So that is certainly useful part of using Guide M.”

Indeed, Guide M provides much needed insight into maintenance issues. It explains, for example, how to set up a maintenance strategy, which makes it easier to achieve statutory compliance. 

Maintenance contractors and FM consultants advising organisations on strategy should be familiar with Guide M, says Stevens. as many FMs are not technical experts. They may well be experts in their particular field, but most will have experience in the softer rather than harder FM. They don’t have “fundamental engineering experience”.

He adds: “This document gives them the knowledge they need. It doesn’t teach them how to be engineers; it teaches them how to maintain their engineering assets and it can be read easily by technical and non-technical staff.”

Saving librarians and others 

Farman recalls how when he was working on the original guide, he came across a story of a librarian thrust into an FM role. 

“This is a fairly typical story in the industry – let’s be honest,” says Farman, “and to some extent, I had in my mind’s eye the librarian who suddenly found herself dropped into becoming a facilities manager and asks, ‘how on earth do I do this?’” He notes that Guide M would have been the answer to her prayers.

For Harris, “[Guide M] is designed to scratch the surface of all the things you need to do when you operate and maintain a building. It’s written to allow you to dip into each chapter as you need it rather than read it from cover to cover. I’d refer to it as an FM’s bible and if you haven’t got it you’ll be missing something in your day job.”

Guide M is useful to anyone in charge of a building that is more than a single dwelling. “There are bits in it that would help even a residents’ association looking after communal facilities,” says Harris. “FM can cover a diverse range of services and no one can be an expert in everything. This guide gives you everything to support the running of the building services and supports the reader to consider best practice management.”

Stevens notes how FM is the newest professional discipline in the commercial and property sector, while “building services and the standards around them have existed for decades”. Guide M captures all of these important standards of best practice. He lists water hygiene, air management, electrical testing and inspection as examples. 

“I know one of the British standards deals with management systems and the next review of Guide M will probably pick up recommendations made in these British standards but it will still focus on maintenance, which is what its specialist subject matter is,” adds Stevens.

But guides are never comprehensive and as times change and better practice is devised, they need to be revised. 

“Section 5 talks about energy efficiency and it says CHPs are highly carbon-efficient and a highly economic method of providing heat and power,” Ebbatson explains. “Nowadays, or at least in the near future, we’d probably question that.”

With the changes to the electric grid and it being “greened up significantly”, he says the entire case for CHP has changed, especially when looking at it from a carbon perspective. “You have to use your expertise to interpret what you’re reading even with something published by CIBSE.”

Guide M will play a defining role for emerging international FM standards, but its future iterations will also need to draw from industry shifts that have gone before.

Emma Potter