Large-scale survey programmes

Chris Ball
Major estate holders are all too familiar with the problem of surveying the entire estate to determine condition and capital or maintenance needs. Our PMO-based approach uses data as a key enabler for good asset management.

Regular condition surveys are an important part of the wider asset investment plan, encompassing capital, operational and maintenance aims and costs. But the surveys themselves are expensive and time-consuming, and the bigger the surveyor resource pool, the more inconsistent/subjective the scope and methodology—especially when there’s a large, fragmented estate.

Strategic Asset Planning Methodology

Our team has developed a strategic asset planning methodology, providing a data model for identification of site surveys in a high-volume estate. Our services are aligned with RICS best practice guidance but tailored to individual needs.

Typical challenges include defining the scope of the surveys; ensuring data quality and relevance; achieving consistency and avoiding subjectivity; managing the data collected; data analysis and insight capability; planning for ongoing update, and sourcing the budget.

Once the data capture is completed, the primary output of a volume survey programme is usually the capital forecast. At this point, the client often anticipates that the capital forecast  is the end product, but further stakeholder engagement is needed to align the exercise with the client’s strategic objectives.

An accurate reflection of all project costs is extremely difficult, due to uncertainty, at the time of surveying, over the works phasing and procurement—it’s therefore helpful if clients  provide their own Schedule of Rates (SoRs), perhaps aligned to any established FM framework rates or supply chain costs. Clients will naturally want to understand how the SoRs are being used, how they have been developed, and what’s included.  If client SoRs are unavailable, we draw on our own benchmarked library.

Our pioneering Smart Investment Planning approach will model an estate’s lifecycle costs and produce a capital asset investment strategy aligned to key business drivers. Asset objectives can then be tested against budgetary restrictions, and targeted surveying used to validate high risk or high cost areas of the model, providing a robust capital maintenance plan.

Condition Data Collection Programme

Our work with the Department for Education (DfE) is an excellent example. We were one of four consultants appointed in 2016 on the three-year Condition Data Collection (CDC) programme to undertake a survey of England’s state schools’ estate.

This is one of the UK’s largest condition data collection exercises. Better understanding of the estate will inform funding allocations, identify rebuilding programmes, and help those responsible for maintenance to develop their estate management data.

In March 2017, we embarked on our 5,500 school surveys, with 100 surveyors and engineers on site at peak times, collecting building fabric and M&E data sets. Our centralised Project Management Office (PMO) team manages the programme workflow, ensuring sufficient resource, and overseeing all surveys.

Uniquely, our process mapped the DfE’s complex workflows, producing an integrated programme management interface (IPMI) to report on programme management, survey appointment details/logistics, and quality assurance metrics. Key benefits included creation of a multi-platform live environment to track the status/progress of all survey data points. This allowed us to interrogate and revise our processes to maximise efficiencies, quickly identifying and understanding pinch points in the process.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is vital. Every data set uploaded from the field is carefully checked, ensuring consistency, lack of subjectivity and early highlighting of problems. A ‘reflection in action’ lessons learned process has emerged, resulting in continuous improvement and reduced scope for problems at project completion.

Collaboration with framework partners who are ordinarily our competitors has enabled enhanced learning and best practice sharing. In monthly audits of  data-sets samples, our own performance demonstrates exceptional data collection, handling and management, which has been encouraging for our large team.

The CDC project builds on our education sector experience. This includes the Welsh government’s 21st Century Schools programme, where we authored the revised grading methodology for Band B funding applications, benchmarking the estate’s condition.

We undertake similar projects in other sectors, reflecting our strength in the collection, structuring and management of asset data. Examples include a longstanding PMO-based condition survey approach for a major retail bank, and in the residential sector we have surveyed 44,000 services-personnel residences for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO)

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