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'One size doesn't fit all' for university assessment reports

Simon Fullard, Director at Actua Chartered Surveyors, discusses building condition and statutory compliance assessment reports at LJMU

Posted by Lucinda Reid | October 24, 2017 | Facilities management

It’s often said that your university days are the best of life. So, for me, it was a particularly proud moment when, as an alumnus of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), and now a director and co-owner of Actua, I could go back to the campus and deliver a project in the place where it all began.

Following a competitive tender process and, beating off stiff competition from large, national firms, Actua was appointed in January 2017 to provide building condition and statutory compliance assessment reports for all of the buildings located on LJMU’s main campuses. We’ve worked with other universities on similar projects but our local connections made this one special.

It was clear from the start that an ‘off the shelf’ solution wouldn’t be suitable for the university’s requirements. Previous condition survey exercises that LJMU had commissioned hadn’t provided the level of detail required to accurately record the condition of all building fabric, they needed a bespoke approach and that became our differentiator when it came to securing the commission.

Survey data can be complex, after all, you’re dealing with large quantities of information, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be structured so that it is easily digestible

A tailored approach is something that we pride ourselves on. We have a specialist team, passionate about getting under the skin of a project to find a solution that fits. Universities, and many other organisations with complex estates such as healthcare trusts, often fall in to the trap of procuring an ‘off the shelf’ survey solution, thinking that one size can fit all. This can be down to perceived cost and time savings, but if what you’re getting isn’t of value to your organisation then is it actually worth it?

We’ve seen it time and time again with education and healthcare estates, if they don’t get the data that they need from an initial survey, they need to bring someone back in to reassess. That means double the time and double the cost.

Just as important is the way the survey data is presented. If you’ve taken an ‘off the shelf’ solution, then you will get ‘off the shelf results’. Survey data can be complex, after all, you’re dealing with large quantities of information, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be structured so that it is easily digestible, flexible for future use and appealing to both estates managers and finance teams. A bespoke approach puts the data user first.

Working with LJMU was a big commission for us in many ways and as I look back on the project now that it’s wrapped up and having a real impact on the estate, it feels a long way from my days standing on the steps of the old School of the Built Environment building on Clarence Street, between lectures, wondering where my career would take me.

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