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Writing Grounds Maintenance Specifications

Written by Thornton & Lowe


Apr 16, 2024

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of writing a grounds maintenance specification, primarily aimed at public sector organisations, such as housing associations that deliver grounds maintenance in-house via a Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) or those who outsource it and are preparing for a new procurement exercise of the service.

If you are looking to improve your grounds maintenance service or ensure your contractors are managed, controlled and able to perform, and to lead in grounds maintenance best practice, we hope this provides some initial guidance.

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A comprehensive grounds maintenance specification is essential to ensure compliance, control, value for money and increased customer satisfaction.

Many public sector organisations are using outdated grounds maintenance specifications which can leave gaps or grey areas for performance, expectations and delivery.

At Thornton & Lowe, we develop highly practical specifications for our public sector clients which are easy to follow and understand. This ensures grounds maintenance contractors or estate teams, housing or estate officers, contract managers, procurement professionals, customers (for example, residents) and wider stakeholders all understand their role and expectations. This makes monitoring, escalation and management easier and more effective.

Modern method of audits using technology and portals can create both highly efficient and transparent interactions, which reduce grounds maintenance complaints and save time for all involved. Sustainability should be built in as standard.

A grounds maintenance specification should be bespoke and based on your challenges.

Understanding Grounds Maintenance Specifications

A grounds maintenance specification serves as a detailed guide outlining the required standards for maintaining an outdoor space, schemes and estates. It provides a clear understanding of the scope of work, detailing the various tasks and maintenance procedures to be followed. It also addresses the frequency of these tasks, the expected standards, and the responsibilities of the maintenance personnel.

Types of Maintenance Specifications

There are two primary types of maintenance specifications: input specifications and output specifications.

Input Specifications: These specifications detail exactly what is required. They outline a rigid framework within which the supplier's performance can be monitored. However, they offer little room for innovation or improvement in service delivery. A challenge can often be the limitation of having grounds maintenance operatives and teams having to go through the motions to complete tasks which in practice do not require completing. Leaving less room for flexibility and pragmatic use of time for the service.

Output Specifications: These specifications define the outcomes or results that are expected from the contract. They provide grounds maintenance contractors or in-house maintenance teams with greater flexibility for developing innovative solutions while still adhering to relevant standards and regulations. However, often there are challenges in reporting and the decision making process; who decides the priorities.

Components of a Grounds Maintenance Specification

A comprehensive grounds maintenance specification should include the following components:

1. Introduction: This section provides an overview of the sites, the purpose of the specification and sets the tone with regards to expectations.

2. Scope of Services: Here, you outline the range of services required, frequencies, including routine maintenance tasks, seasonal work, and any additional services.

3. Maintenance Standards: This section details the expected standards for each task. It may include specific measurements, frequencies, photos and procedures to follow.

4. Reporting and Communication: This part outlines the communication and reporting requirements, such as regular updates or incident reports.

5. Health and Safety Regulations: This section details any health and safety requirements that the contractor must follow.

6. Quality Assurance: This part outlines the process for monitoring and assessing the quality of the work carried out.

Benefits of a Well-Written Maintenance Specification

A well-crafted maintenance specification provides several benefits:

1. Clarity: It provides a clear understanding of the tasks to be performed, ensuring all parties are on the same page.

2. Consistency: It ensures consistent maintenance standards across different sites.

3. Performance Monitoring: It provides a basis for monitoring and evaluating the performance of the maintenance team.

4. Budgeting: It helps in forecasting maintenance costs and budgeting.

5. Compliance: It ensures compliance with regulatory requirements and industry best practices.

Steps to Creating an Effective Maintenance Specification

The process of creating a maintenance specification involves the following steps:

1. Identify Grounds Maintenance Needs: Carry out a thorough assessment of the sites/ schemes and estates to identify maintenance needs. Consider factors like the type of vegetation, features of the landscape, usage patterns, and any seasonal changes. Interview stakeholders, analyse complaints data, service disruption and wider aims, for example linked to biodiversity and sustainability.

2. Define the Scope of Services: Identify the services needed to maintain the property effectively. A benchmarking and market test to assess the impact and costs of enhanced specifications can ensure no unexpected consequences, impacting budgets for example, later down the line.

3. Set Maintenance Standards: Define the standards to be met for each task. This could include specific measurements (such as grass height after mowing), cut and collect, mulching, the frequency of tasks, or the method of carrying out tasks.

4. Specify Reporting Requirements: Clearly outline the reporting requirements. This could include regular status updates, incident reports, or completion reports for each task. A stakeholder and communication map and plan will help you ensure your grounds maintenance specification will provide a solution to everyone involved in the service.

5. Outline Quality Assurance Measures: Specify how the quality of work will be assessed. This could involve regular inspections, customer feedback, or performance metrics. Are residents or wider customers involved?

6. Review and Update: Regularly review and update the specification to ensure it remains relevant and effective.

Importance of Maintenance Best Practices

Maintenance best practices are established methods or techniques that have consistently shown superior results compared to other means. When applied correctly, these practices can lead to unprecedented levels of operational efficiency. They can help to prevent equipment failures, reduce downtime, improve safety, and save costs. Therefore, they form a crucial part of a robust grounds maintenance specification.

In a further article we explore how grounds maintenance consultancy can be the key to exceptional service delivery.

Identifying and Discovering Maintenance Best Practices

Identifying and discovering maintenance best practices involves a systematic review of your current maintenance processes. This includes benchmarking your performance against industry standards, understanding your workflows, outlining key performance indicators (KPIs), and establishing company-wide maintenance best practices.

Implementing Grounds Maintenance Best Practices

Once the best practices are identified, the next step is to implement them into your maintenance operations. This involves training your staff on these practices, updating your maintenance specifications to reflect these practices, and using performance metrics to track adherence to these practices. Mobilisation for a new grounds maintenance service, specification or contractor cannot be underestimated and can often be the reason for a failing service. Ensuring the appropriate time is available to bring sites up to standard, to ensure stakeholders understand their roles, are trained on them and reporting is in place.

Monitoring and Evaluation of Maintenance Practices

Monitoring and evaluation are crucial to ensure that the implemented best practices are followed consistently and are delivering the expected results. This involves regular inspections, performance tracking, and feedback sessions. Any issues or gaps identified during this process should be addressed promptly to maintain the effectiveness of your maintenance operations.

Enhancing Grounds Maintenance Performance

Enhancing grounds maintenance performance involves continuous improvement of your maintenance practices. This involves regularly reviewing and updating your maintenance specifications, investing in staff training and development, implementing new technologies or tools, and encouraging innovative solutions to maintenance challenges.

Writing a grounds maintenance specification is a complex process that requires a thorough understanding of the property's maintenance needs, industry best practices, and the latest trends in maintenance management. However, with careful planning, continuous improvement, and a commitment to quality, housing associations and wider public sector or public funded bodies, can create a robust specification that ensures their outdoor spaces are well-maintained, safe, and aesthetically pleasing.

By considering this article, housing associations can not only improve their grounds maintenance performance but also ensure they are prepared for a grounds maintenance procurement exercise, aligning their operations with best practices in the industry.

Free Grounds Maintenance Specification Review

We are offering public sector bodies a free review of their grounds maintenance specification.

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