15 September 2016 | By Martin Read and Jamie Harris
Authored and peer-reviewed by specialists across engineering, construction and facilities service disciplines, the BIFM operational readiness guide looks at every stage of RIBA's Plan of Works and adds detail to the involvement of FM professionals along the way, from the initial concept design of a building through to its operation and beyond.
It's something of a landmark document, and one to be welcomed at a time when FM is increasingly being asked to 'step up to the plate' as a key link in the construction project chain.
Examples abound of stories in which poor initial building design has come back to haunt landlords and occupiers many years later, with organisations forced to undertake expensive remedial work when inadequate fire protection or poor drainage is identified.
So the logic of FM's involvement is compelling. But how about those other links? To what extent are architects, designers, quantity surveyors, project managers - and any other organisations involved in delivery of new buildings - bringing the role of facilities management into the discussions they're having about new building design?
The business manager of BSRIA's sustainable construction group, Jo Harris, believes that more such organisations have begun asking the right questions, primarily a result of the soft landings framework and its focus on ongoing project communication and effective outcomes. While it will prove a slow process to turn around an entire sector with its decades of history, BIM and soft landings will undoubtedly help, says Harris.
"There's a real culture change required for the construction sector to realise that there are other people saying things that they need to hear," she explains, mentioning a recent meeting with an architect who said, "we never get asked to build buildings that work".
"Currently, designers and architects think they know what and how to build buildings. But the FM sector should say that actually, no, you don't, because you don't deliver what we need to run successfully."
FM stating its case in this way is important in the critical comparison between the reality of operation and the promises made of new building technology. The demands of the former must always trump the theoretical advantages suggested by the latter, says Harris.
"The way the construction sector builds sustainably is to work to standards such as BREEAM, but these introduce complexity and controls through things such as fancy blinds to stop heat gain, for example. But in so doing, they're also introducing complexity into the operations of properties that (in many cases) cannot then be managed properly."
Harris gives the example of the many schools built in recent years that saw cutting-edge biomass boilers installed and then turned over for operation to caretakers who simply didn't have the right skill set to make them work effectively.
"What everybody wants from their buildings is effective outcomes," says Harris, who suggests the industry just doesn't do that at the moment.
Fortunately, Kath Fontana, managing director of ISS Technical Services, is among FM leaders seeing a notable change in organisations' approach to their buildings; a realisation that buildings are long-term investments rather than simply bricks-and-mortar commodities, and tools to facilitate much-needed boosts in productivity and staff retention. Again, Fontana points to BIM and soft landings as a catalyst for building owners having "better conversations" about the whole life cost performance of buildings.
"Clients are increasingly looking to the whole life approach. Sustainability, life cycle costing, asset management data, forward planning; customers are increasingly looking to achieve ISO 55001 ('specifying the requirements of an asset management system within the context of the organisation'); we're on the cusp of a major shift.
Harris agrees. "Buildings need to adapt to what the business and the occupiers need," she says. "And I think the big developers are now really getting that as well."
The FM service providers who are part of larger construction groups report that life cycle costing, while still a nascent concept, is becoming reality. In fact, designers have understood the principles of life cycle costs for some time, suggests BAM FM's strategic director, Reid Cunningham.
"However, their implementation has been constrained by project budgets and the fact that design decision-making was often made in isolation. New ways of working mean that with input from colleagues from BAM Design, BAM Services Engineering, BAM Construction and BAM FM, we are able to calculate the design life of individual building components to demonstrate a value proposition."
The application of BIM and digital construction has greatly advanced the sharing of information between disciplines.
"In BAM's experience, improved access to asset information and 3D geometry during the design phase has contributed to earlier procurement of FM and thus FM's involvement in construction decisions."
Cunningham's colleague Nitesh Magdani says service providers will need to take into account constant change factors such as the disruptive effect of technology on facility planning and the rate of change to workplaces and workforce patterns.
"This is causing a shift towards 'Whole Life BIM' or 'Asset Life Cycle Information' that can be updated, reviewed and analysed throughout the life of assets and buildings."
All of which technical assessments make sense. But, warns Marks & Spencer's Munish Datta, it's important never to forget that it's the building's users who are the most expensive part of buildings. This, surely, is FM's 'eureka' moment for construction project specifiers.
"It's not the fabric, the utilities or any of those things - it's users who are really critical to this," says Datta. "More work needs to be done on the value that FM can bring to the table by improving working environments. We've been working with the UK Green Building Council on user health, well-being, productivity and commercial benefit, all depending on sustainable design of buildings. I think BIFM and others should be part of this work as well.
"FM is the part of the construction project chain best placed to enable better user experience, better user health and well-being, and better user productivity."
How to put FM in the construction front line:
1. Flesh out FM's role in the Plan of Works
The RIBA Plan of Works (POW), relaunched to much fanfare in 2013, is a critical document from an FM perspective. Kath Fontana of ISS believes it is important that RIBA's POW spells out more explicitly the activities facilities managers should be involved in all of its seven stages, particularly 1, 2 and 3.
Construction project clients would then be able to easily appoint FMs as part of the whole life process, she says.
"Stages zero and seven of the digital plan of works are so sparsely populated of any real meaningful (FM) activity. We in FM are still bracketed as 'other' so far as the design and construction communities are concerned."
The POW itself may not be specific, but The BIFM's Operational Readiness Guide, published earlier this year, does indeed detail where FMs should be involved, and in what capacity, across all eight stages of the RIBA POW.
2. Introduce a standard contract locking FM to the process
A standard contract form that enables clients to engage FMs as part of the construction process at specific stages would lock FM to the process. Says Kath Fontana: "The reality is that there's no way for FM to come to the party, apart from informally. Unless the client writes a bespoke form of contract to engage FM as part of RIBA POW stage Zero or Six, it's not possible for us to engage. It's absolutely critical to put in place a commercial framework to enable us to do it properly. That, to me, is the weak link now."
Fontana points to a lack of compulsion in post-occupancy evaluation, for example, "there's no meaningful way of contractually or operationally delivering that".
BIFM Operational Readiness Guide
A guide intended to help FMs in their role as key stakeholders in the design and construction process.
RIBA Plan of Works
The document, relaunched in 2013, that organises
the process of briefing, designing, constructing, maintaining, operating and using building projects into eight key stages.
Building Data Exchange
The Building Data Exchange makes a wealth of data
on the performance of modern buildings available to the construction industry and other industries.