RICS Draft Guidance Note: Planned preventative maintenance of commercial and residential property, 1st edition

Planned Preventative Maintenance, RICS guidance note, 1st edition

5 Legal/technical

The PPM survey and report may include a review of legal/technical issues and associated limitations. When reporting on test certificates, specialist reports, existing plans, dimensions or measurements, health and safety, fire engineering or acceptance reports, RICS members are essentially reporting the findings of other specialists in each of these fields. It is not the responsibility of the RICS member to confirm or verify legal compliance unless specifically requested by the client. However, where there are clear and obvious visual omissions or defects that affect legal compliance, RICS members should note this in the report. They should inform the client of the potential risk and propose a solution to resolve the issue or investigate it further.

RICS members should have appropriate knowledge and understanding of the legal/technical issues associated with the premises. Where the building has a technical application as well as a requirement to conform to legal obligations, there will be a wide variety of considerations for RICS members to take into account. While RICS members are not obliged to perform a regulatory audit on the premises unless otherwise instructed, they are required to be aware of legal compliance. It is the responsibility of the owner, occupier or property manager to make legal/technical documents available for review. An allowance for this, including cost and any limitations, should be included in the client instruction.

5.1 Health and safety

In most cases, commercial building occupation and use obliges the owner or occupier to implement health and safety legislation relevant to the country, state or region. RICS members should have awareness of the principal health and safety requirements, and in particular those affecting the occupation of the premises. Specific tenant operations or uses are typically outside the scope of the PPM survey. RICS members are expected to use their judgement, expertise and duty of care to inform the client immediately of health and safety issues that pose an imminent danger to life.

The PPM survey and report are not expected to comprise a health and safety audit or risk assessment of the property; RICS members should rely on the existing statutory documents, including the health and safety audit. However, the PPM survey should note any health and safety observations concerned with but not limited to the following:

  • slips, trips and fall hazards
  • low head heights
  • overloading, including crowd loading requirements (e.g. for stadiums)
  • instability
  • demolition and maintenance hazards, presence of potential asbestos containing materials
  • maintenance and other safe access issues
  • confined spaces
  • excavations
  • falls, falling objects and fragile material
  • edge and barrier protection
  • glazing
  • fresh air, temperature and weather protection
  • humidification and air purification
  • passive and active fire precautions, fire alarm and detection systems, AOVs, and firefighting provision (wet/dry risers, fire shaft, firefighter lift, fire switch, etc.)
  • emergency routes
  • welfare facilities
  • vehicular hazards, traffic routes and workplace transport hazards, including loading and unloading
  • hazardous materials and operations
  • lighting levels and
  • electrical installations.

5.2 Fire engineering

The PPM survey and report do not constitute a fire safety audit, although it should be acknowledged that the premises should have been constructed in accordance with the relevant fire safety legislation. It should also be noted that the conditions of the building's use may also require compliance with specific fire engineering requirements. Therefore, the starting point for RICS members concerning all aspects of fire safety is to review and report on any existing fire risk strategy, fire risk assessments (FRAs), audits or acceptance procedures for the property that have been made available by the owner, occupier or property manager.

Fire safety is a complex issue and unless otherwise qualified and competent, RICS members should not verify the compliance of the premises with the relevant legal regulations, standards and codes. Under the terms of the client instruction, the survey should note any obvious visual deficiencies or evidence to suggest breaches of fire safety regulations and good practice. This does not replace the obligations for the building owner, landlord or tenant concerning statutory compliance and the need for obtaining the relevant fire risk assessment associated with the property. Fire safety on the premises may require periodic inspection by the owner, landlord or tenant, and this should include regular inspection of fire doors as well as regular testing of fire alarm and detection systems, emergency lighting, AOVs, sprinklers, and other firefighting devices such as wet/dry risers, fire extinguishers, fire switches, firefighter lift, etc.

Fire safety legislation often differs between countries, states and regions. The International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition is a body that seeks to standardise fire safety principles. RICS is both the founder member and chair. When undertaking a PPM survey and reporting on fire safety issues, RICS members should refer to International Fire Safety Standard - Common Principles (IFSS-CP) .

RICS members should review the existing fire risk strategy and fire risk assessment (if available, as not all countries mandate this) and, during the visual inspection, note any obvious deficiencies with the following:

  • fire detection and alarm systems
  • means of escape, including adequate signage
  • emergency lighting
  • measures to limit internal/external fire spread, including review of combustible materials
  • fire resistance of the structure (passive fire protection), including cladding/EWS
  • automatic fire suppression systems (sprinklers, etc.)
  • automatic opening vents
  • wet and dry hydrants
  • firefighting provision, including firefighting shafts, firefighter lifts and fire switches.

5.2.1 Fire detection systems, fire alarms and firefighting

Automatic fire alarm and detection systems, automatic fire suppression systems (sprinklers, etc.), wet and dry hydrants, and firefighting provision are difficult to assess visually, unless there is evidence of physically damaged or missing components. RICS members should therefore rely on the existing fire risk assessment (where available) and the findings of the M&E survey.

5.2.2 Internal and external fire spread

RICS members are not expected to be fire engineering specialists, but they are expected to have a working knowledge of the relevant fire safety regulations, standards and codes, and understand the principles of fire propagation, separation and compartmentation. Unless otherwise instructed, RICS members should not open up floor or ceiling voids to verify the presence of fire barriers or fire stopping. RICS members should review the fire risk assessment concerning the retrospective placement of cables and pipes associated with the fit-out, which may have compromised fire compartmentation and fire stopping. If the inspection identifies obvious visual evidence that fire compartments have been breached, RICS members should recommend a more widespread inspection or audit of the ceiling and floor voids, ceiling wall and floor junctions, as well as the sealing of pipework and cables, existing shafts and risers.

With regards to external fire separation, RICS members should rely on the fire risk assessment when establishing maintenance actions. However, if RICS members are able to observe the external facades and proximity to adjacent buildings, they should note the facade type, construction and materials. If qualified, RICS members should comment on the external fa├žade materials with respect to their anticipated fire resistance. External fire spread occurs vertically from floor to floor, with openings or apertures being obvious points of fire penetration. Attachments such as balconies and brise soleil can also propagate fire spread. Fire can also spread horizontally from different parts of the building, or from adjacent buildings. Any obvious visual deficiencies or concerns should be noted and reported to the client with a recommendation for a specialist fire safety investigation to provide appropriate actions. Reference should be made to RICS' Cladding for surveyors supplementary information paper.

5.2.3 Fire resistance of the structure (passive fire protection)

The requirements or obligations concerning the fire resistance of the building structure will vary between country, region and state. They are set by relevant national regulations or through the explicit requirements of local authorities. Building height, size and use often influence fire resistance requirements, and RICS members should be aware of the applicable legal regulations, standards and codes. As the structure is likely to be concealed or clad with other materials, RICS members can only report on what is visible or what has been possibly constructed, based on a review of the as-built files (which can be inaccurate). In many instances, additional fire protection may have been added to the structure, or automatic fire suppression systems may have been installed to supplement fire resistance. RICS members should review any documents, noting any obvious visual deficiencies, and recommend further specialist investigation if evidence exists to suggest that structural fire resistance has been compromised.

5.3 Accessibility

The requirements for disabled access or accessibility associated with inclusivity in the built environment also vary between countries, regions and states. The PPM survey and report do not constitute an access audit, but may note the findings of any existing access reports.

The definition of disability and the appropriate provisions for access should be explicitly defined by legislation and applicable regulations. Tenant use or occupation as a service provider may require explicit access considerations, including internal adjustments or operating policies. RICS members should not comment on this unless it is a building owner or landlord requirement to provide accessibility. Retrospective adjustment to existing buildings can be complex, particularly with older or historic properties; RICS members should note any key omissions and recommend further investigation or audit by a suitably qualified specialist if required.

5.4 Environmental considerations

The PPM survey and report do not constitute an environmental assessment, but RICS members should have sufficient knowledge and understanding to advise on the following environmental considerations:

  • energy efficiency
  • noise and disturbance, and
  • pollution, contamination and environmental control.

5.4.1 Energy efficiency

The PPM survey and report should take into account the energy efficiency of the premises and any factors that may affect this. RICS members should review any existing energy audits for the building. These might be displayed in the building or held in the as-built files by the owner, occupier or property manager. In the absence of such documents, RICS members should recommend that an energy audit is undertaken and the subsequent report made available for review, subject to the applicable legal prescription and regulations. The PPM survey should not be considered as an energy audit.

RICS members should consider the inclusion of energy efficiency recommendations in the PPM report outputs, where instructed to do so by their clients. Members should note that including energy efficiency improvements in a service charge PPM report may contravene RICS Professional statement, Service charges in commercial property. RICS members should consult a specialist before proceeding.

RICS members should not be expected to inspect or examine the presence, type or thickness of insulation to roofs or facades if this is concealed or not visible. A visual inspection should note the presence of any construction detailing that may compromise the thermal efficiency of the premises. In particular, RICS members should note the presence of deficiencies in the building envelope, such as cold deck construction, cold bridging or inefficient facade and glazing systems. The building orientation, such as the north-south aspect, can affect solar gain as well as heat loss; this should be reported, along with the presence of any external solar blinds or brise soleil.

Without access to as-built documents, including maintenance reports, RICS members should not comment on the efficiency of service installations unless suitably qualified. The absence of insulation for pipework or ducting, and the presence of regulation systems for central HVAC or individual heating or cooling emitters, should be noted or reported on. If RICS members have insufficient knowledge of service installations or no access to documents quantifying their efficiency, they should obtain a specialist report from an M&E engineer.

5.4.2 Noise and disturbance

Noise may be generated either internally or externally, and can have a detrimental effect on building occupants or the neighbouring environment. RICS members are not expected to undertake tests to record noise levels internally or externally, but should note any apparent evidence of high noise levels, including any complaints raised by the occupier to the owner or property manager. RICS members should request confirmation from the owner, occupier or property manager of any reported noise issues. Where operating permits or licences stipulate compliance with maximum noise levels, RICS members should seek to obtain confirmation from the building owner, occupier or property manager that these have not been exceeded. Noise generated externally from aircraft, heavy traffic or industrialisation should be noted by RICS members and cross-referenced with any observations or internal complaints. If noise levels or complaints cannot be verified, RICS members should recommend obtaining confirmation from acoustic specialists.

5.4.3 Pollution, contamination and environmental control

The PPM survey does not constitute an environmental assessment. However, RICS members should report the findings in any existing reports in the technical documents held for the property concerning pollution, contamination and environmental control.

RICS members should note the presence on the site of material or activities that may pollute the ground, drainage or water courses, or air. Where available, RICS members should review the operating licences or permits concerning site use and any operating conditions relevant to them. It is not the responsibility of RICS members to verify that the site is being operated in accordance with the relevant environmental control, but any obvious evidence suggesting possible pollution or contamination should be noted.

Visual evidence of possible air pollution in the immediate locality or from adjacent premises such as chimneys, flues and exhaust extracts should be noted, and RICS members should provide advice on the potential effects of these. The presence of fuel oil or gas storage, vehicle refuelling and vehicle washing facilities should also be noted, with a recommendation to cross-reference their use with the conditions stipulated in the relevant operating permit. It is not the responsibility of RICS members (unless qualified and instructed) to assess and report upon the condition of fuel storage facilities.

Waste management, including the storage and disposal of waste materials or products, should be noted. Evidence of vermin and existing pest control should also be noted and reported. It is not the role of RICS members to assess waste management processes, but they should report on any obvious problems associated with these processes. Uncontrolled storage of waste materials can pose a health hazard or risk of fire, particularly arson. RICS members should note this, informing the client immediately.

The risk of arson and vandalism, typically associated with nonsecure premises or sites, should be noted if observed by RICS members as part of their assessment of external areas, boundary walls, fencing, storage of materials and CCTV.

The presence on site of electrical pylons, mobile phone masts, electrical substations or satellite transmitters should be noted, along with the potential presence of electromagnetic fields. This is based on a visual assessment, as no tests will be performed by RICS members to record this.

RICS members are expected to have knowledge and understanding of the area in which they operate, and this is of particular relevance concerning the potential presence of live or historic mining or specific ground conditions. While a PPM survey will not constitute a risk assessment for storms, flooding, earthquakes or other natural disasters, RICS members should have enough awareness to be able to inform the client of any known recent events.

5.5 Deleterious materials

RICS members should have sufficient knowledge of historic and current building technology to be able to note the presence of, and advise on, materials that are considered to be hazardous or deleterious within their locality. Where there is a legal requirement to control or manage the presence of such materials, RICS members should not undertake this, but should review the registers and reports prepared by specialists. If there is a suspicion of deleterious or hazardous materials within specific construction elements or components, RICS members should recommend, where necessary, further inspection or testing.

5.6 Sustainability

Sustainability in the built environment is of utmost importance. RICS members should consider the sustainability of their advice at all stages of the PPM process, including through specification of sustainable materials, recommendation of refurbishment of building elements over replacement and whether maintenance activities present opportunities for environmental enhancements. Where preparing service charge budgets, RICS members should ensure their advice aligns with local RICS guidance on service charge recoverable works, which may not allow full recovery of sustainability improvements.

5.7 Cultural heritage

RICS members are expected to have knowledge of the conservation of the historic built environment. Therefore, when advising on the condition, maintenance and repair of historic buildings, RICS members should confirm the importance or classification of the building, as well as any procedural process required to undertake repairs. In general, protected, listed or classified buildings or premises within areas of cultural or historical importance require the application of specific repair techniques or materials. Consequently, this can increase the estimated costs of repair. It is the responsibility of RICS members to make provision for this or seek specialist opinion when making cost advice in the PPM report.

5.8 Legal matters

5.8.1 Leasing and repairing liabilities

The client's legal advisors should be consulted regarding the presence of existing leases for the premises and any tenant repair obligations. Typically, PPM surveys and reports exclude tenant responsibility for repairs. RICS members should have sufficient knowledge and experience to analyse and advise on the repair obligations. When preparing cost advice, RICS members should be risk-averse and include repairs to all areas, subject to verification of the costs that are the responsibility of the tenant or recoverable through the service charge.

When undertaking PPM surveys and delivering cost advice, RICS members should refer to the current edition of Service charges in commercial property, RICS professional statement.

5.8.2 Guarantees and warranties

The presence of existing guarantees and warranties is important, as these can transfer some of the cost liability of repairs to the named guarantors. Such documents are held by the building owner, occupier or property manager, and if there has been a transfer of building ownership, a copy of these documents may be held with the client's legal advisors. RICS members should consult all relevant guarantees and warranties when preparing PPM cost advice. They should be risk-averse and include the cost of the works in the PPM schedule until credible evidence exists to verify that these are covered by existing guarantees or warranties. Members should recognise that a PPM report is likely to be used to maintain building elements in accordance with manufacturers guarantees/warranties, so any necessary works should be reported upon.

The statutory requirement to provide guarantees for building design and the construction of building components or elements varies between countries, regions and states. RICS members should have knowledge of such statutory guarantees or know where to source this information when advising the client.