Driving sustainability

Increasing the importance of FM in sustainability

Alan K. Millin
Alan K. Millin

As 2014 was drawing to a close I took the opportunity to attend a sustainability-related conference. I didn’t really expect facilities management to feature prominently in any of the presentations or panel sessions but FM was mentioned several times throughout the day.

Most of the references to FM were, however, negative. If a building doesn’t perform as well as expected, blame the facility manager. When building systems fail to meet design efficiency measures, blame the facility manager.

The recommissioning of existing buildings was anothertopic that came up at the conference, with one panellistsuggesting that it was easy to recommission an existing building, we should simply adjust a valve here and there.

While facilities management professionals have committed much energy and resources to educating clients, the conference made it clear that we have another segment to target: engineering consultancy firms and construction companies.

Most panellists at the conference were almost dismissive when it came to FM. They clearly had little if any appreciation for the benefits that early inclusion of FM in a project can yield. In short, they were ignorant of something that could actually make them look better in the eyes of their clients and the end-users of their creations.

The struggle to position FM as a key success ingredient in development projects continues. We have a lot more work to do to win the cross-industry recognition and respect that FM deserves.

Money is not a dirty word, we need money and our companies have to be profitable. We should have no problem considering money when considering sustainability; the two are not mutually exclusive, think triple bottom line. When we talk money we speak a language our clients understand. Our clients are not the engineers though and engineers may not be as financially astute as we would like them to be.

We need data-driven arguments to persuade people that FM delivers. FM consultancies are particularly well positioned to develop case studies, sanitized to protect confidentiality of course.

Case studies can demonstrate the real value of early FM involvement in a project. Space planning exercises, design reviews and life-cycle costing analyses can lead to reduced capital expenditure, more efficient facility operations, reduced staffing costs and reduced environmental impact of a project.

Twice in 2014, once at the World Engineering Education Forum and again at the Green Emirates Sustainability Business Network, I made the call for FM design reviews and life-cycle costing analyses to be explicitly included in green building rating systems through the inclusion of specific credits. I make that same call again now as we enter 2015.

We could also include a space planning review credit within green building frameworks. By making FM activities explicit rather than implicit we can demonstrate the real benefits of FM; our case studies can be used to support calls for the inclusion of FM into green building rating systemsand regulations. If we can achieve this, those less mature engineering consultancies will start to recognise the real value of FM.

As a profession, we stillneed to engage more to progress. Industry leaders need to work with local governments, guiding them to benefit from FM, positioning FM as a key sustainability driver, both at the facilityand the wider community level. Waiting for things to happen can lead to unexpected and sometimes unpleasant surprises.

We should not wait to be surprised by anything, we should be driving change and positioning FM. If we don’t do it, nobody else will do it for us. So make 2015 the year you lobby for the FM cause.

About the author
Alan K. Millin is a scientist, engineer, environmentalist and thinker.

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