15 September 2016 | By Jamie Harris
Making the case for sustainable construction is nothing new. The quest for a more joined-up approach to construction has been the intent behind various government reports in the past and we seem never to be too far from another such initiative.
The commitment made in 2013 for government to engage in creating greater efficiencies across the sector should, in theory at least, see more inclusion for FM in the process.
The desire for operational input is gaining an increasingly loud voice. But in fact, what FM brings to the sustainability of a construction project is no different from what it brings to the business in general. The problem is that organisations still don't necessarily value FM's role in transferring current operational requirements into future construction project specification. This despite the long history of PFI projects - meaning that there are plenty of people working in FM with strong construction project credentials. (Indeed, many believe FM's innate capability in this respect is undersold and that more should be done to promote this core component of the FM service to clients.)
Nevertheless, BIM and the RIBA Plan of Works are set to supplant traditional budget and punctuality metrics to add much more weight to a project's potential to deliver for the needs of its occupiers. That is helping to shift focus to FM and its early involvement - and ISS's ISS Technical Services managing director, Kath Fontana is confident that the government's mandating of BIM across central government this year is already helping to change the conversation.
One organisation now famed for putting FM up front in its sustainability commitments is retailer Marks & Spencer and its much quoted ‘Plan A’. The firm's Head of Plan A, Munish Datta says that, of its 100 sustainability commitments, around a quarter are related to its global property estate.
"I can, hand on heart, say that most of those 25 commitments have FM as a very key stakeholder in designing and delivering the outcomes and to hit the target that we'd like with those commitments," says Datta. "Operational energy usage, operational waste, embodied carbon, climate change adaptation, engagement with local communities, opportunities for disadvantaged parts of those communities, the whole wide spectrum - in every case I can confidently say that our FM teams are really essential. And not just our direct teams, our supply partners as well."
M&S has shifted its sustainability focus over the past five years from new to existing estate. "This is all about operations and operators," says Datta, "and the key people within the operation are the FM teams; those working regionally from head office, and those in our stores."
M&S has the ability to control its priorities in this area, but for tenants, shrinking lease terms will not do anything to better tie occupiers to building life cycles. Tony Raikes, managing director of Vinci Facilities, is adamant: "Traction will only be achieved when the decision-making process in the client organisation allows that to happen. For all the time that decisions are being taken by people who have a relatively short-term view, it won't."
Construction giants with FM service arms now routinely argue the case for 'sector-specific expertise at the earliest stages of construction projects'.
They're also doing more to 'embed' the FMs set to run the buildings into the construction project as much as two years ahead of the building's completion date. And in the public sector, Government Soft Landings absolutely articulates the requirement for the end user and end user's providers to be involved in the design and construction phase, adds Raikes.
"But while in theory it's now mandated for all government projects from 2016, I'm getting no pull from my building colleagues to come and advise them on their government work; government clients aren't bought into this in the way that they should be."
For all its faults, PFI was seen as the model that drove whole life cost thinking, giving operators in the design and construction an incentive to put a building's full life cycle first, indeed, being awarded contracts on the basis of how good their life cycle strategy was. But now unloved and out of favour, PFI's combination of enlightened self-interest for operators and life-long contract terms for public sector work is not a model that can be transferred to other areas.
Raikes points to Vinci's last PFI as an exemplar of FM's involvement influencing sustainable design and construction. "Our St Helens and Whiston Hospital PFI in Liverpool has the highest Patient Environment Action Team (PEAT) score of any A&E hospital in the country. What we have now is a fantastically easy, maintainable building delivering great patient outcare."
Raikes gives a practical example of FM's influence on this project.
"The hospital has hundreds of bathroom and toilet pods in the wards, and as an FM provider we were integral in their design. And when the construction team manufactured the first one we found further improvements, which we asked to be incorporated into the design and construction phase. Even during the construction process we were allowed to walk around during the installation of all the M&E pipework and the M&E equipment. In effect, we were empowered to ask the M&E constructor to move pipes to change orientations so that access to valves and the like was very, very simple."
Other construction-to-service firms have similar stories. Nitesh Magdani, director of sustainability at BAM Construct UK, talks of BAM's first 'circular economy' pilot project, the town hall at Brummen in the Netherlands, "where we won a design and build competition by taking into account the cost of the building over a 20-year occupancy period.
"For us it means combining our expertise from design through to operation, and by collaborating with our supply chain to ensure that the finished product (or asset) is fit for purpose during the client's operational phase."
Magdani says that, following this and other similar projects in the Netherlands, clients in the UK are now asking for the company's expertise in this area.
Sunil Shah, managing director of consultant Acclaro Advisory and a routine contributor to the BIFM sustainability survey, agrees that one of the real gaps from an FM sector perspective is that while FMs seek to ensure that buildings deliver what they are supposed to be delivering, "we don't capture the data for all of that". Like Fontana, Shah sees an issues with buildings being constructed to important sustainability standards that become irrelevant, or at least are of lesser value, when the building is up and running.
"A BREEAM excellence certificate displayed proudly on a wall actually has no direct relevance to the operation of a building. We can't say with certainty that a building ranked BREEAM outstanding will still be performing at a top-notch level when in use. It may well do, but it may not."
And while Shah also accepts that the term sustainability has become overused and abused over the years, he points to a recent and important shift in focus that may have far-reaching consequences in how new buildings are specified.
"We're seeing people increasingly looking at well-being, and at how you can provide a building that enables people to work better and enjoy themselves. That's an important change in approach; it's about how the building can optimise the performance of the individuals working within."
Measuring well-being compared to measuring energy consumption may prove more complex, but "it's not going to be too difficult to ask questions around the fitness levels of an organisation's workers."
Indeed, plenty of the people think a concentration on a building user's well-being would be an important, people-focused and compelling new way of engaging organisations on social rather than merely environmental sustainability issues. Disability access broadened out in this way has great potential impact on how buildings are designed and constructed.
Same as it ever was?
Over the years, governments of all colours have sought to create a more efficient, and thus more sustainable, construction sector.
The Latham Report (1994) was set up to review procurement and contractual arrangements.
Key quote: "A design team for building work may include an architect, structural engineer, electrical services engineer, heating and ventilating services engineer, public health engineering consultant, landscape architect, and interior designer. Installers - contractors, subcontractors and sub subcontractors - are also likely to have design responsibilities."
The phrase 'facilities management' did not appear in the report.
The Egan Report (1998), produced by the then Construction Task Force, was tasked with "improving the quality and efficiency of UK construction".
In a sector seen as failing, its five 'key drivers for change' were: 'committed leadership; a focus on the customer; integrated processes and teams; a quality-driven agenda; and commitment to people'.
Key quote: "The industry typically deals with the project process as a series of sequential and largely separate operations undertaken by individual designers, constructors and suppliers who have no stake in the long-term success of the product and no commitment to it. Changing this culture is fundamental to increasing efficiency and quality in construction."
The phrase 'facilities management' did not appear in the report.
Construction 2025 (2013) is a 'joint strategy from government and industry for the future of the UK construction industry'.
It sets out how industry and government will "work together to put Britain at the forefront of global construction", recognising the UK's potential in a global market forecast to grow more than 70 per cent by 2025. Targets for 2025 include a 50 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment and a 33 per cent reduction in the initial cost of construction and the whole life cost of assets.
The phrase 'facilities management'? Yes, it appears in a piece on how the building information modelling on the Manchester Town Hall building project demonstrated BIM's "potential for future facilities management purposes".Indeed, "only through implementation of BIM will we be able to deliver more sustainable buildings, more quickly and more efficiently". It also cites the "radical changes promised by the rise of the digital economy" that will have "profound implications for UK construction", and the "enormous pressure to improve the energy performance of our existing building stock".