By Mark Poppy, CIPFA Property Training Manager
Maintaining schools is vital, of course, in ensuring students and teachers have a comfortable environment to study and work in. Facilities management strategies play an important role in the school's overall effectiveness, safety, and also in financial wellbeing. With this much at stake, nothing should never be left to chance. Where should the business or facilities manager begin?
Facilities maintenance for schools
A properly-planned school maintenance program is a good starting point. It should be written and developed to suit the equipment on site. Planned preventative maintenance will extend the use life of buildings, as well as heating, air conditioning and electrical systems, and can be extended to include ongoing fabric maintenance.
Any programme should also take all compliances into consideration — such as legionella control, emergency lighting, gas safety and fire systems. It may be useful to get assistance from contractors or consultants to ensure all the required items are fully covered. Developing an effective program can also draw on support from bodies such as ISBL or CIPFA, as well as the use of Department for Education guidance.
Keep these key points in mind, and stress them as often as necessary:
- facilities maintenance ensures compliance to legislation
- properly maintained equipment and buildings last longer, so replacement costs decrease over time
- increased energy efficiency reduces utility costs
- a proactive response means fewer unexpected problems and supports the provision of a clean, comfortable, and safe learning environment
You then need to consider:
- creating a budget
- training your staff
- involving external contractors
- implementing your plan
- documenting your plan by keeping maintenance and compliance records
On this last point: it's important that full records are kept, easily accessible, and clearly lay out works to be undertaken. Your facilities maintenance contractor will often produce and implement the maintenance logbook.
This will lower the stress on school staff, who can focus on monitoring actions, checking on the contractor's performance against pre-determined service levels and KPIs. If you do not have this provided for you, then you need to establish your own framework with support from appropriate bodies.
Living in a post COVID-19 world is a key issue
Better hygiene and cleaning practices
Since COVID-19 spreads through contact with infected people and droplets, keeping spaces and surfaces clean and hygienic is currently a key requirement — especially with younger children who may not understand the precautions.
To adequately combat this, schools need to instil a proactive cleaning regime, executed by diligent staff. In a busy school environment, there are several key points that require close attention:
- decluttering long-unused materials, books, etc to allow for deep cleaning and disinfecting before the school reopens
- an adequate supply of hygiene materials such as hand sanitisers, contactless soap and water dispensers, no-touch trash cans, tissues
- frequent cleaning and inspection to ensure the best levels of hygiene, especially in high-contact areas like receptions, communal spaces, conveniences, and meeting rooms, as well as the frequent cleaning of door handles and staircase rails
- cleaning staff must stay protected themselves, by wearing the appropriate protective gear for each task
Maintaining healthy environments
Another area of concern is the health of school building itself, especially when they're older. It's important to verify systems are still in a viable condition to help combat the spread of COVID-19. You will need to pay attention to all equipment that can directly affect air quality by ensuring that:
- outside air rates are increased, as this may help dilute and replace contaminated indoor air; fans can be used to improve ventilation, in addition to keeping classroom windows open where possible
- faulty, outdated, or underperforming heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are repaired, replaced, or upgraded
If loopholes exist in a school’s maintenance processes, issues can still arise that could promote the spread of the virus. This could include stakeholders not complying with guidelines, or if they do not change their behaviour to adapt to the new realities.
One category of stakeholders who require close monitoring are contractors and other hired workers. Ensuring compliance with agreed preventive measures will require:
- frequent communication and training for every external worker coming into the school
- strict penalties for defaulters
- random checks to ensure that contractors are working as required and that they are following best practices in line with COVID-19 mitigation recommendations.
Find out more
CIPFA are working with ISBL to provide two webinars introducing asset management, governance and compliance. For details or to sign up, contact email@example.com.