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What is a building condition assessment and when do you need one?

At a time such as this, when many longstanding restrictions to control the spread of the coronavirus are being loosened and workers are returning to commercial premises, it is important for those responsible for properties and property maintenance that may have long been left empty to adopt sensible measures.

One such measure could be undertaking a building condition assessment, which could be key to the ongoing maintenance and management of your property.  

building condition assessment

What is a building condition assessment?

A building condition assessment entails a commercial building’s structures and systems being systematically inspected, reviewed and reported on, with a view to identifying any physical deficiencies that may necessitate repair or replacement.

Some may consider a building condition assessment to be the commercial-building equivalent of a home inspection. However, with commercial premises tending to have their own specialised requirements compared to residential buildings, a building condition assessment is necessarily more complicated, providing more in-depth insight into a structure’s condition.  Plus, it’s more than likely that you will need to take into consideration – and therefore the responsibility of – the health and safety of many people… staff, visitors, etc.

When do you need a building condition assessment?

Many might presume that a building condition assessment would be requested as a one-off in readiness for the sale of a property – for example, to reassure the prospective buyer that they are making the right decision in acquiring the building.

A building condition assessment may well be arranged in such circumstances. After all, even if the buyer has no doubts about going ahead with their purchase of the property, the resulting report will still provide important information on issues with the building that they may need to address.

Furthermore, most lenders are unlikely to give final approval to a commercial property loan until such an assessment has been carried out.

However, an upcoming property purchase transaction is not the only circumstance in which a building condition assessment may be performed. As we touched on above, it may be particularly pertinent at the present time, when many businesses are moving their workforces back into commercial buildings that might have been left unoccupied and unmaintained for much of the past 15 months or so.

If you are responsible for a commercial property, you might also ask for a building condition assessment in order to put in place a well-informed safety and maintenance programme for the premises. The report from this assessment can also provide the information you need to help you forecast and budget for maintenance expenses, or to determine whether the building should be renovated, sold or demolished.

You might also use the results of a building condition assessment to assess the value of commercial property that you own, or in order to allocate resources efficiently across what may be an extensive portfolio of properties.

What does a building condition assessment cover?

A building condition assessment typically consists of a walkthrough survey to pinpoint any physical deficiencies in the property, as well as document reviews and interviews. The findings from these processes are then collated into the final property condition report.

The organisation carrying out the condition assessment of your property is likely to undertake a site inspection that looks closely at such aspects of the building as its utilities, drainage, parking and landscaping.

The inspection and subsequent report will also scrutinise the structural frame of the building, and its electrical and mechanical systems encompassing the likes of its heating, cooling, plumbing, ventilation and insulation.

In addition, the assessors will look at the finishes of interior surfaces like the ceilings, walls and floors, as well as the fire protection systems present in the building.

While it is recommended to have images and videos taken of the property to aid in assessing its condition, there are certain parts of the building – such as sloped roofs and high-rise walls – that may be inaccessible to inspectors or otherwise hinder their appreciation of the building’s condition. Drones may therefore be used to capture aerial or close views of otherwise awkward and difficult-to-reach areas.

What does a building condition assessment not cover?

While a thorough building condition assessment will encompass many different areas of the property, there are certain elements that are not typically covered in such an assessment.

A building condition assessment will not usually provide details on the cost of renovating the building, for instance. Nor is it likely to set out to determine whether pests such as rodents, insects or other organisms – potentially damaging to the fabric of the building – may be present.

It is also unlikely that the inspection will look at the condition of much more hidden areas in and around the property, such as soil types and conditions, manholes, or underground utilities.

Asbestos is another consideration that property owners/managers may face, particularly for properties that were built prior to 1999.  If asbestos-containing materials are identified a qualified asbestos surveyor will need to be called in to properly assess asbestos material. The surveyor will then be able to advise on the best course of action in order to deal with the presence of asbestos.

How to best manage ongoing building condition assessment

If you are looking to have building condition assessments carried out at your commercial premises on an ongoing basis, ie. annually – maybe for insurance purposes as well as maintenance, you are likely to appreciate that building maintenance and property management software can help make this process quicker, easier and less resource-heavy.

This is very much the kind of solution that our Vision platform at ACMS UK represents. Our sophisticated cloud-based software allows property and facilities managers to set up a building condition audit template in Vision-Pro Audits.

Our highly regarded and compliant property management software also offers users the ability to upload drone and video footage from the assessment. This enables managers to see the results of the inspection of otherwise difficult-to-access parts of a property, such as its roof and ceiling voids or identifying recent weather-damaged areas of the premises.

In utilising the Audits platform, we can create bespoke question sets or recreate the familiar, ie. those you currently have/work with in different formats such as word, excel or pdf.  After all, just because you’re improving your processes, doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel!  With secured access, you can allow staff, contractors, service personnel, management, access to the software. They will then be able to use the live data for whatever they need it for such as servicing or maintenance, remedial works, replacement, budgeting, overview or overseeing of the entire property portfolio.  Each person has a part to play and each individual with access can contribute to the efficient running of your operation.

All in all, the Vision package from ACMS UK is a superb solution for the ongoing management of your organisation’s building condition assessments.

To learn more about how the Vision software could greatly help you as a property or facilities manager to plan and execute your ongoing building condition assessments, simply call ACMS UK’s experts today.