A New Approach to Management of Complex Residential and Mixed Use Buildings
By David Clark of Mainstay Group
If I was asked, ‘what has changed the most in residential management in recent years?’ I would have to say it was the level of complexity that we now see in building construction and mechanical & engineering systems. These systems are utilised in the delivery of efficient, modern buildings that are able to deal with security, safety, parking, cooling, heating, lighting and green issues amongst other things.
Larger schemes built in urban environments, often with an element of mixed tenure, need to deliver a whole raft of complex solutions that are driven not only by regulation and the quest for reduced energy use, but also by the need to provide something different that attracts purchasers. The consequence of this has been a huge increase in the level of practical skills and expertise required to undertake management effectively.
Managers are being forced to look very closely at the qualification and background needed to undertake management of schemes where there may be massively complex CHP plants, comfort cooling systems, extraction, smoke vents, fire systems, lifts etc. etc. Pricing for the life cycle replacement and ongoing maintenance and compliance of such plant and the subsequent provision of an asset register may be beyond the capabilities of many managers and is scarcely covered within the available training options for property managers. However, these skills are undoubtedly essential if you are offering to maintain schemes to highest levels of safety and efficiency and in particular to maintain or enhance the overall asset value.
Herein lies the disconnect that all property managers must overcome – maintaining asset values means offering properly thought out strategies over the mid to long term – this is often at odds with operating in a one year contract environment and in an economy that demands cost-cutting for multiple customers as opposed to single business entities. It is possibly the reason that large FM providers do not currently directly service this sector.
It has never been more important to present evidence of value for money and this must be demonstrable around a 5 or 10 year plan and not just about immediate cost savings. After all, it is the very best managed buildings that are still able to find purchasers amongst the very small pool available. Long term planning and high quality maintenance solutions will prove best value in the long term and consideration of this strategy should be predicated on the understanding that ownership of flats is likely to be for somewhat longer than we have seen historically whilst commercial leases are getting shorter. The shift is already here and so the approach to management needs to be refined to suit.