Thursday, 20 December 2012

Asbestos Roofing in Uganda

In many areas of the East African country of Uganda, schools are roofed with sheets of asbestos, a material banned in the developed world. It is a leftover of colonial rule, put in place by white men as the material was in vogue during the days of European imperialism.

Asbestos itself is an interesting rock, formed from six minerals; the serpentine variant chrysotile and the amosite, tremolite, anthophyllite, actinolite and crocidolite members of the amphibole solid solution series. A solid solution is a range of chemical forms of a mineral, where the relative proportions of cations such as sodium, iron and calcium change. The rocks most recognisable feature is the well known fibrous crystal habit of the minerals; fine crystal strands that have high enough tensile strength and flexibility to be woven as cloth.

Although the rock has been mined for thousands of years, large-scale extraction only began in the 19th Century, which in hindsight is a blessing, as the dangerous properties of the rock may not have been identified in more primitive societies. The rocks properties make it a tempting poison apple. As a building material, it is excellent; featuring not only the high tensile strength and flexibility previously mention, but also resistance to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage, affordability and sound absorption. Small wonder then that it was used so extensively throughout Africa.

The mechanism by which asbestos is dangerous to humans is perhaps not what you would expect. The current, most widely recognised hypothesis is that the finest fibres of around 60 nanometres in size (around one millionth of a centimeter) cause physical damage to the chromosomes within a cell's nuclei. This genetic disruption can trigger unrestrained mitosis, or division of the cells; replicating them beyond normal levels. Which in turn, forms a tumour and thus cancer. As these fibres enter the body through the breathing process, the lungs are the most likely affected area and the more fibres that are breathed in, the higher the chance a chromosome will be damaged in such a way as to have this effect.

It is thus of great concern that the future generations of Ugandans are being exposed to these fibres at such an early age and for extended periods of time; over the course of years. This leaves a large scope for cancer to be triggered and the roofs should be removed as soon as possible. Recent 2012 guidelines on asbestos roofing from the UK government can be found here.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Basic Design Standards of Pitched Roofs

The design of a pitched roof must follow a series of government set regulations to ensure that the structure does not pose a danger to anyone within the vicinity of the building. There are basic capabilities the roof must uphold. These include:

The roof must be able to support both its own weight and that of imposed loads. 
  • Imposed loads include non-voluntary such as snow loads and also the possible application of insulation, solar panels or water tanks in the future.
  • The force induced upon the roof by wind must also be taken into consideration during the calculations of roof strength. The design of the roof must also resist wind uprooting. This may involve straps to hold down parts of the structure if the weight alone is insufficient.
  • Holding straps may also be required in some parts of the UK. Straps are generally steel with a galvanized finish with appropriate fixings.
  • Rafters supporting the roof and ceiling joints must not be more than 600 millimeters apart. Ceiling joists are horizontal supporting beams, rafters are the sloped supporting beams.
  • Ceiling joists must also be calibrated by the size and thickness of the plasterboard or other material that the ceiling is constructed from. For example, for plasterboard sheets of 9.5 millimeter thickness, joist spacing must be no mote than 450 millimeters apart. For plasterboard sheets of 12.5 and 15 millimeter thickness, this joist spacing increases to 600 millimeters.
  • Tile battens are used to provide a strong anchor for nails and clips that secure tiles/slates and also give rigidity to the structure. For natural slate battens, 25x50 sized battens can be used with both 450 and 600 millimeter spacing. Fibre cement or concrete slates must also be 25x50 for 600 millimeter spans, but can be 25x38 for 450 millimeter spacing.
  • The size for nails fixing battens should be 10 gauge or 3.35 millimeters by 54 millimeters long. Nails can be either ring shank or galvanized smooth round types. The ring shank type should be used where the maximum basic wind speed is over 26 metres per second.
BPM Maintenance are a property maintenance and building company located in the city of Bath that have skilled and experienced roofers able to take care of any Bath roofing problem.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Air Conditioning Inspections Part 4: What will be in the report?

As seen in part 3 of our air conditioning inspection series, property owners may often expect more from an air conditioning inspection that it actually provides. Following EU directives and initiatives related to sustainability and efficiency; regulations focusing on the future of Europe and the newer generations. What an air conditioning inspection will not do is inspect the safety and installation; that will require a separate inspection. However the primary inspection is required by law.

What will I see in my air conditioning inspection report?

  • The name of your inspector
  • The date of the inspection
  • The name of the accreditation that the inspector has
  • The name and address of the company the inspector works for, such as BPM Maintenance.
  • The address of the building containing the air conditioning system inspected.
  • Areas of the building served by the air conditioning system.
  • Specification of the air conditioning system.
What will the report assess?
  • Temperature control
  • Time control
  • Maintenance regime
  • Controls & sensors
  • Metering
  • Loads
How will it assess these features?
The air conditioning inspection report will provide assessments detailing the effectiveness of the system and how it could be improved in cost effectiveness and energy efficiency. Methods to achieve this may include changing how the controls are used, times the system is on for, cleaning and repairs that may improve efficiency.

 The inspector will not carry out any of the recommendations that he gives, such as cleaning or changes to controls as this may pose some form of risk to his safety. If the inspector has the competence, skills and qualifications to do the work, and offers the service, then the inspector may carry out this work. However this would not be in any way connected to the inspection and must be arranged as a separate job.

As the inspection does not cover the actual maintenance or installation of the air conditioning system; it is often the case that the changes are simple, especially for issues such as the controls or time the system is active for. Therefore the building manager or administrator may be able to make the changes personally, during the inspection.

BPM Maintenance is a property maintenance company located in Bath that offers air conditioning installation and maintenance, as well as roofing, plumbing, electrical and many other services.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Air Conditioning Inspections Part 3: What do they cover?

Often property owners will expect more from an air conditioning inspection than the service actually provides. Thus it is wise for owners to be aware of the actual extent of what an inspection will cover; to prevent a false sense of security.

What will an air-conditioning inspection not cover?
It is important to note that it is not within the sphere of an air conditioning inspection to identify hazards associated with the air conditioning supply and systems, nor will an inspection pinpoint dangerous installation, operation or maintenance procedures regarding the air conditioning. A further and separate inspection by an air conditioning installation & maintenance expert, such as those at BPM Maintenance, would be necessary to ensure such dangers are not present or that they can be fixed in the case that they are.

What will an air-conditioning inspection cover?
The inspector will review documentation associated with the air conditioning system used to judge how well the system is maintained or the extent to which the manager of the system has information regarding its use. Additionally the inspection will cover the controls, the refrigeration and air movement equipment, with a goal to assess energy usage. The inspector may offer advice on how the performance of the air conditioning system could be improved.

What must the air-conditioning inspector have access to?
  • Refrigeration & air movement equipment; which is likely located either in a plant room, on a rooftop or an exterior location with limited access.
  • The air handling unit (AHU) and various ducts associated with the air-conditioning system.
  • Fan coil units which are often concealed with suspended ceilings.
The inspector will have to be accompanied by the building manager or maintenance staff, and health & safety checks must be made in areas that have limited access.

BPM Maintenance is a property maintenance company located in Bath that offers air conditioning installation and maintenance, as well as roofing, plumbing, electrical and many other services.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Air Conditioning & F Gas Inspections Part 2

When is an Energy Performance Certificate required?
  • Whenever a building is let, sold or constructed.
When is a Display Energy Certificate (DEC) required?
  • For public buildings that cover an area greater than 1000m squared.
  • And that the building is either:
    • Actually visited by members of the public.
    • Or used by a public authority or public institution that services a large number of people.
The other type of inspection that is required for air conditioning systems in addition to general air conditioning inspections is a F Gas inspection.

F Gas refers to fluorinated greenhouse gases that EU directives following the Kyoto Protocol are committed to monitoring. F gases include Hydrofluorocarbons, Perfluorocarbons and Sulphur Hexafluoride. Hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs are what you will have to worry about as an owner of an air conditioning system as these are commonly used as a refrigerant. The gases are known to be far stronger contributors to global warming than carbon dioxide, so minimising their release is crucial to preventing anthropogenic climate change.

The EC Regulation 842/2006 states that leakage checks are to be carried out, that repairs must be completed to any faults found and that any F Gas that may have been released by these faults in the air conditioning system must be collected.

F Gas inspections follow a different timetable to general air conditioning inspections, which are only required once every five years.

The F Gas inspection timetable is as follows:
  • The inspection must be performed at least once every twelve months for all air conditioning systems containing 3kg or more F gases.
  • For air conditioning systems containing 30kg or more of F gases, an inspection must be carried out at least once every six months.
  • Those air conditioning systems that contain 300kg or more of F gases must be inspected at least once every three months.
  • Any air conditioning system that has had a leakage repaired must undergo another inspection no more than one month after the repair to ensure that it was sufficient to contain the problem.
BPM Maintenance are a property maintenance company based in Bath that offer air conditioning Bath and air conditioning installation Bath.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Air Conditioning Inspections

Why should I have my air conditioning system inspected?
  • An Energy Assessor will offer a range of advice to improve the efficiency, electricity consumption, operating costs and carbon emissions of your air conditioning set-up.
  • If you have an older type of air conditioning, an inspection could highlight potential problems that could be avoided by acquiring a replacement. Older air conditioning models suffer from refrigerant restrictions that have been formed in recent legislation.
  • Other legislation and red tape gives a bevy of obligations place on the shoulders of building managers and owners with regards to their air conditioning. Not every owner of a property has the time or inclination to keep up with new legislation, but energy inspections of the operation and maintenance of air conditioning systems are now required.
  • An air conditioning inspection can reveal refrigerant escape which may cause harm to denizens of the building.
When should I have my air conditioning system inspected?
  • By law, all your air conditioning systems with an output of more than 12 kilowatts must be inspected by an air conditioning energy assessor in cycles no more than five years apart.
  • If your air conditioning system was installed on the 1st of January 2008 or later, the first inspection must take place within 5 years of the installation date.
  • If the rated output of your air conditioning system is 250 kilowatts or more, the first inspection must be within 1 year.
  • If the control of the air conditioning system changes hands and the new manager was unlucky enough not to receive an air conditioning inspection report, then he must contract an energy assessor to inspect the air conditioning system within 3 months.
BPM Maintenance are a property maintenance company based in Bath that offer air conditioning Bath and air conditioning installation Bath.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Yet Another Rogue Plumber Caught By HSE

Consumers should always be vigilant against rogue and illegal tradesman making false claims about their accreditations and skills.

Salisbury Crown Court heard last Friday (28 September) that the Wiltshire plumber Simon Dale who traded under the company name Cathedral Plumbing Services and previously Wiltshire Plumbing & Heating Ltd, had carried out gas work on 13 properties in Wiltshire that he was not qualified or registered to do.

This kind of practice puts selfish greed above the safety of his clients, whilst working in a field that can have very deadly consequences for shoddy work.

Although Dale was registered as a plumber under the CORGI scheme, he was not qualified as a gas engineer. Despite this he made verbal claims that he was qualified to carry out the gas work and used official logos on his paperwork and van that he did not have the right to use.

On one particular job he also claimed to be Part P proficient and able to carry out electrical work.

Illegal gas work is very often of poor quality with the resulting installations carrying high risk of explosions or carbon monoxide leaks. Carbon monoxide cannot be smelt, tasted or seen yet a percentage of just over 1% in the air can cause unconsciousness in a few breaths and death in a few minutes.

The plumber pleaded guilty to six offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act and ten offences of fraud by misrepresentation, breaching the Fraud Act 2006 as well as three breaches of the Unfair Trading regulations 2008 for unfair commercial practice.

This list of crimes landed Dale 30 months of prison, including consecutive prison sentences rather than concurrent as two of the cases of fraud were committed whilst he was on bail for the other offences.

If you live in the Bath area of the UK and need a Bath gas engineer, Bath plumber or Bath electrician you can trust, then BPM Maintenance is here to help. Our tradesmen are fully registered and accredited with their various organisations and are happy to prove that to you to ensure your safety and peace of mind are preserved.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Illegal Gas Worker Found Guilty in Rochdale

The Health and Safety Executive has reported that a man from Rochdale has been found guilty of illegally carrying out gas work to three homes within his borough.

His actions came to light after he installed a new boiler and gas hob at a property. Fortunately, the home owner attempted to change the gas meter from pay-as-you-go to a conventional meter reading style not longer after the illegal gas work.

When the National Grid engineer visited the property and observed the illegal gas work, he quickly noticed that the condition of the gas hob was 'immediately dangerous'.

Gas is an extremely dangerous substance; it is highly flammable, colourless, odourless and tasteless. A concentration of just over 1% in air will knock a person unconscious after only a few breaths and kill after 2-3 minutes.

The rogue gas contractor was named as Paul Gregory of Hollin Lane, Middleton. He pleaded guilty to five breaches of Gas Safety Regulations and received a fine of £2,279 and a requirement to undergo 300 hours of unpaid work.

He worked his scam by creating a fake Gas Safe Register number on documents and claiming he was a qualified, accredited member of the organisation.

The other two jobs he carried out were landlord gas safety certificate jobs, which must be undertaken annually.

The Gas Safe Register report that a quarter of a million illegal gas jobs are carried out every year by people without the skills or qualifications to work with gas.

Gas work is never a DIY job, it is simply too dangerous and if any mistakes are made it can easily cost the life of both the inexperienced worker and anyone nearby without warning. Always hire a contractor and ensure that they will do a good job.

BPM Maintenance is a property maintenance company with highly experienced, qualified, accredited gas engineers that you can trust. Each can provide all the relevant information regarding their professional registrations; rather than just a fake id number. For all gas work and gas safety certificates in Bath, just phone us today for a free quote on 4401225462598 or email us at

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

3 Common Autumn Maintenance Scams

It is a sad fact that there are significant levels of rogue contractors eager to take advantage of the unwary, both in Bath and all over the UK. One of the key methods to ensure you don't become a victim is to check that your contractor is accredited with the relevant organisations such as Safe Contractor, Trading Standards or trade specific organisations such as FENSA for glazing. In this article we will look at three of the most common scams that many of these 'tradesmen' will try, so you can recognise and reject any that attempt to play it on you.

  1. Some contractors will tempt a client with greatly reduced prices, lower than any of their competitors, then insist that they must carry out an 'inspection' before doing their work. This inspection will then turn up serious and expensive problems that would prove highly dangerous if left untouched. The contractor will then try and charge thousands of pounds to correct these flaws. Make sure you are shown all the relevant evidence that supports their claims for example a detector that shows you have a carbon monoxide leak etc. Often the company that originally fitted whatever turned up 'broken' in the 'inspection' can recommend a reputable contractor that will offer an honest dependable service you can trust.
  2. Some tradesmen will show up at your door when they notice you are in need of a service such as roofing or gutter cleaning. They will claim they will do the work at a low price as they are in the neighbourhood or have extra materials left over from another job. However the rogue contractors will then request for the money up front and disappear with it, leaving behind no contact details as it was they that approached you rather than vice versa. Again, always beware of prices that seem too low; if it appears to be too good to be true, it often is.
  3. A third, more sinister approach, is for a pair of contractors to work together to burglarize a home. One will distract the home owner, often an elderly resident that lives alone, offering various services such as decorating or yard cleaning. The other 'contractor' will enter the home and steal what they can.
One of the key guidelines you can draw from these three common scams is that you should always research a company before purchasing their services. Search for the company name on the internet, visit their website and check for accreditations. Always enter a trade agreement on your own terms; ensure that you are the one approaching the contractor for their services and not the other way around.

If you ever need a highly reputable, experienced maintenance company in the Bath, Bristol or North East Somerset area with a large portfolio of work servicing a large and varied range of domestic and commercial clients, try BPM Maintenance. We offer skilled, efficient work with friendly, accredited and qualified tradesmen who will help you reach a fast and thorough solution to any of your building problems.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Plymouth Student Union Letting Agency

Quite an interesting piece of news from the Plymouth Herald; the University of Plymouth Student Union has set up their own letting agency in response to the high number of problems their students have had with accommodation. The service is designed to focus on maintaining good conditions in the properties and improving student quality of life. The student formed agency also has its own property maintenance programme to promptly solve any problems that do arise.

Personally, I think this is a great idea and it takes straight after organisations such as the Cardiff Student Union letting agency which recently won an award from the London Times.

Here are some of the advantages we at BPM Maintenance can see in the scheme:

  • The student union agency offers a very reasonable service to students with no agency fees, which can run into hundreds of pounds with an independent agency. 
  • The strong links with the university give students peace of mind; knowing that their accommodation is in the hands of people who have their best interests at heart, rather than pursuing profit.
  • Offers an alternative to existing organisations such as Unite, which provide pseudo halls of residence that may not appeal to all types of student.
  • Material and information supplied is tailored for the students of that university rather than students or clients in general.
  • Student union services such as this provide excellent work experience for then university students organising it.
Some possible downsides:

  • The service may provide excellent experience for the students, as they will likely have very little relevant existing experience in the field. This may lead to mistakes and error which are part of the natural learning process, but could be detrimental to an already vulnerable sector (finance wise).
  • High staff turnover due to the organisation being run by students; unable for individuals to build long standing relationships with landlords in the area and gain associated knowledge of properties for long.
  • Students combining letting work with studies could lead to low quality.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Landlord vs Tenants

The private renting system can land both tenants and landlords in the soup when care is not taken. Two recent articles, one from the Herald Express; detailing rogue landlords in Torbay, South Devon, the other from the Central Somerset Gazette; concerning appalling tenants in Glastonbury.

Within Torbay, private landlords hold hundreds of low quality, ill-kept and poorly maintained properties across the resort. Many are often in the most deprived areas of the town, areas amok with the less disciplined kind of youth, prone to outbreaks of graffiti, noise and violence. Within just the last year, there have been 1400 complaints from local tenants, compared to just 3 and 40 from nearby, comparable towns. The landlords evict any tenant that complains about the low standard of living/quality of life.

The Glastonbury report tells the story of a landlord who accepted tenants on housing benefit and under the care of social services in the mistaken belief that this would provide some form of security, in that the public sector would ensure his new tenants are kept in line. However, when they finally moved out the unfortunate landlord discovered his house had been effectively ruined, with human excrement on the walls and the interior furniture left in wreckage.

Both cases highlight the importance of ensuring a detailed check is made on both sides of the tenancy agreement. Both the landlord and the tenant-to-be are making a costly decision that significantly affects their lives. Such a decision cannot be entered lightly and without the utmost care. The landlord should make use of a professional tenant letting service which obtains references from past landlords to check how they treat a property and their employer to check they can pay the rent.

The tenant should make at least one visit to the property before signing anything. A prospective tenant should make a check-list of what they're looking for in a property, tell-tale signs of maintenance required and prospective problems. They should check the lights, plumbing, electrical, doors, heating and more to know the property they are moving into sufficient to provide for their basic needs. Another useful task would be contacting local residents, scouting the nearby area to judge the quality of the neighbourhood.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Oxfam Maintenance Initiative

In a new initiative to organise the maintenance and repair of their 128 shops within 30 miles of the Warwickshire area, Oxfam, the global aid and development charity, is setting up a meet event for local contractors to attend.  Over the course of 4 and a half hours on the morning of Wednesday, the 29th of August, a team from Oxfam will personally judge any chain of contractors that turns up. As the event is free and requires no membership in the organisation, Construcionline, that is setting it up, I am sure that they can expect quite a turnout. I am also confident that Oxfam will have a difficult time deciding and judging the relative merits of these excellent tradesmen.

BPM Maintenance is unfortunately too far from the region to participate, though you can count on that we would be there if a similar opportunity opened up in the Bath, Bristol or North east Somerset area. Any contractors that hope for a deal with Oxfam will have to present good evidence that their work is of the highest quality and is affordable for a chain of charity shops. These property maintenance workers will have to remember that Oxfam will not have the budget of a retail company which doesn't rely on goodwill and volunteers to support their business.

Any prospective contractor would need to show good links with local business, especially in the retail sector. They would need to provide a strong range of trades such as plumbing and electrical that may all be required by Oxfam. A charity would certainly prefer to use a single maintenance company rather than organising multiple to work together for a single project, with the escalating costs that would bring. Accreditations and proof of experience and qualifications would certainly be a requirement. BPM Maintenance meets all these stipulations with flying colours; we can only hope that the Bath, Bristol or Somerset area Oxfams conduct a similar meeting with local businesses so we can extend our trade further.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Construction Sector has Shrunk Nearly 10% in the Last Year

On the 10th of August, the Office for National Statistics published a new report showing the construction output figures for the second quarterly period of 2012. Unfortunately the already shrinking building sector has contracted further as the recession continues. Only one sector remained unscathed; non housing repair and maintenance. Thus we at BPM Maintenance have not been hit quite as badly as our competitors, due to our strong relationships with local businesses in the Bath, Bristol and North East Somerset area. We provide as range of commercial and retail maintenance work, that the statistics have shown some growth in; 0.8% year on year.

The Economics Director of the Construction Products Association, Noble Francis, had this to say on the new figures;

‘However, what is most concerning is that private sector activity has also fallen sharply, implying that not just activity but also confidence is sadly lacking.

This situation is rapidly becoming a crisis and at this rate I wouldn't be surprised if manufacturers begin to shut down their operations and lay people off.'

Many experts view growth in the building industry as integral to the economic growth of the country as a whole regaining momentum. The government itself recognises this, but continues to deny the necessary measures to stimulate growth.

The population of the Isles is ever growing, yet the decline in housing repair and maintenance shown in the statistics released may hint that many people are unable to afford professional services and are resorting to DIY to solve plumbing or electrical problems. Many of these maintenance jobs can be more involved and dangerous than they appear. Attempting to re-wire or fix an electrical installation without the necessary training for example, could easily cause further damage or injury.