School estates: condition reporting core facts
Guidance for local authorities reporting on the condition of school estates.
3 Data Collection and Processing
Local authorities should have a stated system setting out their process for assigning condition categories to schools which adopts this guidance. In addition, an evidence-based auditable record of that process and its results should be maintained. As a minimum, this should reference the process used and document the sources of input data, the names and roles of the participants, the date when the condition review was completed, and the condition categories assigned to each of the major elements and to the school as a whole. The record should also note any amendments made to the overall school condition rating arrived at by the standard process.
Use of condition surveys
In accordance with the Core Facts guidance, the condition rating should be based on the local authority’s condition survey. Suitably qualified and experienced personnel should oversee this survey. There is no change from the previous guidance that a full condition survey of the school estate should be carried out at least every five years. The condition rating should also take into account information from routine inspections by other suitably qualified and experienced staff, and concerns expressed by users.
Scope of condition surveys
The full condition survey will be based on a visual, non-intrusive examination of the accessible building fabric and building services including external areas but will not include those parts of the structure or its services which are built in, covered up and made inaccessible in the normal course of construction, fitting out or occupation. The building appraisals will generally be undertaken from ground level and where safe access is available, will also inspect any flat and pitched roof areas of the school estate and any void areas.
The survey will also identify any areas of concern which require immediate further investigation, such as structural issues, and arrangements will be made for safe access and / or intrusive access to allow examination of the construction. This will also identify the need for further specialist examination or tests where these are considered necessary.
The scope of the condition surveys also depends on a range of factors relating to site conditions, method of construction, materials specified, quality of construction, accessibility, legislation, age, deterioration, etc and it is the responsibility of the authority to manage this.
Property risks and their management were re-examined as an essential part of the refresh of this guidance.
The condition surveys, as described above, are designed to identify defects in the properties and these defects fall into two categories:
1. patent defects - those which can be discovered by reasonable inspection e.g. rotting window frames (non-intrusive survey), and
2. latent defects - those which cannot be discovered by reasonable inspection e.g. missing wall ties (intrusive survey).
Recent events have indicated that the most serious risks have arisen due to latent defects and because the defects were hidden, the issues were unknown and therefore there was no mitigation in place to minimise the risks. In comparison, the patent defects are identified through current surveys and other mechanisms, and this allows them to be risk managed and prioritised.
Condition surveyors have therefore to be much more aware of the potential for latent defects and prepared to recommend intrusive surveys or specialist investigation when there is any doubt regarding non-accessible areas of the building or information regarding potential defects in similar buildings.
Measures are also being taken across the industry to ensure new buildings are constructed to the appropriate standards and to quickly share information across the sector when defects are identified. Authorities are also recommended to adopt the systems approach as set out in BS 8210:2012 ‘guide to facilities maintenance management’. These measures will help to reduce the occurrence and risks from future latent defects.
The condition data reported annually to Scottish Government will be set out and updated in the annual request from Scottish Government for data and will generally include for each school:
- Gross Floor Area in Condition A (m2)
- Gross Floor Area in Condition B (m2)
- Gross Floor Area in Condition C (m2)
- Gross Floor Area in Condition D (m2)
- Overall Condition of school (A - D)
- Description of ‘large change’
- Date of most recent full survey
- Date of most recent intermediate survey (only if after full survey).
Note a ‘large change’ is where there is a change in the ranking and describes why this has occurred.
Review and update of condition data
It is considered good practice that the updating of information in between full condition surveys should be carried out by staff who are professionally qualified in the appropriate technical disciplines to enable them to pass judgement on the condition of the element concerned. Thus, the condition of each element should be judged by suitably qualified and experienced personnel. For example, cracking in a blockwork wall would be examined by a structural engineer who would provide the reason for the failure and make recommendations on what follow-up treatment was required. This may require initial monitoring before a final decision is taken.
As part of their routine work in schools, building maintenance inspectors/service engineers should ensure future work requirements are kept up to date and information on improvements and/or deterioration is recorded for input into the condition Core Fact assessment process.
It is essential that reactive/emergent maintenance requirements are documented, and these records are collated to inform the annual review of the condition of the school.
Between full condition surveys the condition data should be reviewed at least on an annual basis by the authority, using a risk based assessment, to:
- confirm the overall progress of works against the maintenance programme, that is, improvements that have been completed, and identify any work that requires to be carried forward into the next year;
- review the prioritisation of maintenance requirements;
- visit the site, review key risk areas and identify any new deficiencies/deterioration since the last full condition survey; and
- update the condition ratings applied within the school estate.
Experience shows this works best when carried out as a team exercise involving experienced building surveyors supported by maintenance, mechanical and electrical specialists along with appropriate representatives from the authority’s Education Service. Also, where the process is integrated into the facilities maintenance management regime along with the strategic investment planning.
An example of a prioritisation matrix is attached as appendix 2 to be used as a straightforward risk based assessment tool.
To prevent unnecessary duplication of work, the findings from relevant visits, inspections and surveys undertaken as part of asset management processes should be captured and taken into account when reviewing the condition status. These may include:
- structural surveys;
- fire risk assessments;
- insurance surveys and statutory inspections; and
- maintenance contractors’ testing and service reports.
There is now a requirement to provide the dates when full surveys and annual intermediate surveys have been undertaken. Authorities will be expected to be able to provide evidence of the full surveys and annual intermediate surveys, along with the surveys, assessments, inspections and service reports relating to the properties, on request. There is no requirement to provide these annually with the Core Fact return however they should be available on request and held in an electronic format to allow for ease of access and dissemination.
The extent of the annual intermediate survey will depend on the condition of the property, with poorer condition properties potentially at greater risk. The format is the responsibility of the authority however, experience has shown the review normally starts with a summary of the key points from the main survey. It then looks at what works have been undertaken in the interim, along with what other issues have arisen in the interim through surveys, reports, etc. to reach an updated position. The works can then be reviewed and reprioritised for the future maintenance programmes. For schools there is generally a need to visit the property for a visual inspection of the site, to update and reappraise key points from the main survey and to speak to staff for feedback.
After any review, the condition rating information and future maintenance priorities and programme should be communicated to the school management, to ensure common understanding and stakeholder buy-in.
Interface with other local authority processes and tools
Condition Core Fact assessments should not be influenced by the results of any options or investment appraisals. Nor should they be influenced by other factors feeding these, such as the cost of repairs, available budget, or future school capacity or demand.
Condition Core Fact data processing should be an integral part of normal asset management business and should be integrated with other established processes where practicable. This will minimise the amount of data to be collected and the work required to report the condition Core Fact, over and above normal asset management good practice.
Local Authorities should aim to integrate the condition assessment process with the asset management good practice tools and systems, for maximum efficiency. It should not be necessary to incur significant extra costs for software/asset management processes, over and above normal asset management good practice. For example, the weighting and scoring process detailed below for establishing the overall condition category for the school is designed as a standard Excel spreadsheet package. The data collected to inform investment decisions, and prioritise and schedule maintenance requirements, should also be used to feed the condition Core Fact reports.
Listing of school elements
Since 2007 the condition Core Fact assessments have been based on a set of agreed elements in order to achieve the level of consistency in reporting sought by both the Scottish Government and the local authorities. Established essential practice is that the overall condition rating reported to the Scottish Government for each school is based on an element-by-element assessment of the condition of that school, summated to form an overall condition rating. The means of aggregating the information is addressed below, under Element Weighting and Scoring System. Consistency is achieved by a standard set of elements to be weighted and scored. The element tree is set out in Appendix 1 and comprises two parts: physical elements and transverse elements. The physical elements are those parts of the school fabric that should be taken into account when assessing condition. The transverse elements comprise those issues that should be considered for each applicable physical element when assessing condition. Combined, the elements contained within that tree comprise the overall scope included within the condition rating for each school.
Element weighting and scoring system
The overall condition rating for the school is arrived at by means of a weighting scoring system. This methodology ensures consistency regarding the importance attached to the various elements.
To obtain the overall condition of the school, each major element is assigned a condition rating (A to D) by the professional judgement of a suitably qualified and experienced person. The assigned condition ratings should consider:
- the urgency of any repair or remedial work;
- the potential impact or shortcoming to the overall delivery of the school
- functionality/service provision; and
- safety and compliance with legislative requirements.
There should be some means within each local authority for ensuring the consistency of judgement of these elemental condition ratings, for example, the use of a small common group of individuals, or, in small authorities, a single staff member.
To aggregate the elemental condition ratings to the overall condition rating for the school, these ratings are then transcribed to numeric values, as follows:
Condition A: 1
Condition B: 0.75
Condition C: 0.5
Condition D: 0.25
The numeric value for each rating is then multiplied by the weighting for the appropriate major element. The set weightings are given at Appendix 1 and the overview breakdown of these is:
The results are then summed and expressed as a percentage of the weighted score that would be achieved if all elements present in the school were in condition A. The overall condition for the school is then determined by the following percentage scoring bands:
More than 85%: Condition A
85% or less, but more than 60%: Condition B
Between 40% and 60% inclusive: Condition C
Less than 40%: Condition D
To achieve the desired consistency across local authorities it is essential that all authorities use the weightings as set out in the workbook.
Where a school consists of more than one discrete building or block, the overall condition rating will be derived by rating the elements within these buildings individually and aggregating the scores later, on a pro-rata basis, using the GIFA of the blocks. This aggregation will be calculated before conversion of the weighted and summed scores to an overall condition ranking.
A workbook will be issued annually by Scottish Government to calculate the result and is in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. This contains the models and formulae to calculate the condition rankings using the condition data for the elements, by block, and the weightings. This has been devised in such a way that all the calculations will be carried out automatically upon completion of all the relevant sections. Details on how to use the workbook are supplied separately with the workbook when it is issued annually. A model workbook will be made available from the Scottish Government school estate website.
Benchmarking and validation
The overall condition of each school should be reviewed and validated by a suitably qualified and experienced person to ensure that the final rating is considered appropriate. Authorities should validate their results initially by benchmarking internally against schools of agreed condition.
Where amendments are made, this should be done in an auditable fashion, with a note stating what amendment has been made, by whom, and the reason for the change. Where the overall condition rating of the school is considered inappropriate, the ratings ascribed to each element should be reviewed. If it is still considered that the overall condition rating arrived at by the weighting and scoring system is inappropriate, then, exceptionally, this may be amended based on the professional judgement of the reviewer. Borderline cases may also occur where the aggregate score is found to be marginally above or below a threshold, when professional judgement would put the school in the next higher or next lower condition rating. In these cases, the rating to be assigned should be amended. Ultimately, it is expected that this information will inform continuous improvement in the assignment of condition ratings. There is also scope for benchmarking between authorities.
Condition in relation to lifecycle
The condition rating is a snapshot in the lifecycle of the building. It is not a measure of depreciation. The fact that the design life of a school or an element of a school has expired should not automatically mean that the school is in condition D or even C. The condition rating should reflect the state of the school in relation to its design intent. For example, the design life of a roof may have expired but if it is well maintained, reliably weather tight and structurally sound, then clearly it should be allocated a rating of A or B.
Clarification of condition category ‘D’
In some cases, there is a reluctance to assign the condition category D, due to the perceptions that such a rating might create in others. This has been recognised as a potential cause of inconsistency in Core Fact reporting across local authorities. To overcome this, the definition is clarified as follows. The emphasis is on the availability, performance and safety of the facility.
D: Bad - Economic life expired and/or risk of failure.
In this instance, economic life expiry is taken to mean that the ongoing maintenance costs are no longer viable, in contrast to the cost of a major refurbishment, new build school, or provision elsewhere.
It should be noted that the implementation of a sound property maintenance regime throughout the life of the building will maintain the economic life of the asset.
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