24 March 2020 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The coronavirus crisis has created "unprecedented challenges for building owners and maintainers", says the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).
In response the body has released detailed guidance on how buildings can be managed and maintained effectively during the coming weeks and months.
As thousands of people are now working from home or prevented from travelling, many commercial buildings are moving into shutdown mode.
BESA said: "This has huge implications for building services equipment, with decisions that would normally have been planned over many months now having to be taken within days."
Owners, landlords and tenants would "still need to maintain their buildings for security purposes; to achieve statutory compliance; and to protect the fabric and critical systems as well as satisfying any insurance implications", it added.
BESA said thousands of UK buildings are already maintained in line with the industry's standard SFG20, which was created by the body and is continually updated to reflect changing technical and regulatory requirements.
Its planned maintenance strategies would continue to keep buildings safe and compliant through this period, but "some organisations may decide to 'mothball' their building or at least reduce their maintenance regime to a low level".
However, BESA argues that "full closure and shutdown is a long-term action that would make it difficult to get the building up and running again quickly when the crisis recedes".
Elements of buildings may also be needed to support staff working from home, such as server rooms, and this brings SFG20's sister standard, the recently updated and relaunched SFG30 Mothballing and Reactivation into play.
SFG30 guides users through a step-by-step process for maintaining critical services during this low-occupancy period in readiness for rapid and full reactivation when business returns to normal.
This includes key elements such as keeping water systems safe and healthy (in line with the Health & Safety Executive's L8 rules for legionella control); both active and passive fire protection systems; safe handling of refrigerant gases; electrical and gas service safety checks and ventilation hygiene. It also explains how to maintain security systems and lifts if they are still in service.
BESA members created SFG20 and SFG30 "sharing their many years of specialised building engineering expertise and experience". The information they contain "will be more essential than ever to get buildings safely through this critical period".
BESA has decided to make SFG30 guidance free of charge to members until further notice and has reduced the price for everyone else by 50 per cent.
For more information go to: https://www.sfg20.co.uk/