Difference Between ‘Condition’ and ‘Defects’ (& why you should care)

Asset Planning Specialist Kerrie Warwick takes time out to explain the difference between 'condition' and 'defects' - terms which are often confused and misused.

Condition, regardless of what principles or rating scale you subscribe to, is used to assess the structural integrity of an item and  its reliability to continue to perform the job it’s there to do. Condition should not consider age, capacity, style, colour or compliance and the condition of an asset or component, should not be down-graded just because a defect is present. An accurate condition assessment indicates how far along the path towards ‘end of reliable life’ an item is and is the purest input to asset lifecycle forecasting and renewals planning.

Defects are imperfections that cause an inadequacy; they do not change the condition and while I agree that not fixing a defect contributes to a faster deterioration (and even failure), it remains independent of the condition.   For example, the mesh in a gate may be coming away from the frame but that doesn’t change the fact that the gate itself is in good condition. Replace the broken mesh and the gate is still in good condition.

The Difference Between ‘Condition’ and ‘Defects’ (& why you should care)

Here are a few examples of some of the standard defects lists that we typically use:

  • Carpet:
    • Patch
    • Re-stretch
    • Smooth Edge

'Threadbare' or 'worn' are not defects, they relate directly to the condition of the carpet.

  • Aluminium windows
    • Broken glass
    • Catch missing
    • Leaking

Corrosion relates directly to condition, as does worn paint.

  • Internal doors
    • Handle loose
    • Rehang /adjust
    • Visible damage

Door delamination (most common on external entrance doors) is not a defect as it relates directly to the structural integrity of the door.

When we complete a property assessment we first gain a full understanding of the organisation's needs. More and more, we are finding that organisations need one set of data to produce two works-programmes. Firstly, a short term work-programme to ensure their minimum asset standards are met i.e. fix the current defects that pose a health & safety risk. Secondly, a longer term works programme to ensure specific components, rooms and buildings are renewed, refurbished or replaced based on specific policies; set condition grade indices that will trigger future works. 

A defect may be caused by physical damage or perhaps a functional problem. Most hazards can be considered as defects although not all defects present a hazard. Defects can usually be summed up by a simple ‘fix or replace’ answer – whereas condition is always related back to ‘life expectancy’. Defects provide a wealth of information that identify trends and trigger works other than lifecycle depending on underlying causes, for example you may install lighting in areas with repeated vandalism.

So next time you are assessing an asset think twice: once about its condition and then consider any defects.  Asset Managers who treat condition and defects separately but also consider the holistic relationship between the two will make better informed planning decisions and get more from their lifecycle and maintenance funding sources.  And that is the result we are all ultimately working towards.