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In residential FM, the devil is in the details

When the property developer is also the facility manager, FM becomes a matter of looking after one’s own. Balaji N, Associate Vice President, Head of Facility Maintenance, Sobha Ltd – which has developed 128 million sq ft across 528 projects in 27 cities spanning 14 states – takes us through what it takes to maintain a residential facility.

The crux of FM

The design of every project – including design, engineering, layout, materials used and construction quality – greatly affects the effort, cost and ease of maintenance. SOBHA has addressed this by using design-led thinking through thoughtful and meticulous planning.

Some examples include preventing water stagnation by having roofs with the right slope, designing pathways and landscaping that allow natural flow of water into drains and collection pits, use of GRC in pavers and culverts that last longer, proper testing and certification of various electrical, plumbing and HVAC equipment with good availability of spares to ensure maximum uptime. This also reduces overall material consumption, water and energy required to maintain properties.

Having the right systems, processes, checks and balances while being diligent about following them is essential for effective FM.

Frequent issues

Some common problems that people generally face include broken-down lifts and their frequent repairs, undulated or broken pathways, leakages, pungent-smelling areas, power and water availability, and swimming pools under constant maintenance. Although these issues look trivial, they have a high impact on the living experience.

Special attention

Certain equipment and areas need more attention and periodic maintenance. We have a checklist for various areas such as electrical, plumbing, swimming pools, STPs, WTPs, organic waste converters, switchyards etc. Specific personnel are designated for each of these areas, who are trained in detailed procedures and safety precautions to be carried out.

Attending to maintenance-related issues in a timely manner is critical. Let’s say an overhead tank is overflowing because the automatic pumping system failed to shut off, owing to a faulty float valve. If spares are not in stock, a faulty valve can lead to wastage of water.

Streamlined operations

Simple as it may seem, implementing and sustaining good processes is critical. Checking the logbooks, and stock book regularly, especially during a shift handover, is important. Being able to order material and spare parts and having them delivered on time is essential. Unavailability of a spare part may result in the STP not working, affecting the overall uptime of a plant. The electrical/power systems are also designed taking into consideration ease of maintenance, and availability of spares and reputation of the supplier.

Preventive and predictive maintenance depend on the frequency and criticality of plants, equipment and components. This is why periodic and preventive maintenance measures of all pumps and motors, including standby ones, is important.

It’s in the details

SOBHA ensures that manholes, sumps and drains are regularly cleaned as per a schedule that helps prevent waterlogging. Simple practices such as dusting and cleaning common areas also ensure longevity and hygiene of a property.

With extensive greenery being a norm, pest, rodent and mosquito control is crucial. Regular fumigation, environment-friendly pesticides,insecticides and herbicides are used to keep away harmful pests.

Safety procedures such as lock-out and tag-out (LOTO) are essential to prevent any harm to personnel and equipment. Using fuses of wrong ratings in a switchgear can prove hazardous, causing not only human harm but also complete disruption of power supply.

There are certain aspects that need supervisory or manager-level attention. Having good knowledge, being trained and experienced goes a long way in ensuring high uptime and lower maintenance costs.

“Excessive pressure used during water jet cleaning may lead to wastage, while under pressure may not be effective. Use of the right nozzles and liquids helps avoid this.”

FM and sustainability

Only treated water from STPs is used for landscaping and cleaning of basements and other common areas. Proper drainage is provided for wastewater that can be further reused.

Let’s take landscaping – we ensure that there is minimal impact on existing vegetation, right from project conceptualisation. Trees are replanted as far as possible, and flora is planted that complements the existing vegetation. Landscaping is done in a way that the natural flow of water is maintained and collection pits with proper drainage are provided to collect sewage water, or rainwater collected from both the ground and rooftops.

SOBHA uses organic waste converters (OWCs) in all its projects, requiring residents to segregate organic and inorganic waste. To ensure this is followed, we implement a 4 R methodology – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover. Improper segregation can result in faulty operation of an OWC, increasing the maintenance cost and downtime.

In water jet cleaning, using excessive high pressure would lead to wastage of water while low pressure may not be effective. Use of the right nozzles and liquids helps avoid this.

SOBHA provides more open and green cover than is required as per regulations, which means more landscaping, trees and vegetation.

There are several unnoticed areas that go into FM. Take for instance checking air cleaners, coolant levels, water pressure, hydrants used in firefighting, draining sediments from fuel tanks in a generator and so many more. Every equipment and activity to be conducted has a process that is followed to the dot.

Steam boiler used for laundry at SOBHA Hermitage, Thrissur

Since the working pressure required for laundries is low, a steam boiler is ideally suited; it requires lesser maintenance and has a respectable efficiency of 75-80%. Running such a system is easier and does not require high-skilled operators.

Post-handover FM

As per contractual obligation, SOBHA maintains its projects for one year. For projects being completed and handed over in a phased manner, maintenance is provided until the handover of the complete project.

Resident associations can choose to retain SOBHA for maintenance after the expiry of the one-year committed period or have other service providers engaged. As per RERA, a warranty period of 5 years is mandatory for the structure, which includes both the apartment and common areas.

For properties where maintenance is continued after one year, SOBHA extends support for common area hygiene, maintenance of DG sets, fire systems, providing fire training to residents, water quality, waste management etc. To ensure transparency, we insist on all expenses to be pre-approved, with regular audits being conducted by the residents’ association and SOBHA.

Being able to order material and spare parts and having them delivered on time is essential. Unavailability of a spare part may result in the STP not working, affecting the overall uptime of a plant.

India’s first and only residential project to receive IGBC platinum rating

A 6.5-acre manmade lake was conceived in 2006 in the Sobha City, Thrissur project. In March 2022 we received ‘Platinum’ status for ‘Net Zero Water Positive’ from IGBC – a first in the country. This means that all water requirements are met from within the property, without getting raw water in tankers or from borewells. IGBC rating is based on several parameters such as improvement in water efficiency, reduction in annual water consumption to about 30-50% with respect to the national baseline, overall reduction in water cost by 30% and reduced dependency on raw water. A significant portion of water is also discharged into irrigation canals that has positively impacted agricultural communities around the project.




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