Left to right- Tony Keane, Emma Bailey, Nicholas Burt

6 June 2013 — Facilities management is one of those occupations hardly anyone understands. Or even thinks about. Most people don’t worry too much about who makes sure the airconditioning and lifts work, or how the wireless technology that enables them to work anywhere in the building is managed. But they do expect these systems to function seamlessly.

In reality the “faceless” facility manager is pivotal not only to the efficient running of buildings, but to the health and safety of building occupants. And the sooner companies recognise this, the sooner buildings will become more energy-efficient and safer, more productive places for occupants.

This was a key theme of the National Facilities Management conference and exhibition, Ideaction 2013, held in Hobart last week. It is time, said key presenters, that the profile of FM was raised through education of those inside and outside the profession.

Jonathan Pain

Jonathan Pain, of the Pain Report, got the ball rolling in his energetic keynote presentation, telling us all to stop believing all the negative stuff we read in the media [some of us are worth listening to Jonathan!].

The western “sub-merged” countries are on the decline, said Pain. It’s the emerging world, with 90 per cent of the global population, where the future lies. And Australia is in the perfect place to be part of that future.

“The crash [global financial crisis] was a good thing – a defining moment. It was a cleansing of the system and has brought new players……We had the G7, now we have G20,” said Pain.

“There is a new political reality……. a fusion of affluence and technology and of East and West. The digital age will bring us technology, transparency and connectivity.”

It’s all about education

Nicholas Burt, chief executive officer of the Facilities Management Association of Australia, emphasised this point in a session on challenges and opportunities for the FM industry.

“We need to publicise what FM is and we are working with the global organisation [International Facility Management Association] to do this. We must have a real ability to articulate the health and safety and productivity value we add to workplaces. Qualifications are an important part of that – we need a very clear professional path model.”

The number of university courses for facilities management is on the increase but enrolments need to be pushed. The FMAA has found that when it engages with students they have no idea what facilities managers do, said Burt.

“When they realise the extent of what we do they get excited. It begs the question, should we have a marketing campaign similar to the army?”

Tony Keane, International Facility Management Association

Tony Keane, President and CEO of the International Facility Management Association, agreed that as the complexity of running buildings continues to increase, education is crucial.

“FM as an occupation is changing dramatically and we need to address that through education of facilities managers. We need to raise the level of professionalism and the career path for the future.”

In the US, said Keane, the Federal Building Education Training Act was recently passed, and required everyone who worked in federal buildings to have training and qualifications. This has helped raise standards and understanding of FM.

Emma Bailey, board member of the British Institute of FM, believes industry associations have a key role to play in supporting facilities managers to come out of the boiler room.

“The people who do facilities management often end up in the boiler room on their own. They may come from a background in quantity surveying or they may have previously been a cleaner or a security guard, and it is very stressful dealing with FM.

“They can’t tell the CEO they don’t know how to solve all the issues. It’s not just about education, the industry needs to support the people out there running properties.”

Recruiters and those employing facilities managers are also ignorant regarding what FM is, said Bailey. The UK association is trying to address this and recently ran an educational video on Sky TV to explain what is involved in FM.

The future of FM

Facility managers are faced with enormous challenges as they grapple with new technology and a drive for more sustainable performance in buildings through ratings such as NABERS, and soon, the new Green Star Performance tool.

Opening cocktail function

David Craven, Workplace Consulting and Sustainability leader with Woods Bagot, says that organisations are increasingly seeing the management of their building as a way of driving objectives such as corporate social responsibility, staff engagement, health and wellbeing, and business performance.

“The shift to more agile work practices, both within the workplace and beyond, represents a fantastic opportunity for the FM industry, as these environments require a far more sophisticated approach to management if they are to function effectively,” said Craven.

Woods Bagot has worked with clients such as Macquarie, GPT, NAB and Lend lease to deliver more flexible workplaces including activity based workplaces where the workforce is mobile and staff have no fixed desks or locations.

Factors such as indoor environment quality will be key future influences on FM, says Craven. He pointed to a recent survey of building occupants following sustainable upgrades and improved IEQ. The perceived improvement in performance of staff as a result of these improvements were 13.2 per cent for government departments, 5.3 per cent for banks and 3.8 per cent for government agencies.

Ivan Fernandez, industry director, Industrial Practice ANZ, with industrial research company Frost & Sullivan, told delegates smart technology was the new green for FM.

“New technologies will change the way we live, communicate, conduct business and interact, with machines creating a connected world in the future,” said Fernandez.

The challenge for FM was that the industry does not have enough qualified professionals to meet demand and this would continue to be a long term problem. Estimated to be worth $32 billion, the FM market is made up of 64 per cent outsourced business and 36 per cent in-house, said Fernandez.

As far as future growth for FM, Fernandez predicts the energy and resources sector will continue to have double digit growth rate for FM resources for the foreseeable future.

But the real potential for growth is in sectors such as healthcare and education.

“The FM sector doesn’t understand education and healthcare businesses. Aged care, for example, where facilities are often run by charitable organisations – facilities management doesn’t understand the mission objective of not for profit organisations. The same goes for universities. It is a huge untapped market,” said Fernandez.

Michael Schley, CEO FM Systems, believes there are three technology trends that will mould the future of FM:

  • Mobility
  • Cloud based applications
  • Building Information Modelling

“PC shipments fell 14 per cent in the first quarter of 2013, according to technology research firm IDC. At the same time there were 1.4 billion smart phones in use, one for every five people on the planet,” Schley said.

“We live in a post-PC era. For FM this means that information needs to be anywhere in the building and this impacts on maintenance.”

Henry Arundel, DTZ

The emergence of enterprise-class software, or cloud-based applications, that are securely hosted outside corporate firewalls is the way of the future.

“This will avoid the expense and risk of traditional IT as it becomes the responsibility of the software vendor,” Schley said.

And while BIM is new to facility managers, it is essential to understand the technology.

“BIM has benefits for FM – it facilitates collaboration between architects, designers, engineers and contractors and is a rich source of information about the building,” Schley said.

“The challenge for facility managers is mastering technological change,” said Schley. “They need to understand it and to be able to explain it.”

Tony Wyllie, director corporate solutions at Jones Lang LaSalle, pointed to the extraction and use of data as one of the key attributes needed by facility managers to bring their case to the C-Suite.

“The key is being able to take data and format and filter it so that it becomes information. And then take that information and act on it or design it so that it becomes knowledge and feed that back into the process,” says Wyllie.

In the second year of its Global Corporate Real Estate survey, which identifies the future challenges for the real estate and facilities industry globally and in Australia, JLL found that companies and the FM industry were still struggling to deal with data.

“We found that only 20 per cent of respondents said they have everything they need when it comes to performance metrics. So if you can’t convey the value that real estate adds to the organisation then you’re probably going to struggle to implement your ideas or strategies for real estate.”

Building data should be viewed at three levels, said Wyllie:

  •  control or operational level to measure the performance of assets and elements of the buildings
  • performance of the FM or real estate team using the building performance data
  • value of FM and real estate team to overall business performance using both operational and FM performance metrics

Unifying the industry

Phil Wilkinson, CEO The Australian Institute for Refrigeration, Airconditioning and Heating filled delegates in on the work of AIRAH over the past year – dealing with issues related to the carbon tax, cost of refrigerants and unifying the refrigerant and HVAC industry to bring about change and communicate more effectively with government and other stakeholders.

Read our earlier story on this https://thefifthestate.com.au/archives/46419/

“The biggest issue in our industry is we’ve got about 13 industry associations just in the HVAC and R space and the government and stakeholders find it quite easy to say ‘it’s very difficult to work with you – there’s no one voice and no plans,” said Wilkinson.

“We’ve been jumping through other people’s hoops for years. What we recognise we need is one direction – get the whole industry to pull together, focus and come up with a plan.

Stephen Ballesty, Rider Levett Bucknall

“One of the key things we’ve been doing is making sure we in the industry aren’t talking to ourselves. We’re pretty good at that – hanging out in the plant room and talking about plant. We need to get out there and put the right information in the right language to task stakeholders to make the right decisions.”

FM and occupants – tracking satisfaction

Establishing a relationship with tenants is the key to getting buildings up to speed delegates were told in a session on user engagement. And while top end properties are doing this pretty effectively, middle size tenants are often disenfranchised from landlords and not aware of the ratings tools, let alone the technology. FM can help change this.

Peter Tickler, director Greensense, which provides real-time energy and water use data to occupants, says there are major gaps in data and feedback in hugely important areas like IEQ. Another gap is in predicted and actual building performance – for this to change occupant education is essential.

“Most of us feel disconnected from the buildings we use,” said Tickler.

The figures comparing home and office behaviour say it all. A survey by Logistics Group in 2007 revealed that 94 per cent of people turn lights off when they leave home, compared to 66 per cent when the leave the office. With PCs it was 85 per cent, compared to 53 per cent.

Tickler’s advice to the facility manager – track down data, keep it real, understand your audience and give them data they need, and think laterally.

And his final comment pretty much summed up the essence of the conference.

“The true meaning of building performance has to be the productivity of people in them. FM is about people’s behaviour.”

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  1. Hello Lynne,
    Thanks for your report on the recent conference, imploring us FM’s to come out of the boiler room. Perhaps let’s look at it another way “Why is the FM in the boiler room to start with?” “Where is the boiler room anyway?” “It doesn’t sound much fun, let’s go and install [insert impractical technology] instead”

    Most FM’s are intensely proud, hardworking men [that’s not a typo, ask someone like Kristiana Greenwood how many women are in senior FM roles] focussed on creating safe, efficient and sustainable places with as little fuss as possible.

    They’ve had every new building technology fad imposed upon them – generally with the instruction “you need to make this work” after the young graduate designer/engineer/asset manager has well and truly made a mess of it. Just think asbestos, PCB’s, total quality management right through to waterless urinals.

    Yet when we find the time to seek funding for simple, cost effective initiatives that are both proven and practical there’s no money left in the budget! The construction phases of a building are very exciting and interesting but the greatest sustainability improvements come through the operational life cycle of the asset. The interaction of customer, tenant and building … not sexy, just effective.

    No wonder we’re happy in the boiler room – it’s warm and no-one bothers us. It’s where the real action is. Don’t worry though, we’re there if you need something fixed … just come and visit.