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18 January 2019
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Constructing the future of FM

15 April 2014 

The government’s Construction 2025 document, published last July, is a compelling read.

In short, the government’s set of aspirations for the construction sector as it will look in just 11 years’ time involves halving the time it takes to conceive, project manage and construct a building, a reduction by 50 per cent of greenhouse emissions in the built environment, and the lowering of both construction and whole life cost of the government’s built assets by 33 per cent. (How someone in 2025 will measure the whole life cost of a relatively new building constructed with these targets in mind but nowhere near reaching its end of life is a moot point.)

It has been said before but bears much repeating – none of this is going to be possible without facilities management’s involvement as a key player in the construction team. And, even more importantly than that, most will not be possible without facilities management taking a lead role in that team. 

Everyone now knows the old chestnut – much more of a building’s total life cost is in its operation, not its construction. Up until even quite recently that truth was completely ignored, but in a remarkably short time it has become impossible to avoid. The government’s bold projections are based on addressing it, and the logic of both building information modelling (for measuring building performance) and soft landings (for new construction projects to learn from other buildings’ performance) is to set out a framework that obligates all parties to engage with it.

We can no doubt cut construction project times in half. And we can surely design in new technologies to help new buildings address carbon emissions targets. But the big prize remains in meeting that target of cutting whole life costs by a third. It will require efficiencies in operations that FM is surely best placed to control, the type of information that many architects have, until now, been rather less interested in. Except that government’s GSL programme has forced their arm; they can’t ignore it any more. The construction chain is now entirely engaged in addressing operational performance in new design – but is facilities management stepping up to the plate?

At the “Joining the Dots” conference in London last week, Deborah Rowland, FM of the year and head of FM policy and strategy at the Cabinet Office, was damning in her criticism of the many FM service providers that are still, in her words, “sticking their heads in the sand” when it comes to BIM and GSL. This despite an informational tsunami over the past two years and the breakneck pace of development of new standards concerned with the maintaining and transferring of a building’s operational data, including the recently released PAS 1192-3.

There are signs that this credibility gap is starting to narrow, but it has taken – and is continuing to take – a long time for the FM sector to appreciate both the scale of the task and the opportunity in front of it.

FM will need to embrace changes to contract structures and other processes if it is to turn this opportunity into reality, and turning FM from the construction sector’s bit-part player into the conductor of the orchestra was never going to be easy. But people elsewhere in the construction chain are asking the questions; it’s time for FM, with a unified voice, to answer.

Martin Read is managing editor at FM World