top of page

Resources >  Building Maintenance

Building Maintenance

The maintenance of buildings of whatever sort must be looked at in the context of asset management which is a way of ensuring the maximum economic use of built resources over a given period of time (Asset Management and Facilities Planning are covered in a separate resource topic).   In the context of education or health facilities in a developing country this would mean the most efficient use (and renovation if necessary) of existing facilities and the construction of new facilities only in locations where they are absolutely necessary using the most economic means of construction whether by contractors or local communities.  It would also include a maintenance plan for existing and new facilities to ensure that they have a long life at the lowest cost


Building maintenance has been defined as ‘work undertaken in order to keep, restore or improve every part of a building, its services and surrounds to an acceptable standard and to sustain the utility and value of the facility’.  Its functional role therefore is to retain the usefulness of the facilities to the users, whether they be staff, students or patients, on a long-term basis.  The financial role of facilities maintenance is to preserve the physical condition of the capital asset that the facilities represent and stop any deterioration and thus loss in value.


Maintenance should be differentiated from renovation or rehabilitation works which are usually one-off projects, large in scale and expensive.  Renovation work also usually means that the building being renovated will be out of use for the length of the renovation programme which will cause disruption to the work of the school or health centre.  Continuous small-scale maintenance of a building should avoid the need for costly and disruptive renovations.


Before embarking on a maintenance programme for existing buildings however, the buildings should if possible be renovated to a common acceptable standard.  In order to do this, it will be necessary to carry out a survey of all existing buildings to establish their condition and what work will be necessary to renovate them to an acceptable standard.  Survey documents that were developed for a variety of school and health projects are included in the section on Asset Management and Facilities Planning.


The World Bank and other agencies have long been interested in the maintenance of health and education facilities as they recognise that the construction of new facilities will only, in the long run, increase the need for maintenance by increasing the number of facilities that require the same.  If existing facilities can be renovated and then maintained at an acceptable standard, this will reduce the long term capital costs as well as maintenance costs.  This is however, a very difficult message to get across to governments of all kinds as, when budgets need to be reduced and cost cutting measures put in place, the easiest budget to cut is usually the maintenance budget.


Maintenance was raised as an issue during the preparation of the basic education projects that I worked on in Indonesia but the issue was not fully resolved and at the completion of the projects I was asked to write guidelines on the management of maintenance to assist World Bank project managers who were managing construction projects in the fields of health and education: Guidelines for Managing the Maintenance of Facilities for Health and Education.    


Most primary schools in Indonesia at the time were constructed by the Provincial Ministries of Public Works and their philosophy with regard to primary school construction was to build them as cheaply as possible, spend no money on maintenance and completely re-build the schools ever ten years or so.  I wrote a short paper for the Bank, the Economics of School Maintenance that showed how good quality construction and maintenance of primary schools can substantially reduce costs over the 30 year lifetime of a school.


A few years later, I worked on a primary school renovation project in Indonesia, managed by the British Council and funded by the World Bank that renovated large numbers of primary schools using school committees to manage the process.  The project was very successful (and will eventually be covered in another section of this web-site) and at end of the project I was asked to prepare some handbooks for the use of school committees and communities in constructing, renovating and maintaining their primary schools: Manual for the use of Schools and Communities in the Maintenance of Primary School Buildings.  All of the manuals were eventually translated into Bahasa Indonesia and were illustrated by a young and very talented Indonesian architect/illustrator: Manual Pemeliharan Gedung Sekolah.


Government maintenance budgets are rarely large and, as stated above, are liable to be cut in times of budget restraint and there has been a general move therefore on the part of donors to move the responsibility for maintenance onto school committees or communities.  This was certainly the case in the last project described where maintenance manuals were produced for the use of school committees.  Unfortunately, the provision of the manuals alone without some training for the committees in their use and most importantly in raising funds for maintenance, is not very effective and this proved to be the case in this instance.


 An EU-funded primary school renovation and maintenance project in Vanuatu used a community development approach in order to get communities to understand their responsibilities with regard to the schools that had been renovated.  The Government of Vanuatu first developed a policy for primary school maintenance.  The Public Works Department developed a maintenance manual, Manual for the Maintenance of Schools, and an NGO, the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific (FSP), developed a training manual, Community Participation in School Maintenance Manual that described how the maintenance manual was to be used by schools and communities.  The NGO also carried out training programmes and workshops with schools and communities with both manuals and, to judge from the FSP final report most communities and schools were very happy with the approach and with taking on the responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of their schools.  It is not known however, how effective this approach was in the long term in managing the maintenance of primary schools in Vanuatu.


There are a number of other maintenance manuals that have been developed in various countries by various agencies, many of them for community use and further examples that might be of interest are attached.


The consultants who designed and supervised the construction of the rural health centres built under the auspices of the World Bank Health Project that I worked on in East Timor (see Projects section) developed maintenance manuals for the use of the staff of the centres: Community Health Centres Building Maintenance Manual.   Roger Bonner who was a consultant to DFID on a number of DFID-funded health and education projects in India wrote some interesting documents that covered various aspects of maintenance: De-Mystifying Maintenance; What is Maintenance or Rehabilitation of Buildings?; Maintaining Our School; Maintenance of Health Buildings.


The ILO in the Solomon Islands produced a very comprehensive manual for the Maintenance of Rural Health Facilities and the Department of Basic Education in Nigeria produced a Maintenance Guide for Self-Help Basic Education Projects


I worked briefly on a primary education project in Vietnam and the Ministry of Education and training there produced an Operational Manual on School Maintenance for the project-supported schools.  A very thorough manual for the use of communities was produced for the Social Recovery Project in Zambia: Maintenance Manual for Use by Communities.   I worked on two World Bank funded education projects in the Philippines and the Department of Education, Culture and Sport and the consultants for these projects developed the following guidelines and manuals for the maintenance of project primary schools: Third Elementary Education Project, Maintenance Manual; SEM Project, Guidelines for Implementing School-Based Repair and Maintenance; SEM Project, Repair and Maintenance Manual. Lastly, Intermediate Technology Publications published some very useful manuals on maintenance written by Derek Miles in the 1970s and 80s.  These include A Manual on Building Maintenance Volume 1: Management and Volume 2: Methods and Building Maintenance, A Management Manual (too large to include here).


The photos in the photo gallery show some of the problems due to lack of maintenance (and probably poor construction also) seen in secondary  schools in Indonesia.

Project Gallery

bottom of page