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Condition Surveys - Procuring & Interpreting Data

19th August 2019

Condition Surveys - Procuring & Interpreting Data

In this, the first in a series of short articles about condition surveys for schools, we will look at the importance of accurate condition survey data, how it can help the estate management function and provide some guidance on procuring surveys to ensure you are getting the most useful output from your advisors.

Future articles will investigate methods of data collection and handling and give advice on interpretation of the data and how it can be used to make optimum strategic decisions.

Why is this important?

Academisation has placed enhanced duties on many schools to actively manage their estates and with limited funding there is an ever-increasing pressure to do this as efficiently as possible. Ultimately, unforeseen building expenses have a detrimental effect on educational outcomes.

Both newly formed and expanding Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) bring both opportunity and risk in taking on new sites and their inherent maintenance and development needs. The larger the portfolio, the more important it is to keep a handle on future expenditure.

Increasingly in the education sector, funding is linked to data. The government’s own Condition Data Collection (CDC) programme is used by ESFA to plan expenditure for responsible bodies, identify blocks in need of replacement and provide evidence to the treasury of need or funding in the sector.

Data collection and data management are increasingly becoming key drivers for Facilities and Asset Management in the industry. In addition to the needs identified above, technology is driving change in the ways in which data is collected and reported.

How can it help?

By looking at data driven asset management, you could

  • Improve the efficiency of data collection/survey programmes
  • Improve accuracy & consistency of data – particularly across sites/portfolios
  • Enable analysis of data at different levels depending on need. High level strategic vs local level detail to make better decisions
  • Benchmark your estate/properties to drive change/improvement
  • Secure funding using evidence based applications (CIF, PSBP2, SSEF, contributions when taking on a new academy)

Why you need a condition survey?

Condition surveys will help you to identify what work is needed to maintain the estate, consider how much works might cost and prioritise work within available funds. Due diligence surveys can also be used to inform decisions on acquisition or disposal (i.e. trust expansion or revenue generation by sale of assets)

When considering what to record it is important to have an understanding of how the data will be used. There is little point in collecting a hugely detailed data set if the end users have neither the resources to analyse and maintain the data or implement the resulting work packages. In the education sector we would normally suggest collecting data at a block by block level (rather than room by room) which gives the optimum balance of quality and value.

The condition survey should identify specific building condition issues, deficiencies and maintenance requirements. In addition to the building fabric it is critically important to get a specialist assessment of the building services by qualified engineers as this is where the majority of maintenance and compliance issues will arise.

When procuring condition surveys, think about the limitations and exclusions imposed by both you and the surveyor. Specifically think about access and agree this in advance. For example, many schools have easily accessible flat roofs but higher level or less accessible roofs may not be simple to view. The use of other technology such as drones may offer a more cost effective solution. As well as specialist reports on building services there may be a requirement for specialist reports on systems such as swimming pools. Finally, you should ascertain the qualifications and experience of the surveyors undertaking the work. As noted above, this is particularly important with specialist areas such as building services.

To enable analysis of the estate, budgeting and planning of works it is essential that the condition survey includes an estimated cost and timescale for repair or replacement. Inevitably these will only be guide prices as it is not possible for a surveyor to know how the works are to be procured in the future but having a figure to start with is essential to enable practical steps to be taken towards implementing the asset management strategy.

In the next article we will look at how this data can be managed effectively and used to make the best quality decisions.