By Louisa Richter von Morgenstern
Envisage that you have just taken possession of your very wonderful new home in London or the countryside, following extensive refurbishment works. You now have between four and eight bathrooms, most with rather lovely large shower heads and, even better, when you have a houseful of guests, nobody will run out of hot water!
If this is the case then you will almost certainly have installed a bespoke mechanical installation, including pressurisation, booster sets, water conditioners and possibly more than one very large boiler.
Your installations may also extend to a Building Management System, gas fires operated via Crestron screens, Lutron lighting, a cinema, a biomass boiler, a swimming pool, a recording studio, a steam room or a wine cellar where humidity and temperature require precise control.
This description only summarises some of the potential components of a high end installation and there are of course simpler installations. Regardless of the scope of the installation, why is it so often a surprise when the proposal for annual servicing of the boiler is received at completion of the works? Bi-annual servicing of a large boiler will not cost the same as the annual servicing of the boiler that you had in your London pad in your twenties.
Needless to say, these types of installations tend to be costly and they come with warranties and manufacturers recommendations for maintenance. Failure to maintain may well invalidate a warranty, so maintain correctly you must.
Bi-annual servicing of a large boiler will not cost the same as the annual servicing of the boiler that you had in your London pad in your twenties.
Assuming that you have several of the above mentioned installations, you will undoubtedly require several visits during the year by a number of specialists. You no longer have a contractor on site who takes responsibility for the welfare of the site and the works are no longer insured. This is where the dynamics shift.
Unlike a building contract where the works are fully quantified, the term ‘servicing the boiler’ leaves the work being carried out rather poorly defined. Are they also checking the valves to the gas meter and are they checking for any leaks to the joints of the boiler flue? You need to know exactly what work is being carried out and at what cost. Minor items left unchecked can result in costly repairs, or worse, failure.
We are currently jointly completing the drafting of a bespoke maintenance contract and issues that have arisen include how the maintenance team is structured, responsibility for maintaining a tidy site, responsibility for maintaining and updating the Operation and Maintenance Manuals, access procedures and notification of attendance, insurance and, very importantly, security. Embarking on this exercise delivered some real surprises and I was shocked to find that the high end residential market is really quite poorly serviced when it comes to maintenance.
The team needs to be highly committed and very competent to be effective when it comes to reactive maintenance.
There is also more than one aspect to maintenance and it falls broadly into the categories of planned and preventative maintenance and reactive maintenance. Planned and preventative maintenance can be well structured in advance but the team needs to be highly committed and very competent to be effective when it comes to reactive maintenance. This in turn raises the issue of how works are instructed, carried out and then signed off.
These are some aspects to consider when you embark on the design phase of your project and when the works are nearing completion. You may not include a host of wonderful gadgets and gizmos but, at the very least, don’t be surprised if the cost of servicing your boiler seems high!