With larger and more complex properties you will often hear mention of ‘M and E’ issues or equipment that can soon start getting very technical and complicated.
In fact, even in smaller properties you may see these as a general reference in reports and budgets but actually making little sense.
Well the full names are Mechanical & Electrical and basically mean all the fancy electronic kit you see in buildings. This includes the main electrics and distribution boards, and more unusual installations like lifts, however the main bread-and-butter ones are heating and cooling.
So, in short, what kit helps heat the building in winter and cool it in summer. And whether it’s swept under an M&E umbrella or just referred to directly, this can be an important factor at a building that aeffects how everyone can comfortably use it.
Sifting Through the Technical Talk
Now this can get very technical, and in fact very costly as soon as you hear talk of installing new heating equipment, or planned maintenance programmes and surveys trying to diagnose the condition and issues.
From a property-management perspective you have to make sure you don’t get dragged too much into this technical talk, but keep a wider perspective on other property issues and costs affecting it.
Ideally you have a good contractor, M&E engineer, or building surveyor to get the techie-stuff right; within property management you often have to just ask the right questions and get things along the right path.
Therefore here are seven key issues to be aware of from this wider perspective to help you begin effectively managing your property interest.
1. Knowing the True Heating & Cooling Services
This may seem glaringly obvious;, to make sure you know what piece of equipment is supposed to do what, but when you’re gawping at a huge plant room of gadgets this can seem more confusing than you might think.
Think really simple – what makes things hot, and what makes things cold?.
Sometimes these are two completely different systems, for example a central-heating system with radiators around the property for heat, but then separate air-conditioning units in rooms with equipment bolted on the outside walls.
Or sometimes these can all be the same, for example in modern offices with grills from the ceiling having the ability to give out either hot or cold air.
And when it comes to heating, don’t get confused with hot water provision as opposed to providing heat in an area. These are often separate systems although can be sharing parts of the main heating-kit.
Now once you begin to dissect this, you can begin prioritising the issues. So in the middle of summer you may not need to focus on the heating part, and if you do need to provide a certain level of heating or cooling at certain times then you could look at temporary electric heaters or air-conditioning units as a temporary measure.
2. The Engine and Plant Rooms
This kind of links to the earlier point of what kit you have, but is more specifically about knowing where the main equipment is. This is the engine room, where the mother-ship of heat and cooling provision is based.
This may well be one central boiler room which is hopefully located in the communal areas, or if within an occupied area then having clear access and liability rights.
And if you do have this centrally-located heating system then you need to be aware of potential additional reporting requirements through the Heat Network Heating & Billing Regulations in addition to usual ones such as annual gas checks for gas-powered heating.
However, it can often be more piece-meal, so a boiler on each floor or a cooling piece outside.
Whatever and wherever it is, when you’re looking at changes, then see if it’s time to change this, so become more centrally focused or splitting for different areas and responsibilities.
3. Keeping Control of the Things
So, you know what heating and cooling kit you have, and you know the main central provision of this; you now need to suss -out how all this is controlled.
This may be from one central and BMS system, or more crude on/off and timer switches dotted around the property.
Once you have this bottomed-out, then make sure this works for optimum ease-of-use and efficiency.
4. Resolving Repairs and Replacements
People can over react when you’re dealing with heating & cooling problems, because they’re affecting people’s comfort and more technical advisors can get carried away with things.
Therefore, get to the bottom -line of what’s causing the issues, and the true cost of resolving. This might be a simple case of it’s not working and therefore issues of the central-kit not producing the heat or cold, or more localised leaks from pipes in ceilings and on walls.
Of course, you can hopefully just carry out a basic repair and be done, although these may verge on the line of needing further replacement works if you’re not careful.
5. The Right Energy Factor
Remember that heating and cooling does cost money in terms of running costs as they eat up, say, gas or electricity like there’s no tomorrow.
Not only will this have a direct effect on utility costs, but indirectly on maintenance and upgrade ones as you look to spend money now on better and more efficiency equipment to save running costs later.
Plus, energy efficiency is the name of the game with the government with assessments like EPCs being important and in some cases now even preventing property transactions; the productivity of such M&E equipment can have a big influence here.
And as well as getting the right equipment performing at its best, look at the right timing of this, and situations where it’s not been wasted on areas of a property that are not even occupied.
6. Dishing up the Responsibilities
Time to then look through leases, titles and other legal documentation to see who’s responsible.
Even where there appears a simple match, so an individual heating system falling within one tenant’s area and lease liability, watch out for connection issues outside of this area, particularly with communal systems and even the initial gas and electricity pipework and cables reaching to it.
All theseis carefully-tracked equipment and services should be mirrored in these leases, including relevant access rights to them, however reality can often be very different.
7. Carving up the Cost
And finally, watch out for the cost, related of course to the above point on who’s responsible for this.
For those situations where say, for example, a landlord does seem to have responsibility, just watch out for indirect cost recovery still through, say, a service charge, and what element of this is permissible.
So replacing a new boiler may be a landlord’s fair choice, but they can only recharge ‘repair’ costs through the lease.
The Right M&E Solution for Heating & Cooling
You can come into this from all kinds of directions, whether an occupier not happy with the heating and cooling of the property, an owner puzzled about with knowing what equipment may need replacing soon and paying for, or an advisor trying to raise important issues to clients.
Of course at some point you need to get very technical with what widget needs replacing to get things working better, but from a property-management perspective you need to first go through these seven key issues to ensure that you’re on the right path.
Working closely with carefully-selected advisors and contractors can then help you do this and go further down the preferred course of action in due course.
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