Social Landlords typically plan for a 25 to 30 year serviceable life (life-cycle) for the windows and doors in their housing units. This, on paper at least, enables Housing Associations and Councils to plan their maintenance budgets and sustain their housing stocks in good condition for their residents. However, the mythical 25 to 30 year life-cycle is based on an ideal world where nothing goes wrong with the assets before this time. Issues occur as soon as faults start to be reported before the end of the lifecycle. The risk of a serious problem becomes greater the older the asset becomes.
What happens, for instance, if a fault occurs with an asset after 15 years? Let’s say a problem occurs with the locking mechanism of a front door that necessitates it being replaced. This means firstly that the asset itself will need to be disposed of, thus creating waste, and also that 50% of its value will have to be written off from the life-cycle. This creates chaos with financial plans and makes it difficult to create the accurate forecasts on which securing development funding is based. By stepping away from the idea that a window or door unit will last for 25 years without a major problem occurring AND that asset replacement is the most practical remedy for most issues, landlords can extend the life of their assets by a further 25 to 30 years.
There are three approaches to doing this, which we will cover below:
1) Stop automatically replacing the whole window
The first step to achieving the best value for money is to recognise that windows and doors can be upgraded. They don’t need to be automatically replaced whenever a fault occurs. By upgrades we mean the progressive replacement of the moving parts, hardware and glazing panes on a scheduled basis. This makes good financial sense, as the life-cycle of a window lock or opener, for instance, is about 10 years, compared with the full window life-cycle of 25 years. Replacing individual parts in this way can easily extend the life-cycle of a window beyond its original 25 to 30 years. By upgrading individual components with more modern elements, you make the window easier and more cost-effective to maintain, extending its active life into the second or even third generation (life-cycle).
2) Employ a windows and doors specialist, rather than a general maintenance company
To many readers, our first point will simply sound like common sense. Why would anyone replace an entire window simply for a faulty latch? The reason for the culture of replacement, rather than refurbishment, in social housing largely comes down to the type of maintenance contractor used.
Most Housing Associations and Councils use general operatives for maintenance, either directly employed or working for third parties. When a fault occurs, the operative will do their best to diagnose the issue and remedy the situation in the fastest and most cost-effective way, according to the best of their knowledge.
The trouble is that modern doors and windows are complicated bits of hardware. The cause of a problem isn’t always obvious, leading to frequent misdiagnoses. For a general maintenance operative with only a limited familiarity with doors and windows, it is easier to avoid the problem of diagnostic errors by simply ordering replacements.
This is why it is advantageous to use a windows and doors specialist, rather than a general maintenance company. A specialist has detailed technical knowledge that enables them to carry out regular inspections, servicing and maintenance to ensure that the windows and doors operate correctly. Issues can be pre-empted through scheduled replacement of hardware parts, and faults can be quickly diagnosed and repaired without the replacement of the complete asset.
3) Upgrading moving parts
Issues with moving parts are usually the first fault that residents notice. Long before it becomes an actual problem, the resident will notice a door becoming stiff or window opener becoming discoloured. It is the perception that there is a problem not being addressed which will generate complaints and damage customer satisfaction rates.
Therefore, when selecting a windows and doors maintenance provider, the service package should include the replacement of any moving parts to ensure the resident is left with fully operational windows. This will help keep customer satisfaction rates high.
Results for Landlord and Resident:
By adopting a preventative maintenance approach based on refurbishment and upgrades rather than automatic replacement, you will see the lifecycle of your assets extended noticeably. This has three important benefits for both the social landlord and their residents:
Firstly, as the majority of recorded faults are due to failed moving parts, scheduled upgrades ensure that responsive calls due to window failure are kept to a minimal level. This is great for residents as it reduces the number of problems they have to report and boosts their customer satisfaction level.
Secondly, a regular plan of periodic maintenance ensures that repair budgets are kept to a manageable and more predictable level throughout the lifecycle. Taking this approach avoids the sharp spike in maintenance costs experienced by many window assets towards the end of the lifecycle.
Thirdly, and most importantly, this approach ensures that the upgraded windows actually last a full lifecycle of 25-30 years and potentially beyond. This gives landlords the peace of mind that their financial plans are reliable and based on genuine cost predictions.
Find out more
For more information on preventative maintenance and extending the life-cycle of your assets, we have written an eBook called ‘The Windows and Doors Planning Guide for Social Housing’. You can download the guide for free by visiting our website here.
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