We’re currently looking into methods of conducting measured surveys that would help us capture building data, photographic evidence and produce a set of floor plans, as well as the processing for say an EPC and Heat Loss Calculation.
Having good building records through clear visuals makes working out dilapidations and reinstatements easier for both tenants and landlords, and by having baseline calculations, we don’t need to go into every single room when doing a survey. This makes life easier for tenants who appreciate less disruption, particularly those whose customers would have to vacate a building while we get to work – not easy when these are patients in a doctor’s surgery.
There are many data capture solutions on the market for measured surveys, such as 3D laser scanning, but the post-survey processing can be quite time-consuming and requires skill and knowledge of various software systems as well as requiring manual computation. The cost can also be another issue. There’s currently no panacea, but I’m very hopeful that a solution will be found.
For every client who has a full suite of plans, there are plenty without any floor plans at all, which is really frustrating because this information is fundamental when doing surveys. It’s down to the tenant to take this responsibility, and if they were to tell the landlord that they had knocked internal walls down, the onus is always on them to provide pictorial documentary evidence. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, and we regularly encounter frustrated landlords who would appreciate having sight of missing documents. It particularly benefits everyone to have the floor plans at the earliest stage, as it makes the assessment process more streamlined; we can start in good time and our reduced workload – using the drawings to start our assessment before going onsite – can be passed on as a cost saving.
One client recently asked us what they could do to get a B rating on their EPC if the building was refurbished. I explained that if they were able to send over a set of plans, we could do some desktop modelling and would only need to go to the site once the refurbishment works had been completed, making it cheaper for them. The other benefit of undertaking the energy modelling before procuring the refurbishment works presents an element of confidence that the time, effort and money they spend will result in the desired EPC rating. Too often we are asked to carry out an EPC following refurbishment works and then explain to clients why the EPC rating is not what they had anticipated – yet they hadn’t carried out any pre-assessment modelling. I’ve previously highlighted the role other professionals (architects, building control officers, surveyors and even contractors) could play in suggesting a pre-assessment. This really does not take much effort or add costs to the project.
The impact of timely and thorough floor plans goes beyond cost savings though. For example, if we’re doing an assessment and providing a model, the client can ask for that to be shared with stakeholders, such as other energy assessors and building control. Although obviously if an assessment has been conducted by different parties at different times, there’s a risk of adopting someone else’s errors and liabilities. You can largely overcome this by doing some rigorous quality assurance, but the industry could work towards having a digital locker for these plans, a bit like BIM (Building Information Modelling). This combines individual data points and visual representation which can then be shared across multiple agencies during the building’s lifespan. It means anyone who needs these details can easily access them.
Another client who planned to let a property to a physiotherapist told me they wanted a survey done later that week. Although we could squeeze it in, I told him there would be no time to take corrective action if the EPC was below the minimum standard. Luckily the EPC was a B. I like to think I can pull off some tricky challenges but I’m no magician.
We’ve recently been writing a couple of tender bids for a raft of energy assessments and discovered in the bid pack that neither organisation seemed to be worried about their properties’ EPC rating and were focused instead on getting 100% coverage of their portfolio in terms of EPC data. They simply wanted to know how an assessor would get access – as well as the price – and weren’t thinking about what they would do if EPC ratings needed raising. The main concern was: “How will you get access and what would you do if you can’t get access?” They’re evidently saying that it’s going to be really difficult to get into these buildings! I suppose if nothing else we’d get some money reimbursed for abortive surveys, but it troubles me that this approach just isn’t ethical and these tenders are written in such a way that allows for a get-out clause rather than focusing on how to address challenges with MEES*. Evidently the ability to walk through walls would help us when bidding for future contracts…
*Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard