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17 July 2019
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The introduction of ISO’s 41001 management systems standard for facilities management, several years in the making, makes this the ideal time to look at how the world of standards affecting all aspects of FM has evolved to this point, reports Martin Read.

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09 September 2018 Martin Read

Having recently made the fruits of its extensive labour available, the International Standards Organisation (ISO)’s Technical Committee 267 (TC 267) is understandably keen to promote its fledgling ISO standard for facilities management to the world. 

The ISO 41000 series has taken many months of painstaking work, the value of which is perhaps best evidenced by the terminology it deploys. 

The use of the phrase ‘demand organisation’ is liberally used throughout ISO 41001, the management system standard for FM which – if the committee’s chair is to be believed – will soon affect how FM is practised and understood at a fundamental level.

‘Demand organisation’ describes the organisation for which FM is being procured. The phrase replaces the word ‘client’ in the standard’s vocabulary because, it transpires, there is no direct translation for the concept of a client in the Japanese language. 

Working around complexities like this shows the great pains that TC 267 chair Stan Mitchell and his committee have gone to in order to ensure that the ISO 41000 series is built on a firm foundation that literally anyone from any country – advanced in the practice of FM, or just coming to terms with it – can understand and put to use.

Early organisation

It’s been a long road to get to where we are today. When first approached, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) the independent, non-governmental organisation that develops international voluntary consensus standards, did not want a facilities management committee. 

“I had three attempts before I convinced them this was a growing discipline,” explains Stan Mitchell, the former BIFM chair, who is arguably the most influential individual in world FM standards development. “However, I had the full support of the British Standards Institute, and the fact we also had European standards was very helpful.”

ISO eventually agreed that FM was worthy of its own standards development committee, and once its work was in progress Mitchell pushed further, this time for the development of a management system standard (MSS). It’s in this development of an MSS that FM can be seen to be taking a significant step up the professional food chain, in Mitchell’s opinion. 

But again, ISO resisted. “ISO are very protective about management system standards,” Mitchell explains. “They treat them very differently from normal standards, and there was a big push back initially. It took me three business plans to convince that that FM was [worthy of] a management system standard.”

Mitchell was keen to elevate the practice of FM, to ensure that it was seen as more than solely about contract management and delivery. Global consistency in the delivery of FM, and the harmonising of their specification and management from whichever national start point, was the aim. For the TC 267 committee, it was all about describing FM as the strategic management discipline it is – making the management systems standard a must-have. “For me, that was my passion,” says Mitchell. “Trying to get 41001 get published across the line was all about that.”

International dimension

The 41000 series came to life in April last year with the publication of two initial standards, with the management system standard released a full 12 months later, just seven months ago. (See box below titled 'About the standards bodies'.)

But it’s taken quite the period of time to get to this state. Development of FM standards dates back to 2003, when the consensus among FM practitioners and representative organisations across Europe was that further development of the fledgling FM sector into a recognised professional discipline demanded the development of common best practice. 

Back in 2006 the first two Europe-wide standards in Facilities Management – BS EN 15221-1 Terms and Definitions and EN 15221-2 Guidance on How to prepare Facility Management Agreements – were published after more than two years of development and authorisation via the European Standards processes.

Mitchell has been involved throughout, taking a leading role in first representing BIFM on the BSI Facilities Management 

Committee, then chairing the BSI committee on FM, then the CEN 348 Technical Committee – before establishing and chairing the ISO Technical Committee 267 for Facilities Management.

The publication last year and this of ISO 41001 and its associated standards – with others in the early 2020s pipeline – represents both a significant milestone and a new paradigm. Independently benchmarked best practice in FM is now something to which any organisation in any country can aspire; the sector’s guidance standards are now officially international in scope and available as part of the more than 22,350 other such international standards on offer from ISO.

Back in 2015, when development of the ISO 41000 series was first announced, the then BIFM CEO Gareth Tancred praised its development as “a significant step forward for the FM industry” and one that would “deepen its commitment to continuous assessment and improvement”.

“The economic and social benefits of this new standard will be considerable in terms of the raising of standards of our facilities and services globally, ensuring we reach even higher levels of efficiency.”

About the standards bodies

There’s a logical national and international hierarchy of guidance standards bodies. The British Standards Institute (BSI) has, like many British institutions, considerable international recognition. 

But there’s also the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and, globally, the ISO. All are independent, non-governmental organisations that develop international voluntary consensus standards. And also feeding into ISO’s work are the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and others Brazil, Australia and elsewhere (163 national standard bodies that belong to ISO and fund ISO).

Since 2003 we’ve seen the original BSI standards inform development of their European CEN counterparts and those CEN standards inform their international ISO counterparts.

Three facilities management standards have been published by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), an independent, non-governmental organisation and developer of international voluntary consensus standards, in 2017.

The standards are:

  • ISO 41011:2017, Facility management – Vocabulary
  • ISO 41012:2017, Facility management – Guidance on strategic sourcing and the development of agreements
  • ISO 41013:2017, Facility management – Scope, key concepts and benefits


 ISO standards are available online at www.iso.org

Conducting the orchestra

Google ‘standards in facilities management’ and you’ll quickly come across explanations, histories, and details about how each standard, in an increasingly byzantine chain, comes to link to, replace or encapsulate predecessors. But few organisations appear to speak publicly about their successes in attaining and maintaining compliance with specific FM standards.

While the best practice that standards describe is typically quite straightforward – essentially a ‘codifying of common sense’ – the terminology taxonomy and the often arcane naming systems used create for the layman an initially confusing galaxy of suffixes, dates and numbers. 

Property management agency JLL recently sought to give its American clients a window into the wider world of potentially applicable standards beyond those offered by ISO and its continental and national equivalents. JLL’s ‘international standards summary table’ of more than a hundred ends with a cautionary note – that even “the listing of standards presented in this table is not a complete and exhaustive register”.

So the ISO 41000 series joins plenty of other potentially mission-critical standards to which, dependent on organisation, FM may need to comply. 

Bringing harmony

Greg Davies, director of market development at Assurity Consulting, says that organisations adopt standards for a variety of differing reasons – and that it’s in these organisational drivers that the perception and ultimate value of such standards is perceived. “When initially introduced, the quality standard BS 5750 had a very chequered reputation,” he recalled. “But the international ISO 9001 incarnation is now one of the most widely adopted standards in the world.”

Understandably, development of standards is often the result of a wider business demand influencing their gestation.

“Whether, economic, cultural, marketplace or competence-driven, the uptake and popularity of standards will reflect these,” says Davies. “For example, it’s no surprise that in the current climate the ISO/IEC 27000 series covering information security standards is growing, just as the ISO 14001 environmental management systems did in the 1990s. 

Take-up of that standard was influenced by market drivers. Sentiment such as “you’re only as good as your worst-performing suppliers” saw accreditation to the scheme become a regular tender question.” (Note that distinction: ISO 14001, not ISO 41001 – confusion between standards is all too easily created.)

This binding of standards to topically sensitive issues that are live at the time of service procurement cycles is clear. Says Davies: “While no doubt many organisations were adopting the standard to improve their environmental performance as a primary aim, for others it was the business development case that was the prime motive. If both achieve the desired outcome, everyone wins.”

41001’s big Idea

The hope is that ISO 41001 as a management system standard will create a common understanding of the guiding principles for both the management and operation of FM.

“FM by its nature is a broad and sometimes disparate discipline – even at the top level we have “Facility” or “Facilities” in different parts of the world,” explains Davies. “Providing commonality in terms, definitions and processes must, therefore, be positive.”

So it is in the way the new standard is applied within organisations that will be key to its wider adoption, Davies argues.

”With increasing company growth and globalisation, a standardised reference point for FM should help understanding and deliver greater consistency of service. The Far East and India have been for a number of years the areas of the world where standards adoption and accreditation has risen the most. The reason for, and value of this, is not just in process improvement, but in a commonly recognised and understood approach.”

Nice to have – but not essential?

Given the associated costs of initial compliance and subsequent audit, are guidance standards such as the ISO 41000 series always likely to play a ‘nice to have’ rather than essential role, relegated behind more critical statutory requirements?

Stan Mitchell believes enthusiastically that the role of FM standards, and the new ISO 41001 management system standard in particular, should be seen as one of creating competitive advantage as well as ticking a potential customer’s procurement boxes. 

Companies that use such standards as a baseline for how they organise their processes can become masters of their art, he says. Applying their principles may not necessarily transform your organisation, as some may claim, but they will almost certainly improve it. Greg Davies agrees with this.

“Whereas statutory compliance is a demonstration that the relevant organisational obligations are being met, effective implementation of standards offers a wider organisational consideration of the topic.

“If guidance standards are adopted and implemented well, and the right level of organisational engagement, commitment and communication is maintained, then they will add value to the business and provide opportunity for improvement.”

Davies references by way of example another recent ISO standard, the occupational health and safety standard ISO 45001. “This will not only capture [compliance to] statutory obligations, but much more of an organisation’s occupational health and safety management.”

In fact, the famously horizontal nature of FM sees it overlap with a variety of other roles for which standards exist, and to which compliance has potentially significant implications for performance. For Davies, this can only have positive results.

“The take-up of standards offers many opportunities. The increasing harmonisation of, for example, ISO9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001, as well as the greater awareness of ISO 31001 (Risk management), ISO 27001 (information security management system) and of course ISO 41001, will see further growth over time against business needs and requirements.”

A few more strings

There’s no question that more has to be done to convince organisations of the value of the new ISO guidance standards. But standards in general? Perhaps the impetus will come increasingly from those who benefit directly from their implementation, rather than a purely commercial consideration.

Over the years, development of standards has followed the broadening of the sustainability agenda, with building performance standards such as BREAMM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) joined in recent years by new standards developed by new organisations in the field, each seeking to sate the rising demand for social as well as environmental sustainability. 

Hence the introduction of WELL from the International WELL Building Institute (“global building standard designed to enhance people’s health and wellness through the built environment) and FitWel (“the world’s leading certification system that optimises buildings to support health.”)

These standards in place put the productivity of the individual at their centre, focusing on the quality of (in the case of WELL) “air, water, light, nourishment, fitness, comfort and mind”. These standards have come about following extensive research research and development with industry professionals, as do those from the BSI and ISO – but WELL speaks just as much about the physicians and scientists involved in its product’s development.

And both WELL and FitWel are being taken just as seriously. The Crown Estate has just seen its St James’s Market head office become the first office in Europe to achieve WELL platinum certification. In the case of this office, post-occupancy data shows the new offices scoring above the Leesman+benchmark (78.3) for workplace effectiveness. 

Said Judith Everett, Crown Estate COO: “The WELL standard has changed the way we, as an industry, think about how we can have a positive impact on the people who work in our buildings.”

It will be an interesting space to watch with the well-being and health agendas growing.

Greg Davies accepts that WELL and FitWel are raising the profile of well-being, indoor environment quality (IEQ) and the role that buildings play in productivity. “Whether the level and scope of checks recommended/assessed in all areas is actually going to reflect the real picture is another question,” says Davies. “We are aware work has been done to review and update WELL, but have not yet assessed the outcome and effects of this yet.”

While BSI, CEN and ISO are independent bodies that bring sector experts into the picture to produce independent standards, organisations such as WELL and FitWel are set up purely to specialise in their chosen area of expertise. All typically make money from selling their standards to organisations. And the cost of auditing compliance, says Davies, “largely depends on the organisation’s approach to managing and maintaining a particular standard. 

For those committed to it, external audits can be little more than assurance visits, confirming and supporting the system management. For others, where the standard may have lapsed, the costs in terms of time, resources and money can be significant to purely maintain accreditation let alone adding any value”.


In launching ISO 41001, Stan Mitchell spoke of the twin revolutionary factors of digitisation and ISO 41001 as ”the biggest thing to happen since the industrial revolution”. Maybe so, but perhaps the most important driver will be government, which, along with major corporations, has the power to popularise and promulgate its use. 

 If the government acknowledges and take an interest, says Mitchell – just as they did with the quality standard ISO 9001, resulting in the roaringly successful take-up of that standard, then 41001 will become a badge that will be demanded by all and sundry.

“If they start asking for it, everyone will start doing it. So the ISO committee’s next job is to make governments and major corporations understand the relevance of 41001 and what it can do for them.” Watch this space. 

Reasons For Using Guidance Standards

The reason for going to the expense in both time and money is typically driven by three key reasons:

1. Legal

Although not statutory, guidance standards from BSI, CEN and ISO can be used indirectly in legal cases. FM contracts often stipulate that the service supplied is compliant with a particular standard.

2. Benchmark

The wider its use, the more valuable a management system standard becomes as an independent and thus trustworthy benchmarking tool. ISO 9001 is used as a benchmark for quality management in any type of organisation. 

3. Marketing

In-house teams can use accreditation to a standard as a mark of their credibility and professionalism; outsourced service providers use standards to demonstrate the quality of their management. Compliance with standards can be a key marketing tool for companies seeking to be the first in a particular market or territory so to do.

Finding the right tune - Timeline


Standards directly related to facilities management have been developed since 2003, during which those of indirect relevance have mushroomed too. The following timeline details the history of just some of them.


The first two standards in FM – BS EN 15221-1 Terms and Definitions and EN 15221-2 Guidance on How to prepare Facility Management Agreements – are published.


BS ISO 15686-5:2008 Buildings and constructed assets is published. (Service life planning. Life cycle costing – since superseded by BS ISO 15686-5:2017)


BS ISO 15686-8:2008 Buildings and constructed assets. Service-life planning. Reference service life and service-life estimation.


BS EN 15221-3:2011 Quality in Facilities Management (complementary guidelines to EN ISO 9000, EN ISO 9001 and EN 15221-2 within the framework of EN 15221-1).


BS EN 15221-6:2011 Facility management. Area and space measurement in facility management – Framework for measuring floor areas within buildings and areas outside of buildings.


BS EN 15331:2011 Criteria for design, management and control of maintenance services for buildings.


CEN published the following FM standards:

15221-3 Quality in Facilities Management; 15221-4 Taxonomy of Facilities Management; 15221-5 Facilities Management Processes; 15221-6 Facilities Management Space Measurement.


BS 8210:2012 Guide to facilities maintenance management (Superseding BS 8210:1986); shifts scope from operational to strategic and tactical matters, retaining a focus on matters of practical importance.


BS 8544:2013 Life cycle costing of maintenance for ‘in-use’ phases of buildings, recommends on planning and prioritisation; budget-setting; optimisation and implementation/monitoring of life cycle programmes of maintenance


Publication of PAS 1192-2:2013: (Manage information during the delivery phase of a construction project using BIM); and PAS 1192-3:2014: (Specifies requirements once the construction phase is completed and in operation).


BS 8536-1:2015 Briefing for design and construction. Code of practice for facilities management (Buildings infrastructure) and part of the BIM level 2 suite of documents


ISO 9001, specifying requirements for a quality management system (QMS) is updated. Seen as an international success story, this management systems standard ensures that organisations “demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements”.


BS 8536-2:2016 Briefing for design & construction. Code of practice for asset management (linear & geographical infrastructure) and part of the BIM level 2 suite of documents; principles of soft landings promoted by BSRIA, GSL, and RIBA


ISO 41011:2017 Facility management. Vocabulary ISO 41012:2017 Facility management. Guidance on strategic sourcing and the development of agreements – to enable organisations to identify and select appropriate options for design, sourcing and delivery of FM. 


BS ISO 44001:2017 Collaborative business relationship management systems. Requirements and framework and BS 11000-2:2017 Collaborative business relationship management systems — Guide to implementing BS ISO 44001 – “to help business partners maximise the value of collaborative working.”


BS EN ISO 41001:2018 Management system. Requirements with guidance for use – Clarifies what FM is and provides help with implementing a high-quality FM regime that’s fit for purpose. 


BS 8572:2018 Procurement of facility-related services. Code of practice – covers how to procure facility-related services. Applies to new and existing facilities and to commercial and industrial property (replaces 2011 version)

Emma Potter