05 May Your school’s Building Condition Survey – The benefits
If you are responsible for the running of a school, there’s a whole lot to juggle! Experts will have you believe it’s all about prioritising, organising, inspiring, delegating, communicating and digitalising. And that is true. But there’s also a plethora of legal requirements, policies and standards that a school is obliged to be compliant with and adhere to. One such requirement is that a Building Condition Survey is completed on your school estate.
What is a Building Condition Survey?
A Building Condition Survey is a technical, visual assessment of the physical, mechanical and electrical condition of the buildings, systems and external areas within a school estate. It should be carried out by a qualified building professional and is a requirement of the Department of Education.
The survey provides objective information about the condition of your school or academy’s existing buildings and is crucial in creating a safer, more conducive learning environment for your students. But it is a lot more than a legal requirement, and if used and explored fully, it can also be a tool to unlocking the maximum potential of your estate.
What is included in the survey?
A Building Condition survey describes each ‘block’ on a site in detail, including a visual inspection of elements such as roof, windows, ventilation, damp and heating. But it provides much more than an overview of the state of your buildings. Costings for remedial and replacement works are included, as well as additional information, such as potential energy savings to be made. When completing a condition survey, the existence and validity of crucial compliance documentation is also checked, for example, Electrical Inspection Certificate, asbestos register, fire and insurance policies, etc.
The survey report includes:
- Descriptions of each block contained on site and detailed findings
- Clear condition grades for each individual building elements
- Photographic evidence of building elements
- Recommendations and costings for required remedial or replacement works
- Checks on compliance documentation
- Identification of associated risks and priority
- Information about other benefits – energy savings etc.
Who should carry out the survey?
It is expected that condition surveys are carried out by qualified, professional chartered building surveyors who are experienced in providing objective information about the condition of school premises. Surveyors who understand the grading system can provide fair comparison within a site, and across multiple sites, to help decide effective allocation of capital.
How does the rating system work?
The method for determining building condition applies a standard that is recognised by surveyors across the construction industry. The rating system uses a ‘condition’ versus ‘priority’ matrix, whereby the ‘condition’ of each building is ranked from bad to good and ‘priority for action’ is ranked from urgent to long term. It looks something like the table here.
How often should you have one?
Ideally a survey would be carried out in full once every two years. Condition surveys will usually cover a period of 3-5 years. If schools wish to apply for and be considered for funding, there are usually timescales by which surveys must be submitted.
Why carry out a Building Condition Survey?
- It’s a legal requirement
Legally, all schools and academies are responsible for maintaining the condition of their estate. The main purpose of a condition survey is to have an all-inclusive overview on the building fabric, including the status of mechanical and electrical systems. But it also identifies areas of non-compliance with regulations, essential paperwork that may be missing or out of date, and helps you to plan regular maintenance work and prioritise remedial and replacement work.
It serves to double check your compliance with regulations and the reliability of your internal risk assessments, helping to ensure your school offers a safe environment for learning and that you are free from breaches of Health and Safety and the consequent punitive action.
- Identify your priorities
A Building Condition Survey provides crucial documented evidence listing premises or elements of buildings that are a priority for improvement or replacement. The nationally recognised grading system ranks actions in priority of need and timelines, scope of work and costs involved too. This can help enormously when deciding on how to allocate limited budgets and prevent unwanted consequences, like the closure of buildings or classrooms, or damage to buildings or systems that will end up costing you more in the future.
They are key in helping you prioritise work within your available budget and help you prepare a comprehensive maintenance plan for your school in the short, medium and long-term. Detection of hazardous areas or buildings or systems facing major deterioration or imminent failure can be dealt with as a priority.
- Manage your budget
A Building Condition Survey can also help enormously with long-term financial planning, giving an indication of costs of projects from regular maintenance work to big refurbishments. The survey report will give you a heads up by identifying potential issues before they become problematic, saving you money. You will be better able to plan longer-term works, and the associated expenditure, as well as take account of the findings to better plan for regular maintenance cycles.
- Documented evidence
The survey report also provides crucial documentary evidence which can be used to support bids for funding, protect the number of pupil places, and fulfil the potential of your school estate, just to name a few. For example, digital photographs taken as part of the survey can act as a record showing areas of non-compliance or problems that need to be solved.
A condition survey is required by schools and Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) when bidding for capital funding from local County Councils. The Department of Education requires that all data be less than three years old when applying for a Condition Improvement Fund, reinforcing the need for up-to-date documentation. Condition surveys are also an important part of Good Estate Management for schools. Condition surveys can help larger MATs prioritise their Schools Condition Allocations internally and support smaller trusts in their application for Condition Improvement Fund grants.
- Uncovering the potential of your school estate
Most school estates are a significant and valuable asset to the communities which they serve and through a full understanding of the condition of your premises you are better able to plan and budget so they can reach their full potential. Guidance on how to plan estate projects, checks on your compliance documentation, regimes for regular maintenance of all buildings, and tips on making the most of property assets, like minimising energy and water usage, will contribute to ensuring your school remains safe and that the value of the asset is protected. Building Condition surveys can support you in all these areas.
- Data collection and management
The data provided and checked by the survey report can prove useful in your general estate planning and specifically in any existing property/facilities management systems that you may already use.
Many academies have multiple schools within their trust and keeping track of all the required compliance documentation can feel like a juggling act. Critical policies or certificates can go out of date or simply get lost amongst a pile of paperwork in the caretaker’s office. A Condition Survey acts as a check on such failings.
KCS Compliance Services can help prevent such shortcomings ever happening, and as a consequence, help you score better in your Building Condition Survey. ComplianceManaged®, our cloud-based solution providing you with one place to store all your compliance documentation, makes sure essential documentation is never lost or out of date. Through ComplianceManaged®, critical certificates and policies are right at hand and always up to date as the portal flags up when policies are due to expire; notifying, reminding, and alerting you on critical documents and their current status across any number sites that your Trust may manage.
We are currently working with Academies across the UK to ensure their documentation is fully compliant.
Please contact us to find out more and see a live demonstration of our portal.