Building service companies must carry out essential work, says BESA


Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has reinforced the message that building services specialists are carrying out crucial work in support of the country’s essential services

“Building maintenance is helping to save lives,” the official told the webinar adding that “people who fix crucial safety issues in buildings, including plumbers maintaining boilers for the elderly and vulnerable, must be able to keep working. They are carrying out important work”.

Webinar attendees also heard confirmation that heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are “part of the solution and not part of the problem” and that rumours about air conditioning helping to circulate the virus had no foundation in science.

During a financial update session, BESA’s legal and commercial director Debbie Petford advised contractors to review their contracts so supply chains could work together to manage inevitable delays to projects.

Petford said firms should confirm the correct method for notifying delays under the terms of their contract. She added that many contractors were now entering into deeds of suspension with their clients where both parties agree to suspend their obligations and work out how to apportion risk.

She told BESA’s daily Covid-19 update webinar that “there is no one-size-fits-all remedy here, but if you contact my department at BESA we will be happy to advise you.”

It was also reported that some of the banks were demanding personal guarantees for the business interruption loans announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak. Petford said there was no need for company owners to provide such guarantees.

The government has clearly stated that banks are not allowed to use someone’s main residence as security, but may ask for stocks and shares.

BESA reported on its work with the CBI and BuildUK on wider industry responses, including the definition of essential sites and key workers.

BESA webinars

Online attendance grew steadily throughout the first week of the webinars, peaking last Friday (March 27) when the system was subscribed with more than 650 online delegates. BESA is now hoping to extend the platform so more delegates can sign up for this week’s series, which run daily at 12 noon.

Topics to be covered this week will include analysis of the economic impact of the crisis from the Construction Products Association and a presentation on the direct technical response to the airborne threat posed by the virus from BESA’s Health & Wellbeing in Buildings group.

BESA provided a detailed analysis of the financial assistance available to firms including VAT deferment arrangements and head of employment affairs Paula Samuels took attendees through the government’s job retention scheme and explained the concept of furloughing employees.

Among the highlights from last week, delegates heard from an official at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) who confirmed the special status of building services engineers.

He told the webinar that building maintenance should continue as normal, subject to compliance with Public Health England guidance, the government’s social distancing policy and the site operating guidance published by the Construction Leadership Council.


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