Property owners lack liabilities awareness
Ross Smith has an expert eye when it comes to knowing what needs to be done to keep buildings and facilities safe and well maintained. It is an area of expertise he has been involved in for more than 20 years.
Two years ago he branched out with his own company and he hasn’t looked back.
While demand for such services has increased, there are still many property owners who are not fully aware of liabilities to which they are exposed.
“I have been involved in this business for 25 years and I’ve seen it grow and building owners taking more of an interest. But there are a lot of businesses that are not, or they are taking the advice from the handyman that is there,” he said.
He believes regular maintenance is key to reducing liability and eliminating risk. While a facilities handyman can keep certain things in order and carry out basic checks, there is often more that needs to be done for a property to be correctly maintained and to ensure all safety and regulatory codes are being adhered to.
Mr Smith said: “When you look under the hood there are deficiencies. A lot of the time that handyman does not understand the full gamut.”
Giving an example, he said air-conditioning units are often overlooked and not inspected or maintained in a timely fashion. Drawing on his decades of experience as a facilities manager, he would check such things as cleaning the coils to keep them in optimum condition.
Effectively combating mould, and being compliant with fire and safety regulations are other areas that can become expensive problems if overlooked or poorly managed.
Mr Smith was a facilities manager at HSBC Bermuda until the department was made redundant. He then joined a company that provided facility management services, before deciding to create his own company, Ross Smith Construction & Facilities Management Ltd.
“As a facilities manager, I noticed the need for professional service. A lot of buildings were being managed by a handyman who did not have proper understanding of compliance regulations.”
He said “lifting the hood” often uncovered areas where maintenance was being neglected or regulations were not being complied with, potentially exposing the property owner to future difficulties should they end up needing to file an insurance claim.
Mr Smith said: “You can have people maintaining a building that do not realise all the risks, such as not having a smoke alarm in the room where the fire alarm system is located. They could end up being fined hundreds of dollars.”
Being involved in facilities management for many years, Mr Smith said he can quickly spot problem areas. He also knows the benefit of being proactive.
“For years a lot of people have been reactive, but the cost [of proper maintenance] could have been less.”
He points out that there have been major fires in Bermuda caused by inadequate maintenance or lack of inspections.
“People really underestimate the need for monitoring their building systems and keeping them up to scratch. We have a bad habit of waiting for something to happen in order to act, and that’s what I would like to see change.”
His company provides services to a variety of clients, including owners of commercial properties, schools, condominiums and large residential properties.
For buildings that are vacant for an extended period, mould can be a headache. However, it need not be, according to Mr Smith.
“The most important thing is indoor air quality. What happens there is they do not understand how to prevent mould and they think that it’s normal.
“If a property is all closed up then the mould is everywhere. The simple thing is opening windows. That can save a lot of the cost of a mould clean-up.”
Another advantage Mr Smith has is his involvement in the construction industry — he started out as an electrician — and his contacts allow him to quickly call on tradespeople who can assist in heading off or rectifying problems. Additionally, he knows how much a job should cost and can protect his client interests.
“I’ve been involved in construction all my life. I come with the experience of starting at the ground level and working my way up. I know what is needed to maintain a building and I know the costs to do all those things. That’s where the savings come in,” he said.
“With a contractor, we represent the property owner and their interests.”
C&S West Ltd, Bermuda Water Consultants, and Matilda Williams Smith Rest Home are among clients who have written testimonials about the service they have received from RSCFM. In the case of C&S, it was post-hurricane emergency work to secure a badly damaged roof and indoor water damage.
Karen Bremar, of C&S, said quick action to tarp the half-destroyed roof and deal with the water in the reception meant the medical lab was up and running again the following day. She added: “He [Mr Smith] proved himself and continues to provide excellent service on a regular basis.”
Mr Smith said he enjoys being his own boss and running a small team that is augmented by subcontractors when required.
“A lot of the time, it is very rewarding, particularly when you feel you are doing the best for the company,” he said, adding that he appreciates having the freedom to secure family time. “I go to all my children’s functions.”
He said the bottom line was doing a good job for clients and keeping them and their properties safe.
“I tell my clients that I like to sleep at night. I do not want to be kept up at night wondering if these things are working.”
The company has a website at www.rosssmith.bm
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