Prior to joining LCMB, I worked in the Residential Housing Sector for 10 years. The last eight of which were focused on the retirement sector, where I was responsible for property and asset management across a national, and very varied portfolio. Ranging from new build developments to Grade II* listed buildings all posing very different challenges and risks.
The retirement sector has a fairly standard approach to how it manages it assets, normally involving some sort of regional management function with an onsite team dealing with the small minor works, and third-party specialists, dealing with more complex assets (lifts, water treatment, pumps, etc.).
The sector is also financially conservative, in terms of planed preventative maintenance investment, mainly due to the nature of maintenance funding coming directly from the residents. This can lead to a reactive approach to maintenance, and reduced whole life performance from the sectors assets, with replacement cycles increased.
Having seen and managed the issues relating to maintenance and compliance first-hand in the residential sector and having spent the last year working in the commercial property arena – my eyes have been opened to other potential models. I believe that approaches can be taken from the commercial sector and implemented into the residential space to improve resident experience, value for money, uptime, statutory compliance, and risk management.
I’ve set out my thoughts below.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Do you know the location of all the key assets at your property, do you have a clear maintenance schedule for them, is the budget clearly defined for maintenance/renewal of these assets, how are you keeping track of all this, do you have a clearly defined process?
The starting point for any good asset management plan is making sure you know what you are looking after. The number of new builds in the retirement space should make setting up an asset plan that works from day 1 easier than playing catch up later down the line. Forward planning and having a planned predictive approach to maintenance can also help to keep costs down. Over an assets life it is estimated that a planned approach will extend asset life by up to 25% and save 10 to 15% operational costs for the asset.
More reliance on third party!
Not many (if any actually) retirement operators put a heavy reliance on third party suppliers – they will use them for specialist kit that on-site maintenance can’t deal with, and some compliance testing. But that is usually where the relationship begins and ends.
Something that the commercial sector does well is put more of a reliance on having third party relationships with expert specialist suppliers. These arrangements can be done on several levels but a simple easily implementable solution could look like this:
It’s important at this point to note a key difference with the residential and commercial sector, especially in the retirement sector – familiarity. Due to the nature of customer and the interactions they have with the onsite teams, ensuring that there is a familiar presence and sense of community is an important factor – so services can be outsourced to ensure this requirement is delivered as a Key Performance Indicator in any contract.
Concentrate on what the retirement sector does best and outsource the maintenance to the experts
The retirement sector is exceptional in its approach to hospitality, there are exemplar examples of how this is being done in an incredible innovative way with some restaurants in the sector even being given rosettes for them.
But this is not always replicated in the approach to property and asset management. This is often the area that gets dealt with when an emergency occurs. Lack of planning, risk management, and structure will result in additional costs, which ultimately get passed back to the resident. Outsourcing this management is a solution could be a way to let the sector just concentrate on providing the best customer service delivery possible, while keeping the maintenance and compliance risk managed by a team dedicated to managing buildings safely.
Over the last year, after ten years in the residential sector, I’ve had my epiphany where I can see a better way to plan, manage and deliver services within the sector. If you are interested in discussing my idea’s of how commercial property management approaches could be successfully adapted and adopted by your organisation get in touch for an informal discussion.
Oscar Russell, Senior Consultant
Oscar Russell is a Senior Consultant at LCMB Building Performance Ltd. Prior to joining LCMB Oscar was Group Estates Director at Retirement Villages Group. LCMB is a consultancy which works with clients such as Argent, National Express, Kings College London and others to improve the performance of their real estate. The team offer project management, facilities management, net zero carbon and workplace performance support to make real estate work better and harder.