- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 05 Dec 2019
Maintenance is the process of ensuring that buildings and other assets retain a good appearance and operate at optimum efficiency. Inadequate maintenance can result in decay, degradation and reduced performance and can affect heath and threaten the safety of users, occupants and others in the vicinity.
Depending on its design, quality of materials and workmanship, function and location, buildings deteriorate at different rates and require different levels of attention. No building will ever be maintenance-free, but the quality of the design and workmanship can minimise the level required.
Maintenance can help:
- Prevent the process of decay and degradation.
- Maintain structural stability and safety.
- Prevent unnecessary damage from the weather or from general usage.
- Optimise performance.
- Help inform plans for renovation, refurbishment, retrofitting or new buildings.
- Determine the causes of defects and so help prevent re-occurrence or repetition.
- Ensure continued compliance with statutory requirements.
For maintenance to be most effective, it should be organised through a programme of cyclical maintenance. At the most basic level this includes daily routines, and works upwards to periodic programmes of weekly, monthly, semi-annual, annual, quinquennial and so on routines.
At the quinquennial point and beyond, architects, engineers and surveyors may become involved to inspect for structural and other serious defects (in particular for historic buildings), and the long-term maintenance plan may be revised and updated.
 Types of maintenance
Maintenance can be classified as:
- Planned maintenance: Carried out on a regular basis, such as servicing boilers.
- Preventive maintenance: Carried out in order to keep something in working order or extend its life, such as replacing cracked roofing tiles before inclement weather.
- Corrective maintenance: This involves repairing something that has broken, such as a window or guttering.
- Front-line maintenance: This involves maintaining something while it is still in use, such as repainting and decorating an occupied building.
- Proactive maintenance: Maintenance work that is undertaken to avoid failures or to identify defects that could lead to failure.
- Reliability centred maintenance: A combination of maintenance strategies used to ensure a physical asset continues to function correctly.
- Scheduled maintenance: Preventive maintenance carried out in accordance with predetermined intervals, number of operations, hours run, and so on.
For more information, see Planned preventive maintenance.
Common maintenance tasks include:
- Exterior painting and plastering.
- Landscaping and gardening.
- Paving repairs.
- Window and door repairs.
- Debris/rubbish removal and clearance.
- Jet washing with chemical cleaning agents to remove fungal stain or mould.
- Gutter clearance and repair.
- Lighting repairs.
- Re-plastering and plaster repairs.
- Window and door repairs.
- Carpeting and flooring.
- Building services maintenance.
- Removing paintwork: Can be removed by water washing, steam stripping, application of chemical paint removers, abrasive methods, hot air paint stripper, burning-off method (using a blowtorch).
- Repairing cracking or leaning walls.
- Repairing decayed floorboards.
Where it is possible, it is important that maintenance providers are involved in developing the brief for new buildings, and that they are properly instructed about the operation of new buildings before they are occupied.
There is often a significant gap between predicted and achieved performance that results in part from short-comings in briefing, design and construction and in part from poor operation. This problem is exacerbated by the almost complete separation of construction and operation.
The term ‘soft landings’ refers to a strategy adopted to ensure the transition from construction to occupation is ‘bump-free’ and that operational performance is optimised. See soft landings for more information.
The building owner's manual is prepared by the contractor with additional information from the designers (in particular the services engineer) and suppliers. It is a requirement that is generally defined in the preliminaries section of the tender documentation where its contents will be described, although there may be additional requirements regarding mechanical and electrical services in the mechanical and electrical specification.
See Building owner's manual - O&M manual for more information.
Part L of the Building Regulations (conservation of fuel and power) requires that the building owner is issued with information about the building services to help them operate the building properly and efficiently. It is suggested that this is done by issuing a building log book to the building's facilities manager.
Building log books are required for new buildings and for existing buildings where the services have changed. Whilst not a requirement of the Building Regulations, it is suggested that existing buildings would also benefit from a building log book.
See Building log book for more information.
Maintenance can be carried out by an in-house team, or may be outsourced (or parts of it). On projects such as PFI projects, maintenance might be part of the contract that also includes design, construction and operation.
Depending on the size of an organisation, there can be many diverse decision makers when it comes to allocating responsibility for maintenance. However, one thing all decision makers have in common is that maintenance is seen as a service provision, perceived as a cost to the organisation. The internal struggle is how to demonstrate value from maintenance because without showing value, procurement will be determined on lowest cost. However, in the long-term, 'you get what you pay for’.
See In-house or outsource maintenance for more information.
FM is concerned with the management of facilities in the built environment at both a strategic and a day-to day level to deliver operational objectives and to maintain a safe and efficient environment.
Whilst there has always been a need for facilities management, it has emerged, developed and grown as a profession in recent years, partly as a result of the increasing rate of change required in the built environment, but also due the trend for outsourcing services, and the introduction of procurement routes that include operation and maintenance in integrated supply contracts.
See Facilities management for more information.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building log book.
- Building owner's manual.
- Building services maintenance contractors’ role in reducing carbon emissions.
- Building user's guide.
- Defects liability period.
- Facilities management.
- Handover to client.
- In-house or outsource maintenance.
- Initial aftercare.
- Lessons learned report.
- Maintenance and operational strategy.
- O&M manual.
- Operation, maintenance and training (OMT).
- Performance in use.
- Planned preventive maintenance.
- Proactive maintenance.
- Reliability centred maintenance.
- Repair and maintenance contract.
- Scheduled maintenance.
- Soft landings.
- Soft landings and business-focused maintenance.
- Unplanned maintenance.
Featured articles and news
Evaluating occupant satisfaction.
The Ancona eco-mansion
What is the cost of not getting it right first time?
The government announces a new role as part of a wider package of safety reform.
Lessons for the next UK road investment strategy.
Architectural Technology Studio 3
Construction Industry Advisory Committee CONIAC
The real impact of late payment.
How to tell which infrastructure projects will work.
The government announces the biggest change in building safety for a generation.
Key messages from the UN COP 25 conference.