Building services are providing a crucial service by ensuring buildings continue to operate during the ongoing pandemic and support essential operations such as the NHS and food suppliers, says the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
The important status of engineers who maintain the reliability of heating, hot water, ventilation, electrical and building maintenance systems during the coronavirus crisis was confirmed by a BEIS official during a webinar hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).
BEIS confirmed 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.
An official told the webinar: “Building maintenance is helping to save lives. 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.”
BESA members have been reporting high levels of enquiries, particularly from facilities managers (FMs) facing unprecedented building maintenance challenges.
David Frise, BESA’s chief executive, said: “Maintenance is essential to keep schools, hospitals, care facilities and supermarkets operating and so these workers must be able to continue travelling to critical sites during the current lockdown period.”
“They are not just taking up space on the tube. They are carrying out crucial work.”
Graeme Fox, who heads up the UK’s F Gas register REFCOM, said: “Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are part of the solution and not part of the problem.” He said rumours that air conditioning helped to circulate the virus had no foundation in science.
Mr Frise also pointed out that the risk presented by poorly maintained HVAC systems was well established. For example, bird droppings in air handling units at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow were linked to the death of two patients who had contracted fungal infections as a result.
David Frise added: “Additionally, with increasing numbers of people working from home and vulnerable people distancing themselves or self-isolating, proper building maintenance and ventilation are critical to ensuring their ongoing health and wellbeing.”
Owners, landlords and tenants of empty or partially occupied buildings during the lockdown will also need to maintain their buildings for security purposes; to achieve statutory compliance; to protect the fabric and the critical systems as well as satisfying any insurance implications.
BESA is supporting this work by making their recently updated and relaunched SFG30 ‘Mothballing and Reactivation’ free to members for 12 months and cutting its price by 50% for other users.
SFG30 takes users through a step-by-step process for maintaining critical services during partial occupancy periods in a way that makes them ready for rapid and full reactivation when business returns to normal.