Open-access content 2nd October 2008
by Richard Byatt
02 October 2008
Helsinki is a good place for a young profession to meet. Finland declared independence as recently as 1917. It is also a country with a progressive history - the first in Europe to give women the vote and to allow them to run for parliament. Women took 42% of the seats in last year's elections.
For three days in September, EuroFM, the Finnish Facility Management Association (FIFMA) and the Nordic FM network came together in Helsinki for an intense programme of meetings and seminars - 'FM Days in Finland'.
The programme began with a research seminar hosted by sponsors KIINKO at their offices 15 minutes outside the city. KIINKO - Real Estate Education offers postgraduate education and training for asset, property and facilities management professionals.
The five presentations included an overview of KIRSU - the Graduate School for Real Estate, Construction and Planning, with 130 post-graduate students and 65 professors from nine universities. The school has produced 64 PhDs since 2003. From next year it merges with the Graduate School in Housing Studies and Social Change.
KTI (a sort of Finnish IPD) described their current collaborative projects: 'Customer Driven and Innovative Property and User Services' and 'Office Occupiers' Preferences and Needs in a Changing Business Environment'.
Suvi Nenonen, Research Manager at Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and chair of the main event, explained the results of a collaborative project between TKK's Facilities Services Research Group and NCC, one of the Nordic region's leading construction and property development companies.
The objective was to improve the quality and usability of business parks, increase value and reduce costs. The researchers visited the UK and California, looked at the 'customer journey' and did a 'usability walkthrough'.
The result was some new concepts for NCC which, after piloting, are being incorporated into new locations at Tampere, Vantaa and Pori. According to Nenonen, the developer began to understand the implications of changing workplaces and the resistance to change.
The work produced three articles, three Masters and Three Bachelors theses and the students benefited from a real-life laboratory.
Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology & Innovation, distributed around 500m in 2007 to over 2,000 projects. Its 'Spaces and Places' programme has a budget of 80m.
The project will look at physical, social and virtual spaces for working, living, leisure and learning. Customer groups include software designers, real estate companies, design consultants, furniture companies and operators. More information at www.tekes.fi
Over 70 people from 12 countries gathered for the main seminar programme on 26th September. Finland was of course well represented, with just over 50 per cent of the delegates. However, attendance from Scandinavian countries was very low, with the Netherlands sending the next largest delegation of 12.
Finnish FM became international relatively recently, said Jyrki Karjalainen, head of workplace management for Finland and Nordics at Nokia. Foreign investors began to buy property and the culture of real estate transactions started to change as international advisors entered the market.
Medium-sized companies have mostly disappeared, according to Karjalainen, with one or two large players dominating and thousands of very small suppliers. If one of the smaller suppliers grows successfully, it is immediately bought, he said. Later, Karl Virta, MD of ISS Finland, would admit to being one of the 'culprits'.
Ilkka Kakko, MD of Karostech, described how the project to create a network of collaborative working, learning and development environments, the Global Oasis network, began with workshops and a 'training camp' for users, rather than workplace experts.
In December 2006, the first implementation of the Oasis concept opened in 1,200 sq m on the top floor of a science park building in Joensuu, a small town NE of Helsinki near the Russian border.
The key elements, said Kakko, are diversity and serendipity. The environment connects generations and combines arts, science and business. The floor can be accessed 24/7 using RFID tags with usage fees triggered by occupancy.
The spaces have suitably inspirational (or just plain wacky) names such as the Hall of Results, the Temple of Challenge and the Serendipity Cafe. There's also a kitchen and, of course, a sauna.
The location has encouraged take-up from across the border. One of the four Russian companies using the space says it's a brilliant solution for Russian companies just entering the European market. The company hopes to open locations in Helsinki, St Petersburg and Moscow next year
Nokia, perhaps Finland's best known company, has stated that it is transforming itself from a 'devices' to an 'internet' company. Workplace solution manager Johanna Ihalainen explained how this transformation is being expressed in office layout and design.
Mobile and remote working has increased and people are no longer working 100 per cent for their line manager. A typical desk at Nokia House in Espoo is occupied less than 50 per cent of the time so the physical environment must change to support this transformation.
Space will no longer be designed according to status and held 'just in case' but based on functions and tasks and provided 'just in time'. Nokia's approach is to provide a 'kit of parts' to create different work settings, including semi-open meeting spaces and 'phone booths'.
The renewal of Nokia House is the only project in Finland going for LEED Gold Standard accreditation and it was interesting that sustainability was the focus of just one presentation, although touched on by others. For example, Antii Tuomela, director of real estate consultancy Newsec, said that despite common commitment, sustainability is hard to sell: "End users do not yet see environmental issues in the FM context."
Pöyry, a consulting and engineering firm, has been looking at sustainability issues in real estate since 1999. Karoliina Rajakallio said, facilities accounting for just 5% of costs caused over 50% of environmental impact in service (not process) organisations studied.
Therefore, companies wishing to reduce their impact must work with their FMs. Finland will be responding to the challenge via EU Directives, national energy savings programmes and voluntary agreements, said Rajakallio. One of the main obstacles is that incentives to reduce energy are usually split between different players. Reliable operation and consumption data is crucial, with continuous, active reporting to all players, she argued.
After each session delegates were asked to vote electronically on related questions. On environmental responsibility, 76 per cent of the audience thought FM is at a very early stage.
Alongside the seminars, EuroFM's three network groups - practice, education and research - held sessions in Helsinki. An interesting education model was presented by Prof. Dr. Klaus Homann from the University of Cooperative Education in Stuttgart.
The university operates a bi-lateral system. Students receive an academic training at the university and professional training with selected companies and organisations. The students apply through the company and are then enrolled with the university.
They work on real-life problems and are paid between 650 and 700 per month. This is not the easy option it might seem; students first have to convince the company to take them on and then commit to 35 or 40 compulsory contact hours a week.
Richard Byatt is BIFM's Communications & External Affairs Director