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Building maintenance just got simpler...

M&E contractors are being challenged more than ever by the need to cut costs and the building and engineering services sector is under increasing pressure to create optimum maintenance regimes that prevent the under or over-maintaining of assets. Andrew Green explains how the development of the SFG20 technical standards web service supports the need for change
The development of SFG20 has been driven by two primary factors - the necessity for its users to reduce the cost of maintenance and to reflect the wider needs of the Building and Engineering Services Association (B&ES) following its name change this year from the Heating and Ventilating Contractor's Association (HVCA). The updated software now ensures the SFG20 standards are constantly kept up-to-date and will make the online tool easier to use to plan and deliver maintenance.

Since its launch in 1990, B&ES's maintenance standard specification has been regarded the industry standard for specifying the maintenance of building services. The new SFG20 technical standards now offer an extended library of core SFG20 task schedules, including biomass boilers, solar panels, chilled beams and many more. There is also the option to include non-core tasks schedules for other specialist installations and maintainable building elements.

By aligning SFG20 with the data structure in the RICS's new rules of measurement, the web service has created the link between construction and maintaining assets. This will have huge benefits for the UK maintenance industry as it will inevitably provide a more robust basis for creating asset maintenance registers and assigning the correct task schedules, allowing a comparison of costs on a 'like for like' basis during tendering and maintenance reviews.

To ensure compliance and avoid falling foul of statutory and legal requirements it is essential to know exactly what maintenance must be carried out. The new SFG20 Customiser Compliance product has been developed to help contractors decide where to draw the line - by explicitly linking the relevant statutory/legal regulations to each of the core maintenance schedules and task sets.

The new version of the SFG20 web service also offers Customisable Service Models for generic buildings or function types including schools, offices, libraries, hotels and car parks, with more to come. By selecting and customising the SFG20 maintenance service models, contractors and licensed users can identify the compliant maintenance (statutory/legal obligations) and establish the 'must-dos' to keep out of jail.

Colour-coded rating method

Then by using a simple colour-coded critically rating method they can prioritise all non-compliant maintenance tasks, for every asset applicable to suit their bespoke building/facility obligations or functional use.

The new SFG20 web service therefore simplifies how contractors plan and execute maintenance regimes, allowing them to create and customise maintenance standards applicable to their specific project or the estate and facilities functional requirements. This establishes precise service level specifications and enables users to model maintenance programmes to business needs, strategies, contractual obligations and available budgets.

However, the software solution goes further than schedule provision; it provides information in such a way that the client/contractor collaboration during the planning, customising and prioritising of tasks is made much easier and working relationships are able to thrive as a result.

The new SFG20 applies the fundamental principles of the Haynes Service and Repair Car Manual to the building maintenance world - maintenance is carried out according to make and model relevant to the building type and functional use. Just as with the Haynes manual, simplicity of use is key; the new SFG20 allows contactors to easily ascertain which maintenance tasks need to be completed and what importance they should be given. The creation of a book of standards by function is one of the key features of the software upgrade, alongside the option to output separate work packages.

Take the retail sector for example, the dominant need is to sell goods and products to make a profit whilst minimising running costs. Contractors therefore need to establish exactly what compliant and fit for function maintenance is required. These maintenance tasks are those that fulfil statutory and legal requirements (in order to stay out of jail) plus those that are business critical - which in the case of retail is that the shop doors remain open for trading, the lights are on so customers can see what they are purchasing and the tills are in working order. An optimum maintenance regime is simple economics and makes sound commercial sense; it drives down costs plus protects a business' income and its reputation. For businesses in retail, this allows investment in shop upgrades which in turn leads to increased sales.

Define business critical tasks

And this does not just apply to retail outlets. All businesses need to define what tasks are business or function critical; like in the aviation sector where critical maintenance is of top priority to keep a plane in the air - no one would take flight if the essential maintenance has not been completed.

B&ES could not have arrived at this point alone. Extensive cross-industry collaboration and consultation among practitioners, professional bodies and trade associations has brought the new SFG20 in line with updated technical standards. Behind the web service is a technical committee responsible for the on-going updating and progression of SFG20 which will ensure it is kept up-to-date with legal and good practices.

In the most comprehensive and budget-friendly product update to impact the building maintenance industry since the original launch over 22 years ago, SFG20 is leading the way. Through the web service, contactors can analysis and understand where money is being spent, allowing them to demonstrate the right cost and optimum regime to appropriately maintain business critical assets, whilst ensuring legal compliance.

These developments are truly ground breaking and will transform building maintenance and facilities management as we know it.

For more information, to download the SFG20 application form or to set-up a free 30 day trial, go to

SFG20 explained

The new three-part SFG20 comprises:

· Core SFG20 Library: Dynamic web based service that offers users over 400 industry standard maintenance specifications covering all principal types of heating, cooling and ventilation, installation plant, and electrical services, complete with regular technical updates.

· Customiser Compliance: The new Customiser tool allows users to create a bespoke building maintenance task library, including the addition of new non-core tasks such as fabric maintenance, and print bespoke booklets of applicable standards. Customiser includes links to all relevant statutory/legal obligations and references, together with regular updates to define compliant maintenance.

· Customiser Service Model: This feature enables users to prioritise maintenance regimes using simple criticality ratings to model multiple 'fit for function' service regimes that avoid under or over maintaining assets. Pre-defined functional models (such as schools, retail, offices) allow users to refine their specific requirements. Client/site specific data can then be printed as a customised pdf or downloaded into tender documents and FM software (subject to licence) as required.

The author is vice chairman of SFG20 technical standards committee and the technical author of the RICS new rules of measurement (NRM3) for building maintenance works
3 January 2013


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