Putting Assets on the map is not enough

UKDN Waterflow

The Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) began on 1 April 2011 and gives public sector organisations in England and Wales above ground data that is improving service delivery and cost efficiencies by mapping their property assets, according to a recent article in the Health Estate journal.

But it’s not enough says Gary Webb from UKDN Waterflow, the UK’s largest independent drainage contractor, who argues that below ground drainage mapping is equally important to understand.

There’s perhaps no-one who understands the disruption and potential risks associated with drainage problems than facilities managers in the public sector. Blockages and interruptions to supply are a recurring challenge for any public building, with no way to control what is disposed of in toilets, problems can arise in even the most robust and well-maintained drainage systems.

Any existing issue with the system – such as slight collapse, misalignment of the pipes or tree roots growing in to the line drains – will quickly be exposed and can often give rise to a major blockage. Prevention is always better than cure and a full audit of the condition of a drainage system should be carried out as an early priority to complement any work through the PSMA. Working with a sophisticated contractor, this may include advanced drainage mapping – an essential process in understanding the dynamics of drainage system.

In a recent project working with a home-counties based NHS Trust, it was discovered that the drainage system was not mapped or fully understood – something which can cause major delays when problems occur. Like many healthcare facilities the site had a long construction history, with multiple extensions added over the years, resulting in a complex arrangement of drains. Often facilities have missing or non-existent drainage plans.

The solution was to provide the facilities team with a digital map and detailed maintenance plan for the entire system. Using a combination of CCTV surveying, flow tracing – using coloured dyes – and GPS mapping, the UKDN Waterflow team was able to piece together a detailed map of the system. This information was used to create a new drainage layer that sat within the estates team’s existing CAD drawing of the facility, allowing the positional details of all drainage assets to be superimposed on other details of the facility. This meant the exact location of any disruption and its proximity to sensitive operations can be quickly assessed.

As well as underpinning the on-going, proactive drainage maintenance operation now employed by the hospital, this project has given the facilities management team clarity over every part of the system, and a complete below ground asset survey that complements the above ground building layout. This has made reactive unblocking jobs much faster to carry out and, crucially, has provided confidence that there are no serious issues waiting to emerge.

The article on the PSMA in the Health Estate journal can be viewed here