Whole life costing: is there an end game?
The future need for some rational analysis is obvious. If we are to close in on the issues of sustainability, health and safety, we need some forward-looking protocols that work. At the moment these are sadly lacking low-carbon results. We need to look carefully at the threads of new thinking that are showing the way and perhaps we will come closer to a process that gives some logical beneﬁt and even may get us where we need to be. We need to consider carefully the components and methodology for the model, and
make some signiﬁcant advances for the better. Several methodologies are currently being used, with varying degrees of eventual success. The pressure to make real progress will be present only when it is obvious – when it is too late. We need to use the tools to hand. However, they come with a health warning –
the well known phrase ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ applies here. While we have methodologies to analyse the situation and feed in data, for this to work the plan has to be followed explicitly. To guide us, we have the International and British Standard BS ISO 15686,
‘Buildings and constructed assets – Service life planning: Part 5, Whole life cycle costing’. BS ISO 15686 is a useful tool but, due to its ISO status, much of its content is a compromise. It usefulness is therefore limited and it must be applied with care. The Standard was published in 2008 and developed through BSI Technical
Committee 500, and included 24 interest groups. It was designed as a tool to aid surveyors producing life-cycle costing plans. The full standard is in ten parts, with Part 5 detailing life-cycle issues. The approach adopted by the committee was to look at two paths of data. Infor-
mation from the testing and segregation tool and the service life data is used to estimate the life of the material or element under consideration. Factoring of life conditions is then added and combined with the other data to produce the estimated service life. This is a perfectly sensible method of establishing theoretical service life. However,
the assumptions made are all based on a series of data that, in turn, builds assumptions into the result. In addition, there is no allowance for maintenance (or more precisely, the lack of it). Work is now being considered regarding this, but it is staggering that this has not formed part of the Standard from the outset. For the Standard to be of any real use, the errors in the assumptions need to be
cancelled out. A clear picture of maintenance use and abuse needs to be considered. For these reasons, this cannot yet be considered as an appropriate or accurate tool.