Consultant David Jesson explores the usefulness of quinquennial cycles.
In the UK, a census of the entire population is taken every 10 years. In many ways this is a successor to the effort undertaken by William the Conqueror, as recorded in the Domesday Book, and indeed many other great headcounts, such as those which frame several of the events laid out in the Bible. However, where such historical countings were associated with a reckoning of the tax owed (either in wealth, or in terms of effort to be called upon), the census of the modern world is more about striving to understand the composition of the population and to ensure that the right services are in place. Do we have enough schools and hospitals in the right places? What communities are underrepresented in certain professions? Are there enough appropriate jobs in the right places? But what does this have to do with asset integrity though? And, for that matter, with the word of the day?
Quinquennial is a sesquipedalian way of saying five-yearly. The effort of undertaking the Census is such that it is only undertaken once a decade, but then in that instance the Government is attempting to capture data regarding dozens of variables for more than 67 million people. When it comes to assets, if we can spot degradation in time, we can mitigate against it and extend the asset’s lifetime, improve performance, and ensure the safety of users and perhaps the general public.
Spot checks should be undertaken regularly – the advice around portable equipment, for example, is to make sure that you check the wires every time you plug it in. Larger structures, and those that are less accessible, may be harder to assess. A serious survey is likely to result in downtime and needs to be planned accordingly, especially if specialist equipment is required to undertake it. Hence, whilst it is important to undertake a risk assessment of just how frequently the survey needs to be undertaken, a quinquennial cycle is a good starting place: it is the standard for many institutions surveying the fabric of their estates, and provides a good balance, ensuring that relevant information is captured in a snapshot in a timely manner.