1. Inadequate finance
It is generally acknowledged that inadequate finance is a major constraint on effective property management, partly excuse maintenance budgets are the easiest to cut when money is scarce. This article is dedicated to the less obvious proposition that other factors such as poor management and organization or inappropriate design decisions may be even more significant causes of maintenance problems. Nevertheless, there is a limit beyond which maintenance budgets cannot be cut if the building is to provide an-efficient-and acceptable operating environment to the user.
Maintenance expenditure can be absorbed more easily in commercial and industrial organizations where its costs may account for as little as 0.5 per cent of turnover, but even in these cases maintenance is taken for granted except when it threatens production or profitability. The situation is, more serious in the public sector where the damaging effects of poor maintenance are less immediately obvious. In the case of housing estates, it is common for organizations to emphasize the provision of new houses, with little funding provided for maintaining existing stock. Not only are day to day repairs neglected, but efforts at improvements and rehabilitation are considered to be a lower priority than new construction. This is despite the fact that few governments are in a position to provide new housing at a rate which matches the formation of new households. Indeed, the rapid deterioration of existing stock increases the demand for new housing because poorly maintained houses are not only unpopular; they soon reach the stage where the structure itself deteriorates and rebuilding has to be considered.
It would be wrong to blame policy-makers and officials in operational ministries for this state of affairs, since they cannot allocate funds if no funds are available. Thus the roles of national treasuries, financing and donor agencies must also be considered. It is usually much easier to secure finance for new infrastructure than for projects aimed at ensuring the adequate maintenance of existing structures. Perhaps the accountant's somewhat arbitrary distinction between capital and recurrent expenditure is the true culprit, although an additional factor is the prestige attached to new projects vis-a-vis the mundane problems of maintenance. Some of the more progressive agencies are already reviewing their policy on maintenance projects, and it is hoped that others will become more receptive to approaches for projects aimed at ensuring that existing investments are protected and continue to yield the benefits they were designed to provide.
2. Bad management
Bad management may be simply a reflection of idleness and waste among maintenance personnel but there is usually much more to it than -that~ Is maintenance a planned activity, does the manager simply react to the most immediate crisis? There can be no doubt that ,building maintenance is an aspect of construction management which is susceptible to considerable improvements in performance through the introduction of effective management procedures; Indeed, since planned maintenance can be seen as a form of `steady state' activity, while project management frequently deals in one-off projects for which there is no 'precedent, the management of building maintenance should be relatively easy (the word `relatively' is used advisedly!); However, it has been woefully neglected.
3. Poor building design
It is not uncommon to find that buildings are 'inherently expensive to maintain on account of inappropriate priorities applied during the design phase: Poor detailing and the specification of unsuitable components and materials are common complaints. In addition, construction errors arising from inadequate drawings and specifications, coupled with poor workmanship because of contracts awarded to incompetent contractors are frequent causes of rapid physical deterioration in buildings. Good design should allow accessibility and adequate working space for essential maintenance such as cleaning, and minor repairs to pipes, ducts and cables. The use of flexible connections or slide-and-glue joints can also be helpful.
4. Functional obsolescence
Inappropriate building design may also lead to functional obsolescence. This occurs, for instance, when rooms are too small, ceilings too high, natural light is inadequate, or the architectural plan, style and design are poor. The designer may also fail to consider appropriately the socio-cultural factors pertaining to the needs of the user, particularly in the case of housing estates. All the factors inherent in the structural layout and materials which are responsible for depreciation or decrease in the value of a building may be classified as functional obsolescence. This is a separate factor from `economic obsolescence' which is a loss in value resulting from conditions outside the building, for example proximity to a new airport, or adverse legislation from the property owner's point of view such as rent control, or factory closures leading to a loss of employment opportunities.
The net result of functional obsolescence is that large sums of money may have to be spent on improvements or rehabilitation to bring a building back to a satisfactory standard. This could often be avoided if the final use of buildings was visualized at the design stage, allowing materials and finishes to be chosen which are capable of withstanding everyday wear and tear. In particular, it is sensible to avoid items that are imported or otherwise difficult to obtain locally.
5. The consequences
Whether the cause is inadequate finance, bad management, or - poor building design, the consequences of poor maintenance are serious and potentially disastrous for the nation as a whole. Building maintenance has been defined as work undertaken in order to keep, restore, or improve every facility, that is every part of a building, its services and surrounds to a currently acceptable standard, and to sustain the utility and value of the facility. Its functional role is therefore to retain the usefulness of the property, whether as a house or an office, within the acceptable standards of a ‘reasonable user'. It is also concerned with maintaining the appearance of the property: first impressions are very important and the very reputation of the owner or occupants may be judged by appearance of external surfaces.
6. The financial role
The financial role of building maintenance is to preserve the ' physical condition of the capital asset: thus the level of 'maintenance should contain deterioration] Ideally, the optimum situation would be one whereby the marginal rates of substitution between maintenance and depreciation are equal, for example where a rise of one US dollar in maintenance leads to a fall of one dollar in depreciation. The rate of deterioration will therefore determine the level of maintenance expenditure over the life of the building. Unfortunately, under severe pressure for financial retrenchment in the face of rising expectations, many countries have been forced to cut maintenance budgets in recent years.
This was no isolated case, and there is a general need for more information to be gathered and analysed on the effects of reduced maintenance budgets on the value of national building stocks.
7. Lack of research
Very little theoretical or empirical research has been done on the subject of building maintenance in the context of developing countries. Moreover, the relationship between design and the subsequent costs of maintenance has been particularly neglected. In many countries so little attention is paid to the subject building maintenance that it is common place for buildings to be pulled down and rebuilt well before the end of their potential economic lives. Indeed, it is mainly in those countries where conservation is an issue and conservationists are active that there has been an incentive to look again at the potential for rehabilitation. Although this pressure was initially based on aesthetic and other non-financial considerations, many clients have been pleasantly surprised to find that rehabilitation is actually a paying proposition.
To some extent the problem is a statistical one, since there are many countries where new buildings are `counted' but rehabilitated ones are not. In such countries the official institutions tend to limit their activities to providing new facilities, so that the figures which are used to measure their achievements appear in the most favourable light. It is a curious commentary on the methods of public administration that activities which are counted as ‘costs ' are neglected until the statistical basis changes; then they suddenly become `benefits'. If maintenance expenditure was accepted as a measure of the benefit to the owner and/or user in terms of financial return efficiency, effectiveness or quality of life, the situation, would be transformed. In other words, there is a case for suggesting that .building maintenance will not be accorded the importance it deserves until presented in a different way.
Of particular relevance is the statement that the high cost of repair with low rental value justifies the neglect of property maintenance. This would imply that buildings when let are not bringing a high enough return to finance adequate maintenance. This is a common problem for housing authorities, and they are faced with a real dilemma in setting rents low enough to be affordable but high enough to be economic. Ideally, tenants should be helped and encouraged to carry out-routine maintenance and repairs, but if this process is not planned and managed, and backed up by some system of inspection and advice; the results will be haphazard, at best. However, the most urgent need is for research in the following areas:
· Influence of design on maintenance
· Maintenance cost determinants
· Organization and administration of building maintenance
· Information systems for building maintenance
· Service life of buildings.
8. A Cinderella activity
In many developing countries maintenance is regarded as ,'Cinderella' activity to be performed on an ad hoc, basis as the need arises. It is also seen as a function entirely separate from design and construction, when in fact it is an integral part of the process of creating and maintaining wealth. Under the circumstance opportunities are lost for accumulating and analyzing information which could then be fed back to designers and contractors in order to encourage good practice and, equally important, discourage the use of features and components that regularly give rise to maintenance problems.
The objective should be to determine which aspects of design and construction are causing maintenance problems, and to establish an optimum maintenance expenditure. It is thus necessary to carry out research by quantitative analysis rather than casual observation. It serves little purpose to note that buildings are poorly maintained without ascertaining, whether they are economically maintainable consider the cost of maintenance implies that an acceptable maintenance standard will have to be agreed on and only then can one judge whether buildings are well-maintained or otherwise.
9. A management problem
Even in the developed countries where some research is being carried out on the subject of maintenance priority is given to the technical aspects of building maintenance, particularly the durability of materials and the life-span, of construction methods. General workshops and seminars do take place but the papers presented are often laboratory studies carried out under accelerated conditions, with little attention directed to the cost of the materials used. In some countries with a high proportion of public housing, some work is being carried out on organizational aspects such as the involvement of tenants or residents in maintenance work, although little emphasis appears to be placed on financial management.
While developing countries are soliciting funds for the provision of low-cost housing projects, it is imperative that they should not lose sight of the questions of how the facilities would be maintained, and their economic life. Pioneering research in Kenya reveals, for instance, that some local authorities spend as much as 50 per cent of rental revenues on maintaining housing estates, with the result that there is no hope of building-up funds to replace housing when it becomes obsolete. No doubt this maintenance is urgently needed, but experience shows that if maintenance costs exceed 15 per cent of rental revenue there is little chance of raising funds to replace the houses in due course.
The main reasons for excessive maintenance costs are inappropriate design and construction together with poor maintenance management.
10. A maintenance handbook
Setting up an adequate information system for building maintenance requires a systematic approach to data collection, processing and communication so as to serve both the managers concerned -with the maintenance of existing stock and the designers of new buildings. It is therefore necessary to examine the needs of the people who will use the information, whether they are sponsors, builders, designers or users, in order to determine the sources, nature, and mode of presentation.
Given the diversity of the sources of information, the maintenance departments should accumulate a data bank of management information on which to base decisions. The information should be classified to allow for easy retrieval of the document: the systematic collection and dissemination of such information is crucial. Maintenance department should aim to improve productivity y reducing maintenance costs, a move which will warrant feedback on common defects with a range of appropriate remedies. Such information will help in the preparation of a building maintenance handbook; a handbook which should provide all building users with a common system of maintenance information recording and retrieval for the guidance of maintenance operatives, building owners, occupiers, and designers of future buildings.
The need for a maintenance handbook grows with the increased complexity of buildings such as office blocks and conference centres. Such structures demand specialist inspection and servicing due to the installation of sophisticated heating and air conditioning systems; as well as lifts and other specialist plant and equipment. A maintenance handbook could provide a convenient form of communication between designers, owners, maintenance managers and users. The handbook will be initiated by the designer t en regularly updated by the maintenance departrnent to show all maintenance work carried out in each element, any changes, improvements or rehabilitation work, and all `as built' drawings, where changes are made from initial drawings.
11. Typical contents
A typical building maintenance handbook for each property should include the following points:
I. A brief history of the property, including names and addresses of consultants and contractors.
II. A short specification outlining constructional processes, components, principal materials and finishes. All hidden features should be described and special features noted, including methods of fixing, repair or replacement, dismantling and reconstruction.
III. As-built' plans with sections and elevations wherever possible.
IV. Information on housekeeping and routine maintenance with details of both internal and external surfaces and decorations, including schedules for cleaning, inspection and maintenance.
V. Information on the means of operating mechanical, electrical and plumbing installations, with details of requisite maintenance or servicing.
VI. Descriptions of renovations, extensions, adaptations and repairs to each element.
The handbook should contain job descriptions for the tradesmen hired to carry out the maintenance tasks. It should also establish a link between the designer, the client, the managers and the users, who should be encouraged to work together as a team for the design and construction of new buildings.
12. Public participation
There is a growing awareness that human society depends primarily on personal responsibility rather than public control for the full and proper use of resources. Turner has argued that the management and maintenance of dwellings and their surroundings, and therefore their longevity, depend primarily on their residents and users.' Consequently, it is suggested that large organizations should have little or no business building or managing dwellings, rather that they should simply provide the infrastructure, as well as the tools and materials that people can use to maintain the buildings that they occupy.
Turner also makes a point, reinforced by reports, that construction and management costs of publicly sponsored low cost housing schemes are often at least twice those of equivalent housing built by the informal sector. But ownership is not sole factor; one can also point to inefficient construction management. practices resulting in. higher costs and extra time. Premature deterioration and vandalism are also rampant publicly-provided rental housing, while privately owned accommodation is often better maintained. Here again it is not just a question of ownership, but also. of management efficiency between the private house owner and a centrally controlled public authority. The procedures in a public authority are frequently cumbersome, whether for a new construction or maintenance works. There is thus a need for a flexible approach to the management of public organizations dealing with building maintenance, rather than the corporate approach that so often slows down decision-making processes.
Whatever one's attitude to new construction, there is already a large stock of publicly-provided housing in developing countries that must be maintained to provide shelter for those who cannot provide it for themselves. The tenant has a right to tackle certain simple improvements within the dwelling without obtaining the landlord's agreement: this applies mainly to painting and other tasks which do not demand advanced craft skills, and could not adversely affect the structural integrity of the building or the safety of the occupants. In some cases, tenants' committees have been formed to earn out repairs within given estates. Although the experiments have been interesting, the arrangements have not been notably successful. The committees have been characterized by low attendance at formal meetings, while the authority is faced with the difficulty of deciding which type of maintenance it should assign to tenants. Some maintenance tasks are extensive and thus costly, requiring a great deal of work. Also, the skills of the tenants may not be good enough to undertake the task.
Advocates of public participation in maintenance must take account of the practical difficulties. Of course, there are real benefits to be gained from the participation of occupants in building maintenance decisions. Residents are experts in their own environments; they can give priority to measures marked out for their neighbourhood and have a greater control over the state of the area. But their requirements may differ from those of the owner as shown in Figure 1.1 In many cases, tenants' aspirations may be higher than is called for to support existing investments, in which case the work may be sanctioned by the owner but not subsidized from property maintenance funds. Thus what they regard as maintenance may in fact be improvements, with standards raised beyond those intended when the building was designed. Adding a bathroom to a house or replacing louvered windows with glazed steel casements is an improvement: the definition of maintenance vis-a-vis improvements must therefore be carefully spelt out in the handbook.
13. Policy statement
If an authority decides to encourage public participation in housing maintenance, a first step is to prepare a statement of maintenance policy and procedures which clearly spells out the respective roles of building owners and the participating public, and describes how each group will be funded. It will also be necessary to state clearly the minimum level of maintenance regarded as acceptable by the authority, and to outline inspection procedures to ensure compliance. Any incentives such as material subsidies or rent `holidays' to compensate for tenants' maintenance efforts should be recorded, together with charges made for work carried out by the authority if its tenant fails to meet the required standards. It may also be helpful to provide training to tenants through practical demonstrations on a model house, to help those who are motivated but lack the necessary skills.
This last point will have achieved something if it has established the complexity of the subject of building maintenance. In essence, it is concerned with the use of resources available to protect buildings, as capital assets, from decay, and to ensure that they provide satisfactory shelter for the people who live and work in them. Thus, if the subject is complex, the benefits can be simply stated. If these benefits are to be achieved, it is essential that maintenance is accorded the priority that it deserves in national development programmes of developing countries.
The next stage is to establish a clear policy to ensure that capital assets are maintained in good structural safety both for the user and the owners. Preferably, the policy should go further, aiming to ensure satisfactory living or working conditions for the occupants based on agreed standards. In many developing countries today, existing regulations that stipulate standards of maintenance are vague and haphazard, and do not have the force of law to ensure that they are complied with.
As suggested earlier, it would be beneficial if all buildings were provided with handbooks before certificates of occupation are issued. Owners could use them as a base from which to establish standardized maintenance procedures covering regular inspection and target expenditure. A system of monitoring should be established on the state of buildings and the maintenance work carried out, whether by the private or public sector, so that governments will be in a position to judge whether the policy is appropriate and effective.
*Note: This article was copied from unknown source for author's readings.