Open-access content 23rd February 2011
Is FM's natural home within the construction sector or should we look elsewhere, asks the BIFM's corporate and public affairs director, Richard Byatt.
24 February 2011
At a recent conference on building information modelling (BIM), various presenters put up slides of the “construction process”, the “project lifecycle” or the “building timeline”. The sequence, from left to right, was usually something like this - concept, design, procurement, construction ... manage.
So, is facilities management essentially the tail end of the construction process? Is FM’s natural home within the construction sector or should we look elsewhere?
There are alternatives. FM could strengthen its credentials as a management discipline, stressing the non-technical dimensions of the role and aligning itself more clearly with professions such as HR and project management.
The choice is crystallised in facilities management education. With a few notable exceptions, FM higher education sits within engineering, architecture or real estate faculties.
The BIFM’s position has always been to recognise the broad scope of facilities management and its interactions with many disciplines. The institute has sought alliances and influences wherever these can benefit our members and the wider profession.
However, the question of where FM sits is not purely a matter of semantics. From time to time we have to make straight choices. For example, we fought hard to get FM recognised within the reorganised Sector Skills Councils structure. It currently sits (some would say uneasily) alongside housing, property, planning, cleaning and parking within Asset Skills.
With pressures on public finances, and following the recommendations of the Morrell report, the skills picture is likely to change once more and the BIFM will again have to decide where its interests lie.
Governments of all colours have called for professional and industry representation to be simplified and the construction industry is notoriously fragmented. The BIFM is an active member of the Construction Industry Council (CIC), the representative forum for the professional bodies, research organisations and specialist business associations in the industry.
This affiliation serves us well. The BIFM believes that it is important for FM to be represented in forums such as CIC and the new All Party Parliamentary Group, although our voice can sometimes be hard to discern among those of larger and better-resourced interests.
As FM and other aspects of procuring, occupying and managing buildings become more important so the balance of power and the language is shifting - less “construction” and more “built environment”.
BIM does at least recognise the potential for FM to influence design and construction. Our challenge is to turn a linear process into a virtuous circle.