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Stuart O'Brien

Understanding the effect of COVID-19 on contractual obligations

Conexus Law is launching a range of fact sheets on the legal implications of the Covid-19, including practical steps that may be taken by parties who find the impact of Covid-19 affects their ability to meet contractual obligations owed to others (upstream), or who find that their trading partners can no longer meet the obligations owed to them (downstream).

Ed Cooke, Founder at Conexus Law, said: “In the modern commercial world, businesses are often heavily reliant on trading partners and long “just in time” supply chains in order to fulfil their contractual obligations. The impact of Covid-19 could significantly upset those finely balanced arrangements and the relationships between parties may be tested in ways they had not previously contemplated.

“As trading relationships are now often global, a complex interplay of laws from different jurisdictions may also be in play, some of which are potentially in conflict. For example, English law may govern your contract with your customer, but Chinese law may govern the law of your contract with a critical supplier enabling you to perform your customer contract.”

The Conexus Law fact sheet advises that organisations identify whether there are any express provisions written into the contract which might be relevant to the Covid-19 situation. For example, there is a large section on force majeure and whether it is applicable. Other areas include certain insurances and the importance of following all relevant procedures in the policy related to claims notification and submission of claims.

 The Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak is already having a significant impact on many individuals and businesses and it is becoming clearer that the impact will likely be more significant and longer lasting than we may have imagined at first. We hope these fact sheets provide helpful guidance during these challenging times,” concluded Cooke.

To download this fact sheet, free of charge, click here: https://7aee0ab1-94f5-4d7e-9556-9f9a01df3265.filesusr.com/ugd/b58c63_71a397aa9f414609913e82fc89d9417a.pdf

5 Minutes With… Neal Grant, Derwent FM

In the latest instalment of our FM executive interview series, we sat down with Neal Grant, Derwent FM‘s Head of Business Development, to talk about his company, industry opportunities, the challenges of Covid-19, new technology and Game of Thrones…

Tell us about your company, products and services

We deliver a range of hard and soft FM services which combined mean we can offer a total facilities management service for our customers. We cover a national spread of sites from Glasgow in the north down to Bournemouth on the south coast, we have also started delivering services in Ireland. The majority of services we deliver in house through our skilled workforce, with specialist services such as lift maintenance delivered through our select group of supplier partners.

Our services are delivered with sustainability and customer experience as the key focus areas, all underpinned by total compliance across every aspect.  We are one of the first FM companies in the country to achieve the energy management ISO 5001 accreditation, illustrating our drive to lead on sustainability, and also have a wide portfolio of long term partnerships centred on customer excellence. Social impact is a huge part of our business also, this is reinforced by each and every penny of our profits being fed back into social housing delivered via our parent company. We therefore deliver an FM package with an ethical approach and a clear beneficial social impact all centred on sustainability.

The structure of our business means that we are ‘small enough to care but big enough to deliver’. As a business with circa 250 employees and £18million turnover per annum, our size means we can tailor and adapt our offering for our clients in a flexible and focused manner, whilst also offering the security of our £800mil+ parent company, Places for People, to meet all financial surety requirements.

What have been the biggest challenges the FM industry has faced over the past 12 months?

The industry is still recovering from the Carillion fall out, trust in the outsourced market has dipped as a result and even SME suppliers are looking to spread their risk from a supply perspective in case a similar scenario repeats. The skills gap in the country around reliable, experienced tradesman remains and recruitment of electricians, heating engineers etc also remains challenging particularly outside London.

Given the new threat of Covid-19, it remains to be seen what impact this will have on the FM sector in the long run but in the short term simply delivering services when social distancing is so important is incredibly challenging but not insurmountable at the moment. Additionally, the threat to the skilled workforce as the case numbers begin to increase could become a problem.

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

The wider focus on climate change and managing our impact represent huge opportunities for the sector. These opportunities are not just reputational, in the form of minimising our impact on the environment and ensuring our future generations actually have a sustainable planet, but there are huge financial savings to be made from delivering more sustainable buildings. We know as a business, if there is a focused approach to reducing energy via ways of working or strategic capital replacement works, clients can save vast sums from their bottom line as well illustrating their green credentials which is incredibly important now for their staff and customers alike.

What is the biggest priority for the FM industry in 2020?

Covid-19 will clearly change the landscape for the duration of this year and beyond. Initially the focus will be purely on delivery services and ensuring compliance and service standards are maintained. I suspect however by the end of the year we will be asking how we can change our ways of working which will bring in questions about social impact and environmental focus to make the whole sector more durable and sustainable.

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2020?

Clearly Covid-19 will be key focus for the sector this year. How businesses react to the virus, building in resilience and management of their workforce and suppliers will be key now. As the economy shrinks, which we can say for sure it will, there will be balancing act for the sector to deliver value for money whilst retaining their workforce and ensuring delivery whilst managing social distancing for a period of time.

In addition, sustainability and energy management will continue to be a key focus not only in 2020 but beyond. Only in the last 2-3 years, partly due to the rise of Extinction Rebellion and the clear change in weather conditions, finally the population has begun to understand how significant our contribution to climate change is. There is a link within this arguably to globalisation and the Covid-19 virus also, so going forward a local, sustainable approach to the FM sector will become increasingly important through 2020 and beyond.

What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?

Digital apps for the clients and customers will transform how clients and customers interact with their FM suppliers, which we have already seen in our business in 2019. Everybody has smart phones these days with which they run their lives in effect, therefore having a means of communication and reports for clients on these devices is key going forward to drag the sector into the 21st century. Delivering smarter, instantaneous communication to our clients and customers in 2020 will be key.

Decarbonisation of the national grid will have a large role to play over the coming years also. Given the energy savings for the clients, removing gas fed equipment and installing electric dependant M&E systems such as air source heat pumps will become increasingly important.

In 2022 we’ll all be talking about…?

Hopefully Climate Change in a positive manner as oppose to Covid-19.

Which person in, or associated with, the FM industry would you most like to meet?

Given how much of a focus sustainability is and will continue to be, David Attenborough would be a fascinating person to meet and discuss how industry has affected the natural world.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the FM sector?

I find it surprising how far behind the curve many building owners are when we talk about energy consumption and savings. There are huge benefits, both from a financial and reputational perspective, and I find it incredibly surprising how little attention is paid to this.

You go to the bar at the Facilities Management Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?

Any local ale – Tom Long from Stroud Brewery is the ideal scenario.

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

Feeling like you are making a positive difference, both for your workforce but also your clients.

And what’s the most challenging?

Time away from a young family.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

‘There is no substitute for hard work in life’.

Baptiste or Game Of Thrones?

I’m sorry to say Game of Thrones.


Free facility signs to help stop COVID-19

Safety and identification specialist Brady Corporation offers signs for download to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Anyone can freely download the print-ready files from Brady websites.

All signs offered are compliant or in line with the ISO 7010 international standard to maximise recognition anywhere in the world. Each sign includes a quickly recognisable icon for almost any COVID-19 safety measure, ranging from wash hands and keep distance to wearing the appropriate personal protection equipment.

Your time is precious – we will support you for any request or custom solutions.

Download the ‘Free signs to print’ & browse our COVID-19 Brochure (collection of coronavirus related identification and safety solutions for your people, products and premises)


Banbury, Oxon OX16 3JU

Tel: +44 (0) 1295 228 288


You’re invited to the Facilities Management Forum

There’s a complimentary guest place reserved for you at the Facilities Management Forum, which is taking place on July 6th & 7th.

Can you confirm you will be joining us?

This small and niche event is far removed from the traditional busy and crowded exhibitions and conferences, and takes place at the Hilton Deansgate, Manchester.

The Forum will give you access to innovative suppliers who can help you reduce your expenditure for a series of pre-arranged, face-to-face meetings based on your requirements. You can also attend a series of seminars, and network with like-minded peers.

Overnight accommodation, all meals and refreshments, plus an invitation to our networking dinner, are included with your free guest place.

If this would be useful for your business, please confirm your attendance here.

Places are limited, so register today to avoid disappointment.

Can a data centre achieve Net Zero?

By OnSite Energy Projects

Achieving net zero is a challenge for any business but data centres are amongst the most power hungry users. Globally data centres consume >3% of total power generation (that’s 140% of the entire UK power generation). So can data centres ever attain net zero?

Some data centres simply buy “green tariffs” which in my view is a cheat, and it won’t be acceptable in the long run.  It also misses the real opportunity of embracing the move towards net zero, which is  to reduce operating costs and be green at local level. Achieving net zero lies in a combination of energy efficiency and local zero carbon generation.

Data centres are often measured by their PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) which is Total Facility Power consumption divided by IT Equipment Power.  Typically PUE is in the range 1.5-2.0  depending on location.  The traditional approach in building a data centre is to size the power supply and cooling to the maximum compute capacity, with redundancy.  In practice this means a lot of equipment on standby or in reserve just in case.

We typically see several energy savings options in data centres.  For instance, alternative cooling technologies can be used which save significant energy (up to 90% of cooling load), and are also cheaper than traditional cooling and more scalable to deploy as IT power grows.  Resulting PUE can fall below 1.1.

Reducing consumption also narrows the gap that zero carbon onsite generation then needs to address.  The main factors in specifying generation solutions are usually available space on site, scale of generation needed and access to nearby low carbon or renewable generation.

The benefits such an approach brings are (1) cheaper operating costs;  (2) reduced CO2 emissions; (3) long-term cheaper power than grid, and (4) enhanced resilience. These are all key factors in attracting and retaining tenants.   Adoption of the alternative cooling technologies can even enable more dense rack compute power, so enabling more use of space, higher rents and higher occupancy.

The technology may not be there today to go fully net zero, but I am convinced its coming.  Adopting a strategy towards net zero will be vital for attracting and retaining customers.

Onsite Energy Projects enables the achievement of net zero via our innovative data-led approach and zero capex solution. For more details please contact us at info@on-site.energy or on 0161 444 9989.


Increase your maintenance safety and efficiency

Work faster with clear maintenance visuals

Get full production capacity back faster with clear visuals that increase maintenance efficiency. Plant maintenance operations are a necessity to maintain and secure production capacity but they may require a temporary reduction in production output. With Brady’s reliable and on-site printable signs and labels you can increase maintenance efficiency and get back to full production capacity faster.

Download the free Maintenance guidebook from BRADY


Wildmere Industrial Estate

Banbury, Oxon OX16 3JU

Tel: +44 (0) 1295 228 288



Sustainable office buildings ‘offer tangible investment benefits’

Sustainable office buildings can deliver tangible investment benefits to investors through a combination of higher rents and stronger leasing velocity.

The Impact of Sustainability on Value report from JLL also reveals growing occupier demand for sustainable offices in central London that will need to be met in the next decade.

JLL has calculated that the next wave of office development and major refurbishment will need to accommodate at least 8.0 m sq ft of highly sustainable demand from occupiers across central London by 2030.

This demand assessment for central London office stock is based on the space currently occupied by companies which have signed up to science-based- targets (12m sq ft) who have lease events before 2030, demonstrating the increasing demand and need for highly sustainable buildings within central London.

The research also identified demand from companies signing up to net zero carbon commitments, who currently occupy over 1.5m sq ft of space across central London.

JLL’s research found that, based on historical leasing activity, the future development and redevelopment pipeline of offices incorporating sustainability would deliver tangible financial benefits for developers in addition to strong levels of demand.

JLL analysed leasing activity for New Grade A office buildings in central London and found that those with a BREEAM rating of very good or higher achieved higher rents than those without a rating and that the average rental premium over non-rated buildings over the last three years was around 8%. The analysis also showed that New Grade A buildings with an A or B EPC rating achieved a rental premium of 10% over comparable offices with lower ratings over the same period.

The research further demonstrated that payback for investors who target higher BREEAM ratings is rewarded with higher occupancy rates throughout the cycle. JLL analysed the leasing velocity of 120 central London development schemes completed between 2013 and 2017 and found that those that have an outstanding/ excellent rating tended to show a higher pace of leasing and have lower vacancy rates – of 7% compared to 20% for those rated very good – 24 months after completion.

Neil Prime, head of central London offices markets and UK office agency at JLL, said: “Our analysis of existing environmental ratings shows that overall sustainable buildings deliver better returns for investors against the benchmarks of void rate, leasing velocity and the rents achieved. This provides the industry with a clear and defined base case to begin to formulate an understanding of how the next generation of sustainable offices – for which there is demonstrable demand – will perform.”

Sophie Walker, UK head of sustainability at JLL, added: “Clearly the urgency to build and redevelop these offices in central London to support corporate environmental and people goals is only speeding up.  The first developers to undertake the task will reap the rewards of high levels of demand and the intrinsic higher performance of their product. This opportunity to provide sustainability as a point of differentiation and to appeal to forward-thinking occupiers will really play out over the next decade.

“Beyond 2030, tougher building regulations will drive a reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions and mandated sustainability performance will become more defined – this may mean that the premium associated with it will disappear and buildings that don’t comply will underperform, leading to the displacement of tenants and lost rents due to costly retrofits.”

Is NET ZERO possible for heavy gas users?

Achieving NET ZERO emissions is a significant task, made all the more difficult if you use lots of gas for your process (for steam, drying, frying, furnaces etc). Gas is around 5-6x cheaper than grid electricity, so the cost of switching from gas is prohibitive.

This is a challenge I see a lot in all sorts of heat intensive sectors (food manufacturing, glass manufacturing, healthcare, care home etc).  Gas is typically used either for direct combustion or indirectly to produce steam.

In 2008, the electricity grid emitted over 570 g/kWh, and gas is around 180 g/kWh, so gas was “clean”.  In 2019 the grid has reduced to 255 g/kWh, and is tracking down to 130 g/kWh by 2030, with a target of zero by 2050, so gas is becoming seen as “dirty”, as it really hasn’t changed much.

Firstly there are developments happening that may start to decarbonise the grid such as biogas injection and hydrogen injection. You may wish to check how your equipment will run on a mix of gases.  For some it may mean planning to replace or refit equipment.

There are technology alternatives that can be looked at but a lot will depend on the temperature of the heat that you generate using gas just now e.g. furnaces, ovens, steam or hot water.  Also consideration should be given to recovering waste heat and using it to reduce gas consumption.

A relevant consideration is that over 50% of most electricity bills relates to “non-energy” costs.  This is the cost of the grid transformation that is happening including renewables obligations, cost of FITs, use of system charges etc.   If you generate power at your location but can often save a lot of these, which helps bring down the price gap to gas, and reduces the cost of switching.  Also this can enable a different mix of power generation to be considered at the site to re-balance electricity and gas use.

Many of the measures may have a longer payback time though.  How can you do them when the criteria for payback is only, say 2 years ?  This is the reason Onsite Energy Projects exists.  We recognised the challenge of capex availability and can provide a no-capex, off-balance sheet solution to implement both energy efficiency and on-site generation measures.

We may also be able to identify additional improvement measures, and deliver them all without any capex. If you would like to know more email us at info@on-site.energy or call on 0161 444 9989.

Onsite Energy Projects provides energy savings and energy generation solutions to energy intensive businesses, without capex if required.

Total Security Summit

Do you specialise in Total FM? We want to hear from you!

Each month on FM Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the facilities management market – and in April we’ll be focussing on Total FM. It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help FM industry buyers find the best products and services available today. So, if you specialise in Total FM solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Paige Aitken on p.aitken@forumevents.co.uk. Here’s our full features list: April – Total FM May – Energy Management June – Security Jul – Air Conditioning Aug – Waste Management Sep – Asset Management Oct – FM Software Nov – Business Continuity Dec – Fire & Safety Equipment

Facilities Management Forum – The need to know

The Facilities Management Forum is a unique two-day event which allows FM professionals to meet with innovative and competitive suppliers to the industry.

6 & 7 July – Hilton Deansgate, Manchester

It is entirely free for FM professionals to attend and, as our VIP guest, you will be provided with a bespoke itinerary of pre-arranged, face-to-face meetings with suppliers who match your requirements and upcoming projects.

During the course of the event, you can also attend insightful and inspirational seminars from industry thought-leaders. And there are plenty of opportunities to network with like-minded peers who share your challenges.

Overnight accommodation, all meals and refreshments plus an invitation to our networking dinner is also included with your free ticket.

Simply register your place here.

To find out more about attending the Facilities Management Forum, contact Mark Davis on 01992 374101 or email m.davis@forumevents.co.uk.

If you’re a supplier to the sector, contact Paige Aitken on 01992 374079 or email p.aitken@forumevents.co.uk to find out about the range of event partner packages.