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Steve Maslin is an architect and director of Building User Design
Steve Maslin is an architect and director of Building User Design

11 September 2017 | Steve Maslin

Built environments are all too often set in stone, unable to facilitate activities despite FM's best intentions. Steve Maslin says this blinkered thinking needs to stop.

It wouldn’t make sense if aeronautical engineers designed aircraft without pilots. So surely early involvement of FMs would make sense in building design? How much better might post-occupancy outcomes be if there was prior discussion? 

But built environments often become set in stone, unable to adequately facilitate the activities that go on inside despite the best efforts of FMs. No doubt FMs will be familiar with putting the case forward for investments in changes that bring about cost savings. 

There is always the risk that one could be making short-term cost savings that will have a detrimental impact on less easily quantified matters and erode value over the longer term, or that you overlook other changes that could yield value. 

Building a case that captures value is wise. What value-based insights could you bring these projects?

The first question to put to a project team is whether past projects that FMs have then had to manage were fit for purpose and whether their designers took account of not only costs and operational factors, but the opportunities that could have arisen from the application of foresight?

What so often hinders adequate brief development is narrow and blinkered thinking. The antidote, in part, is systems thinking. Bring people around the table to gather perspectives.

Many of the challenges that you are likely to encounter as an FM involve interactions between people (staff, customers, clients or service users) and your facilities. Many workplace designs are not working for those who use them. How might you seek to address this?

One of the biggest reasons, therefore, for facilities managers getting in at the pre-design stages of a project is to pay proper attention to how well facilities work for occupants. A clued-up FM can make sure that the right advice is sought, e.g. how will what is proposed make use of building information models to the best effect? FMs could bring a dynamic approach. 

Steve Maslin is an architect and director of Building User Design