RICS Draft Guidance Note: Planned preventative maintenance of commercial and residential property, 1st edition

Planned Preventative Maintenance, RICS guidance note, 1st edition

4 The inspection

While there is a bespoke nature to many buildings and client requirements, the principle of undertaking a PPM survey is universal: to undertake a methodical examination of the main building or construction elements.

RICS members should have sufficient experience and knowledge of the different materials used for the building elements and the associated requirements to prevent their decay or deterioration.

The inspection of the property is visual. Unsecured access hatches or doors should be opened in accordance with the client instruction. The visual inspection will not include concealed areas, or opening up raised floors or suspended ceilings, unless explicitly requested by the client. The presence of a tenant's fixtures, fittings, equipment, personnel or materials may also restrict the visual inspection. See section 4.2 for further information on access limitations.

Where the client has requested opening up concealed areas, this should be done where there is evidence to suggest defects are present or on a sample basis. It may be necessary to obtain a copy of the asbestos inventory or commission an asbestos survey prior to opening up. Opening up concealed areas may require specific equipment and/or the assistance of a contractor for removal and reinstatement works. There are also potential difficulties with the disruption this may cause to the tenant, occupation or operation of the premises. Where there is evidence of the need to open up areas that are likely to cause disruption, the RICS member should inform the client, and refer where necessary to any specific clauses in the lease agreement dealing with such an inspection or repair works.

RICS members may inspect aspects of the building on a sample basis where this is sufficient to validate the general or overall condition. The inspection and testing of repetitive items such as window mechanisms should also be done on a sample basis, and RICS members should agree the sample size in advance with the client. RICS members may also extrapolate quantities with the use of drawings by either counting or measuring from them. For example, it may be appropriate not to inspect every plant room, but to measure quantities and count numbers of doors from drawings.

RICS members may also rely on a more comprehensive inspection document that is specifically designed to inspect one aspect or element of the building in greater detail.

4.1 Recording data

Working within the constraints of time and available access, RICS members should systematically inspect the property, taking notes and recording photographic evidence. Notes may be recorded in written form, dictated or with tech devices such as smartphones or tablets with cloud-based inspection/reporting software (see section 4.1.1). Data recorded on site should be used to develop the survey report and RICS members should retain a copy of the original, unedited survey notes on file.

4.1.1 Electronic data capture software

Electronic data capture software may be used in PPM surveys, particularly for larger survey programmes with multiple surveyors or survey programmes spanning over several company office locations, where tools to increase consistency are key.

Rather than a traditional pen and paper approach, electronic data capture involves apps on mobile or tablet devices. With the wealth of data captured on site and the tools available to manipulate that information into dashboards, reports and planned maintenance programmes, IT systems can provide surveyors with the ability to provide consistent data and outputs across their portfolios.

Industry-recognised element lists can be prepopulated into the software, each with predefined defect descriptions, industry-recognised unit costs and activity lifespans. Collecting information in this way can ensure multiple surveyors are working to the same element lists in real time, using the same terminology and cost sources to ensure consistency of the data and report outputs. Additionally, collection of data in standard element formats can allow for intelligent analysis of the data by the client in order to manage their portfolio of assets.

RICS members should note, however, that software is to be used only as a tool to assist in the completion of these surveys, and their professional opinion will always be crucial to the success of any survey programme. RICS members should be sufficiently trained and competent in the use of such software, as well as being aware of its limitations.

4.2 Access

In accordance with the client instruction and agreed scope of services provided, RICS members should inspect all or part of the main building elements as instructed. Where possible and safe to do so, RICS members should seek to access all areas within their instruction. Where safe access is not possible or areas are inaccessible, RICS members should establish any known defects through dialogue with the user of the building, then seek to inspect or ascertain their cause, effect and significance. In the report, RICS members should detail the risk associated with inaccessible areas, proposing a solution to mitigate the risk. This may include further investigation or opening up, supplementary visits to locked or secured areas of the site, or the use of specific access equipment such as platform lifts or drone surveys.

4.3 Building elements

The PPM survey has the dual objective of capturing both the present-day condition of the property and the ongoing maintenance requirements over the reporting period (see section 2.2). It is therefore important that RICS members understand the typical lifecycle of each building element, and give due consideration to the specific location and use factors that may influence the building element's performance over a given time period.

Each building element should be considered, as well as its composite sub-elements, to ensure a complete picture of the building's condition and maintenance performance can be obtained. Whether this is reported on an elemental or sub-elemental basis will be determined by the client's instructions.

The following table identifies common building elements and should be used as a prompt during surveys. It is not, however, considered to be exhaustive and surveyors should ensure all elements and sub-elements are included.

Element Common sub-elements
  • Roof lights (structure or housing, type, fixed or opening and the presence of smoke vents)
  • Rainwater disposal systems (type, positioning, quantity and protective grilles)
  • Parapet walls (structure, linings, flashings and copings) 
  • Roof covering (structure, insulation and finish)
  • Other items (chimneys, flues, lightning conductors, access provision, walkways, lifelines or safety fixings, plant room housings/compounds and doors or tenant installations).
RICS members should seek to inspect the external surface of the roof, and its internal underside where visible, to establish the construction detail, condition and evidence of defects. Through visual inspection, RICS members should verify the roof structure, presence of insulation (warm or cold deck technology) and the roof finish or waterproof membranes. Roofs should be inspected for loose components that may create a hazard, and appropriate advice should be reported accordingly.
Element Common sub-elements
  • Substructure
  • Superstructure
  • Floor structure
  • Roof structure

In most normal circumstances, it is unlikely that RICS members will be able to inspect the foundations of the premises without excavating or exposing them. This should be a normal limitation in the client instruction. However, if RICS members identify evidence to suggest the presence of structural movement, further investigation should be recommended to include the possibility of exposing the foundations.

RICS members are not expected to verify the design concept or calculations, but should note and report visual evidence of structural alteration, damage, defects, deterioration or deflection. During the inspection, RICS members should undertake some basic check dimensions, such as the finished floor-to-ceiling heights, storey heights, facade module and structural grid. This information is useful for generating quantities of work items.
 Element  Common sub-elements
  • External sub-blinds and brise soleil
  • External walls and cladding
  • Windows, doors and joinery
 For curtain walling, cladding and complex facade systems, RICS members should seek the advice of a specialist facade consultant.Facades should be inspected for loose components that may create a hazard, and advice should be given on the frequency of future inspections as part of the PPM report.
 Element  Common sub-elements
 Internal parts  
  • Floor finishes
  • Wall finishes
  • Ceiling finishes
  • Internal doors, fire doors, ironmongery
  • Sanitary and welfare installations
  • Stairs and handrails
  • Joinery
  • Internal wall/partition construction

It may be necessary for members to divide their reporting of internal building elements further, into location or use within the property, for example:

  • entrance halls, lobbies and corridors
  • staircases and emergency escape routes
  • central core: lift lobbies, sanitary rooms, storage areas
  • staff welfare, kitchens and changing facilities, and
  • Operational areas: offices, meeting rooms, shop floors, production, bedrooms, etc.
 Element Common sub-elements 
External areas
  • Access roads and car parking
  • Hardstanding areas, paths and patios
  • Perimeter fencing, walls and hedges
  • Access and exit points
  • Landscaping, including vegetation, water features and gardens
  • Outbuildings
  • Associated mechanical, electrical and plumbing features: surface drainage, irrigation systems, etc.
  • Facilities such as sports courts, swimming pools, etc.
Element Common sub-elements 
Building services
  • HVAC supply and distribution
  • Electrical supply and distribution (power and lighting)
  • Public health systems (excluding sewers)
  • Domestic water supply and distribution
  • Fire detection and alarm systems
  • Firefighting (sprinklers, dry risers, etc.)
  • Vertical transportation
  • Utility connections
  • Renewal/sustainable energy
  • Automatic sunscreens or power-assisted brise soleil
  • Other specialist services (trigeneration/photovoltaic cells, etc.).

Members should refer to their instructions and consider the limitations of their knowledge before reporting on building services. It is likely that input from specialist engineers will be required to appropriately report upon the condition and maintenance requirements of building services.

It is not normal to undertake any tests of the service installations during the site inspection, particularly services related to fire detection, alarms or firefighting/suppression. Assessments of serviceability are usually done through a review of the statutory documents, which should be held as part of the onsite as-built file, or provided by the client. Where there are copies of current, up-to-date maintenance reports or test certificates, RICS members should review these and report any comments or findings. If further clarification is required to understand or explain the information included in technical documents, RICS members should recommend further investigation or analysis from a suitably qualified expert (as detailed in section 3.6).


When advising on remedial works, members should consider the most appropriate repair in the best interests of the building to establish the best possible solutions. Unless otherwise instructed by the client, RICS members may later amend the findings or recommendations following discussion with the client, which can be documented in the report.

Concerning fire engineering, RICS members are not expected to take on the role of a qualified fire safety engineer or specialist. As part of the legal/technical document review, RICS members should establish whether there are any acceptance reports from the initial design team or relevant authorities or fire risk assessments confirming compliance of the premises with fire regulations. During the visual inspection, RICS members should note any evidence of alterations to the structure and its protection that may compromise resistance to fire. This could include the protection for steel structural components where this is evident.

RICS members should note the presence of potentially deleterious materials, including asbestos containing materials, composite cladding, aluminium composite materials and high pressure laminate (HPL). RICS members should review O&M manuals and discuss with manufacturers to ensure these materials are being used appropriately.

For the decoration of internal and external building elements, RICS members should consider the use of the building and the amount of wear the elements will receive, as well as the client's standard of decorative repair and the budget allowance for decorations. Occupational agreements may impose decoration intervals on occupiers and landlords.

Typically, PPM reports that cover periods of 5-10 years will not include day-to-day maintenance, testing, cleaning or security. The client may have separate annual PPM reports covering these maintenance items, often provided by a facilities/maintenance contractor. It may be applicable to include an overall cost of these services within a long-term PPM report for accountancy/service charge purposes.