On our Blockworx site, we’ve been sharing a series of articles on the subject of sustainability in repairs and maintenance in property management. We’re ending the series with a look at good material choices in the industry. And we thought we’d share it here for you too.
As we move towards a more sustainable world, materials such as paints, gardening products, cleaning products, wood, metals, plastics, or any other materials used during the repairs and maintenance of a property should be an important consideration for property managers.
In this article, we’ll be asking why the property management industry would want to influence what materials are used in the repair and maintenance of buildings, how it can be done, and what options are out there now.
Why would the property management industry want to choose good materials?
Aside from the sustainability credentials and environmental benefits, there are other good reasons that the property management industry would want to shift to good material choices in their portfolios. Here are our top three.
- Owner expectations. Everyone’s becoming more environmentally aware and housing standards are high on the priority for good material choices. People are realising that good materials equal safer and better homes, and soon it won’t be a nice-to-have, the day will come when it will be a need-to-have if buildings are to meet the needs of owners or tenants.
- Get ahead of future regulations. There was a time when EPCs didn’t exist. Now they provide a standard for homes and owners that are used as an important reference when buying or renting. We see regulations around sustainability creeping into more and more industries with the construction industry being one of the first to be targeted as its carbon footprint and waste generation are so huge. Many of these regulations also apply to contractors and no matter how big or small, commercial waste has to be managed within local authority guidelines. Could these regulations eventually filter into the property management sectors? Are Material Performance Certificates a possibility? And when will sustainable materials be a necessity for property management? We believe it’s only a matter of time.
- Good for people. The Grenfell tragedy is a particularly harrowing reminder of the need for choosing the right materials. Good material choices affect people. We need buildings to be free from toxins, dangerous or even deadly materials. Asbestos was once thought to be an appropriate choice. We now know the dangers of this. If we choose natural, better materials that are inherently ‘good’, then we shouldn’t need to worry about future repercussions of materials that are synthetic.
How can it be done?
Implementing any kind of change or new process isn’t easy. But nothing ever worth doing is. Small steps will turn into bigger steps, it’s getting started that can often be the most difficult part. So how can the property management industry begin to influence good material choices?
Collaboration with contractors. If there are strong relationships between property management companies and contractors, it could be possible to collaborate and work with contractors to move towards good material choices. This could be as simple as having conversations, finding common ground, and working together to reach a shared goal.
Preferred supplier policy. Having a preferred supplier policy would prioritise suppliers who can evidence their commitment to sustainability. This would bring sustainability and good materials into the tender process ensuring that suppliers are considering what materials they use and how they manage them.
What’s already happening?
The property management industry could benchmark other industries to help implement good material choices. We’ve already mentioned Energy Performance Certificates, could the industry seek to introduce a Materials Performance Certificate?
The construction industry could also offer solutions. The golden thread is an idea suggested by Dame Judith Hackitt following the tragedy.
“In its most basic form, the golden thread of information is quality, up-to-date information throughout a construction project. Although a simple enough idea, many projects are unable to put this into practice for a variety of reasons, ranging from using paper-based methods to working in isolated teams.”
In an article on the NBS website, they state, “Although not standard practice yet, it will detail how a building was designed, built and maintained.”
From a property management industry perspective, this shows there is value in beginning to position good material choices at the forefront of repairs and maintenance work.
Getting ahead of the good materials game
The property management industry is responsible for around 3.5 million homes in the UK. That’s almost 10% of the total housing stock. The industry will continue to grow and with more awareness and a clear shift towards sustainability and safety, the industry must embrace and implement clear strategies for the use of good materials within repairs and maintenance. If it doesn’t, the industry may find itself playing catchup and wishing it had been ahead of the game.
If this has sparked your interest, you can read the other articles in this mini-series here