Open-access content 7th June 2010
7 June 2010
by Richard Byatt
The gleaming towers are flanked by the busy Paseo de la Castellana on one side and landscaped gardens on the other. Further west are several enormous holes - the groundworks for a new 70,000 square-metre international convention centre designed in the shape of the rising sun and scheduled to complete sometime in 2012.
Much of the office space in the four towers is empty and there was no activity on the convention centre site during the conference.
The choice of location for EFMC2010 neatly illustrates both the ambition of the European facilities management community and the speed with which the economic downturn has damaged both economic performance and confidence across Europe and particularly in Spain, the fourth largest economy.
Of course, for the past six weeks or so before the conference the organisers were more worried about the cloud of volcanic ash disrupting travel than the prospect of a general strike over austerity measures by Spain's public sector unions.
So, against this background, the fact that around 500 FM and other professionals converged on Madrid for this year's two-day EFMC is a significant achievement and a demonstration of FM's resilience.
Surprisingly, there were few direct references to the economic situation and its impact on FM during the conference, although it was the sub-text of many presentations and conversations.
It was clear from the presentations and discussions that FM is evolving at different speeds across the continent, driven by expanding service providers and demanding clients but influenced by local business practice and culture.
EFMC 2010 repeated the convention of running a 'business' conference in parallel with a research symposium, with reports back to a plenary session at the end of both days.
After some inspiration from Jolly Kunjappu, management consultant and sometime Rolling Stones percussionist, keynote speaker Christian Kornevall of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development presented the results of a four year, $15m study into energy efficiency in buildings.
The “Transforming the Market” report shows that energy use in buildings can be cut by 60 per cent by 2050 but this will require immediate action to transform the building sector.
This study does not seem to have got much attention in the world of FM - you can download it at www.wbcsd.org
Kornevall explained that financiers, developers and contractors had been identified as barriers to change. It is difficult to integrate design, delivery and operations. Many organisations have a perception that their carbon footprint is lower than it is and that the cost of a green building is higher.
"The market alone will not do it," said Kornevall. What's needed is mandatory, enforced energy codes, high subsidies to get people over the initial investment hurdle, more R&D and good passive design and improved operations.
Seventy companies have now signed up to the WBCSD "Manifesto for Energy Efficiency in Buildings", including major corporations such as ABB, Bridgestone, DuPont, EDF, Philips, Skanska and Toyota.
Trevor Payne, Director of Estates and Facilities at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is responsible for space and services across 260,000 square metres in 80 buildings making up six hospitals.
He explained that UCLH is trying to create a global brand in healthcare to match academic brands such as Cambridge and Harvard. He sees FM as important to this goal. Although he's working on a new world-class cancer centre, it's not all about new buildings. UCLH is number one in neurosurgery and this speciality is delivered from a building almost 150 years old.
The challenge is to translate the ambition to be world class into service specifications and the key is to find the right contract partner. This could be especially difficult with a £1m savings target on a facilities spend of £60m but Payne said the Trust has allocated £7m for backlog maintenance.
Grateful patients can quickly become critical customers if they have a poor experience. Payne recommends creating an online presence before people come into hospital through tools such as a 360-degree online tour. Facilities staff could "manage the front door", he said, to ensure access, direction finding and transport are handled properly.
One innovation being trialled to combat hospital-acquired infections is a "pop-up" decontamination facility which can be assembled quickly in an affected ward.
Payne is pushing for more evidence-based decision making, both within the facilities team and from contractors. He's also building an efficient back-office to streamline operations across all the sites, buildings, services and suppliers.
EFMC is almost unique among FM conferences in trying to integrate a research symposium and although it is difficult to attend both streams, the reports back to plenary sessions draw out the main points of debate.
Professor Dries van Wagenberg, of Wagenigen University in the Netherlands, said that EuroFM's philosophical underpinning, for example education, research and practice, is still a work in progress. However, EFMC 2010 confirmed that there is a European FM research community that is getting better at collaboration and communication.
Researchers in Madrid called for more applied research, not only into outputs (construction and design) but also process. There was a need for more "arenas" where research and business could come together.
Professor Alexi Marmot of UCL's School of Graduate Studies made a plea for business to "acknowledge what it doesn't know" and for the research community to bid for funding, for example from the European Research Council. Business also should fund research and there should be more evidence from repeatable studies across time and place.
A presentation on the demands of Generation Y may well have raised a wry smile among the largely baby boomer, and older, audience. According to Dr. Daniel Rackensperger and Helen Steinfelder of RBS Group, those born between 1981 and 2000 - those now aged 10 to 29 - have fundamentally different requirements from previous generations.
Where baby boomers, born 1945 to 1960, will live to work, Generation Y live then work. Those of Generation Y reaching working age just now may find it more difficult to do either and organisations less willing to adapt to their perceived needs.
Rackensperger and Helen Steinfelder did acknowledge that a mix of age groups in the workplace is usually a good thing and said that more than 600 companies have signed the “charter of diversity” in Germany.
They presented some interesting proposals for what they call trans-generational workplace design, including involving users more.
The third leg of the EuroFM tripod, with practice and research, is education.
EFMC 2010 brought together four representatives from eastern Europe with two from old Europe for a discussion on the state of FM education chaired by Prof. Dr. Klaus Homann of Baden-Wurtemburg Cooperative State University in Stuttgart, also chair of EuroFM's Education Network Group.
There are six universities in the Czech Republic and two in the Slovak Republic offering FM courses, explained Ondrej Strup, partner with Hein Consulting but as well as teaching the next generation of facilities managers there is a need to educate the current profession. Options include private education through, for example, the Facility Management Institute at which Strup is a lecturer and the University of Economics in Prague.
FM in Hungary lacks an industry consciousness, said Jozsef Czerny, chairman of the Hungarian Facility Management Society.
The Bulgarian Facilities Management Association (BGFMA) represents more than 80 per cent of FM business in the country, according to Goran Milanov. Three universities, all in Sofia, benefit from good business input to their programmes.
The first FM providers entered the Romanian market in 2002, said Lucian Paul Anghel, president of ROFMA Building Support Services. FM education is currently limited to internal courses for employees.
Unsurprisingly, the representatives from Belgium and Austria were able to describe a more developed picture. "FM is a profession and not a science," said Jos Duchamps, MD of PROCOS Group, "and education must support this."
Belgium offers undergraduate education and postgraduate training. A course in strategic FM will be offered at Erasmus University College from September 2010, with plans to progress to a Masters degree.
Professor Thomas Madritsch, director of studies at the University of Applied Sciences in Kufstein, Austria, provided an interesting summary of the development of FM in four of the more mature European markets. The UK is strong in property and corporate real estate management he said. The focus is on hospitality and service management in the Netherlands. Scandinavia favours workplace management and Germany has a strong technical focus.
Austria, said Madritsch, achieved early standardisation and had 13 years of academic FM. The aim of its education institutes was to produce people with the leadership, communication and financial skills to work at board level.
EFMC is not all theory and strategy, a number of excellent case studies gave delegates practical ideas to apply in project management and design. Ghislain Vanfraechem, facilities director at Ernst & Young in Brussels and Wim Van Hove, MD of PROCOS Belgium, described the rationalisation of E&Y's three buildings into one.
Demonstrating the integration of FM with the project, the facilities director was in all meetings of the task force, working groups and on site and had direct access to the managing partner.
This was to be a green building featuring solar panels, daylight linking and motion detection for the lighting and HVAC inked to occupancy.
Interestingly, Vanfraechem said that E&Y wished to use the "momentum of the move" to improve communications and introduce new ways of working.
However, according to Van Hove, E&Y's brief focused on the client areas but suggested a very traditional view of the office areas - cellular and linked to hierarchy. The three existing buildings had 700 workstations and the largest group, audit, achieved just 33 per cent average occupancy. The designers promoted a different approach with much more open plan space - a smart move considering the client hired an additional 150 people during the project.
Steen Enrico Andersen of PLH architects explained how the design of office buildings in Scandinavia is changing. Statutory requirements for daylight had dictated long, narrow plans, often in linked arrangements. More recently there has been a move towards atrium buildings to improve communication. Atria can improve energy performance but also provide a good space for a whole range of business and social activities.
Andersen argued that a focus on buildings alone will not produce a sustainable workplace - clients and designers must consider behaviour. The trend towards highly transparent and open plan buildings means that aspects such as shading and acoustics need to be properly considered. He cited the new headquarters for the Aller media group on the Copenhagen waterfront as a good example of the trend.
The standards debate
EuroFM vice-chairman Fred Kloet set the scene for a panel discussion on the new EN15221 group of European FM standards for quality, taxonomy, processes, space measurement and, eventually, benchmarking.
An analysis of space measurement norms across different countries showed variances of as much as 24 per cent, said Kloet.
It soon became clear that, although the panellists were in favour of broad standards, there was little appetite for more prescriptive or restrictive ones.
BIFM CEO Ian Fielder opened the debate by asking whether the FM industry across Europe is mature enough for standards because unless they are adopted by a government, standards carry no force in law.
If they are not used by professional bodies, business and other organisations they will not contribute to the openness and transparency of markets. One of the strengths of FM is adaptability - responsiveness to clients and customers needs. Will national differences, apparent in the working group discussions, resurface and hinder widespread adoption of standards.
It is clear that both the supply and demand sides of the industry will benefit from adopting European FM standards as they act as a reference point for all parties. Students will also welcome any reference point but all stakeholders must be able to rely on the content and believe them to be best industry practice, argued Fielder.
There is a widely held view that academics are overly-represented in the process and the views of service providers and clients must be taken into account.
Carlo Petagna, chair of Italy's government building agency, said standards were generally not seen as relevant not widely adopted in Italy and other southern European countries. However, he could see that having a common view on types of agreement would be useful.
Daniel Frutig of Compass argued that FM is no longer an emerging industry, corporate clients know what they want, they have their own standards for benchmarking services. Likewise, service providers distinguish themselves on process and quality. There is a danger that standards would "commoditise" facilities management, said Frutig.
Like other providers, Compass has built its own operating platform. Frutig said the first two standards (covering definitions and agreements) were useful - he liked the distinction between clients, customers and users for example but SLAs were not applicable across all sectors. Quality is a logical step said Frutig but taxonomy is too detailed. "Standards must consider individual countries and stay at the framework level," he concluded.
At the end of the panel discussion, Fred Kloet called for the audience to vote on whether they were broadly in favour of each of the four new standards. More than half the delegates supported standards on space measurement and quality, backing for process and taxonomy was much lower.
The European Facility Management Conference is an ambitious undertaking. Anyone who has tried to organise a conference for a professional community in a single country should recognise the achievement.
EFMC is a unique opportunity to get a feel for how facilities management is developing across Europe and to engage directly with those shaping the future of the profession and industry. I'd urge everyone to go at least once.