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15 September 2016 | Martin Read

The BIFM’s annual sustainability survey has just been published. Its authors are looking back at events spanning the decade since the survey was first introduced to divine greater insight into the topic and how FM’s role in introducing and maintaining all aspects of sustainability within organisations has developed.

I won’t spoil their thunder, but I will say that it’s a good time to publish. Sustainability will make news across the world when the United Nations’ Habitat III conference on Housing and Sustainable Development convenes next month in Quito, Ecuador. This is a globally significant event at which governments will seek to set sustainable development goals to which all countries in the world commit. With global urban development at unprecedented levels, cities – and the performance of the buildings within them – are increasingly important to human wellbeing in its broadest sense.

Grandiose? Perhaps, but Habitat III will influence development for the next 20 years. These conferences are held just once every two decades and when the last one was held in 1996, the BIFM, and the practice of FM more generally, was still in its infancy.

It would be easy to bracket FM as something of an outlier in terms of its enabling potential here. But think about sustainability in the context of a rapidly urbanising planet, with FMs acting as sustainability stewards. 

Many will argue that FM has much still to learn if it is to take the hugely influential role it surely should. Perhaps, but the cry for FM to fill existing vacuums grows ever louder. Take construction: FM is crucial to the success of building information modelling (BIM), and the BIFM’s operational readiness guide explains where FM should be involved at each stage of RIBA’s Plan of Works. Those who run buildings are surely best placed to influence the buildings of tomorrow with the operational lessons of today – while taking sustainability goals into account. 

Habitat IV will take place in 2036. So there you go, a date by which FM should be taking its rightful place among the professions defining future international development strategy. Ambitious, perhaps – but why not?


Martin Read is managing editor of FM World