Open-access content Wednesday 8th June 2016 — updated 2.38pm, Tuesday 5th May 2020
9 June 2016 | By Simon Bennett
Simon Bennett, international sales manager for Saint-Gobain Adfors, discusses the principles behind an effective wall covering maintenance strategy.
The overarching aim of this, says CIBSE, is to "define policy and an approach to keep the building and its services operation safe, maintain asset value and keep people safe".
For most organisations repairs and maintenance should provide a customer-focused and efficient service to ensure that all properties are maintained to a high standard.
While CIBSE Guide M provides a best practice approach for maintenance strategies, which as well as defining site categories, also gives maintenance priorities ranging from legal requirements to discretionary, what does this mean at a more granular level in relation to wall coverings?
Getting the right mix
All maintenance programmes, whether for walls, floors or overall building services, feature a mixture of planned/preventative maintenance and responsive actions, but the key is to strike the right balance.
A well thought out wall maintenance strategy will cut the amount of responsive repairs or downtime caused by repair work, allowing for a cost-effective, targeted and timely maintenance plan and best use of resources. And planned and preventative maintenance reduces the likelihood of future failures, helping to reduce the use of emergency resources.
There will always be a need for responsive repairs - excessive damage to a wall caused by a sudden impact, spills or leaks, but there are also disadvantages to an overly preventative programme.
Wall coverings have a lifespan of about five years. More resilient coverings will last longer; it varies depending on the building use, wall material, temperature and cleaning routines. In a planned preventative maintenance scheme there is often little room for flex, causing wall coverings to be replaced or updated whether it is needed or not.
Internal wall coverings have an aesthetic function but essentially, it is a protective element for the substrate to which it is applied. Wall coverings or wall protection systems are fundamental to the performance of a building. In offices alone, wall finishes have a 400 per cent 'churn rate' - the number of times an item is replaced over a facility's life - making them a considerable cost element.
Great strides have been made in the production of wall coverings to make them durable and colour-fast, and resistant to daily wear and tear and a variety of indoor environments, but there are still big issues to be considered.
By far the most visibly detrimental is unavoidable impact caused by pedestrian and wheeled traffic - from wheeled suitcases and school bags to hospital beds and trolleys.
To avoid this it is often recommended to increase capital costs and invest in a hardwearing and durable wall covering that will remain resistant to bumps and scrapes for longer. If indentations and scuffs go unchecked they not only deteriorate over time, but can also harbour bacteria. Indoor air quality is an increasingly common concern for building managers. Wall coverings are exposed to indoor pollutants and other naturally occurring elements that can degrade the wall finish over time, leaving the substrate vulnerable. A strategy should take into consideration how exposed walls are to outdoor air. What other materials are around it that may let out other pollutants? This will help dictate how long a wall covering will last, how often it needs cleaning and what products to use.
Natural ageing, colour-fastness and shading will occur on all wall coverings and this should be factored into any plan, but more detailed consideration of the wall covering and the external factors affecting it will dictate a better schedule for cleaning and replacement.
Newer wall coverings such as glass fibre ones are resilient to daylight and do not fade despite intense cleaning routines, but for more standard finishes the amount of light and cleaning chemicals they are exposed too will affect how long a wall's colour will stay vibrant. With cleaning costs in heavy traffic areas accounting for up to 92 per cent of the total cost of ownership, it is a careful balance to mitigate the effects harsh but efficient cleaning chemicals can have on walls that need frequent cleaning.
Service or 'back office' areas and heavily trafficked places, such as shared facilities where walls are more likely to be subject to impact, need particular attention. A suitable maintenance strategy should be established based on knowledge of the most frequent problems, and the most effective remedies.
But the best solution is to improve the quality of the coverings installed. This will mean less frequent maintenance and replacement, reducing costs and retaining the building's appearance for longer.
Simon Bennett is international sales manager at Saint-Gobain Adfors