14 February 2017 | Eda Wan
I have been facilities and business centre administrator at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers' headquarters in One Birdcage Walk for three-and-a-half years.
I previously worked in a modest, modern building in rural Lincolnshire, so it was a stark change to start working in a grand building in central London that is over 100 years old.
One Birdcage Walk, designed by architect Basil Slade, was specifically built as the institution's HQ and opened its doors in 1899. A stone's throw away from the Treasury and St James's Park, this prestigious structure has opened up my eyes to a whole different side of FM.
It has evolved over time to include incorporate two further buildings, so it is not uncommon to find that utilities such as water and electricity cabling are not logically placed. Sometimes isolating water on one floor could risk isolating water on a different floor too. The building also has two electricity supplies, which causes confusion during power cuts; depending on which supply is disrupted different areas of the building are affected. We lack detailed building records and it is only when we discover these problems that we can slowly build a record for future use.
Maintenance is an ongoing challenge. Our latest projects include works on the façade and turret. The project meant we had to tackle issues such as safe access to the spaces, as well as coordinating with the local council and The Royal Parks. Careful consideration is also needed to conserve the building's original features - the turret roof repairs had to be undertaken using original and time-consuming methods. And before any work could even start a specialist was brought in to ensure that mosses and lichens on the roof were not protected species.
The work is frustrating but rewarding. I have learnt the importance of never making assumptions, thinking about everything from every direction, and investing time in recording everything.
Eda Wan is facilities and business centre administrator at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers