Reliability is an integral part in the field of Facilities Management (FM). It percolates deep into many sectors and encompasses health and safety concerns, security and a plethora of interlinked issues. Which is why, many in the industry, on an international level, have been preaching for far too long now about involving FM at the design stage. While, in theory, everyone has agreed and debated this concept for years, it is only now that the industry is actually applying it practically. Speaking to a section of people within the industry, FM today finds out how important it is to involve FM companies in a building’s design, even before the first brick is set…
FM Director – MENA, Interserve
The role of FM is to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of a building and its components in line with the user’s needs. Consequently, the future FM requirements of the building and its users should most definitely be considered throughout the design stages. “The first stage of the design process is based on the design brief provided by the client and involves preliminary design specifications and cost plans. The involvement of FM at this early stage will ensure that the designers are aware of good FM practice and how this should be incorporated from the very beginning. Involving FM experts will introduce, nurture and embed good FM practice so that it becomes a natural consideration throughout the project. Involving FM at design stage results in increased value (both in the long and short term), with the FM provider/consultant better placed to advise on various items,” says Saeed Ahmed, FM Director – MENA, Interserve International.
Whether it is a villa, mall or a tower, Ian Harfield, CEO of Cofely Besix Facility Management, says that it is very important to involve FM in the design stage. “Maintenance and serviceability of the built asset are the key drivers to the long-term success of the facility or property. The concept, design, and construction are the shortest part of a building’s life, and so much attention goes into design, interiors, finishes and so on. For example, just quantify the impact of putting a $2 light fitting in a location that costs $100 to change each time. Just imagine how many times the occupier will have to change the light bulb in 50 years. At the design stage it’s very simple to move the lamp location on a drawing which will result in saving $1000’s,” adds Harfield.
The benefits for the developer are aplenty as well. Be it financial, sustainability, life cycle management, and optimising asset efficiency, or even providing a rewarding environment for their staff, clients can actively look for well-designed buildings that meet their business needs but also satisfy their environmental and sustainable development requirements.
MD of Macro International
“The benefits to a developer should be the ability to sell property more readily because due consideration will have been given to a realistic service charge that is cost effective, and attention to the long-term property value being maintained. Thus making a building more attractive to an investor/ owner,” says Bill Heath, Managing Director of Macro International. For Ahmed, Facilities Management is about making things work properly for the end user, and dealing with the true lifecycle cost to get the best out of capital assets. Time well spent at the start of the project by carefully considering maintainability, sustainability and appropriateness of materials proposed by designers, can have an extremely positive impact on a building - from the simplest examples such as the position of the lamp, to types of stone used on a path. “It’s all about harnessing the knowledge of a profession that deals with occupied buildings, and the way they are lived in. The key is to transfer the knowledge to the designer, and to fine tune the building to be easier to live with - from occupation to caring for it over the lifespan or occupational period,” he adds.
While many agree that in the perfect situation an FM Consultant or FM Services Provider should be involved in the building’s design, one wonders if it also means that one has to sacrifice a good design? Not necessarily, says Heath. “What the FM requirements do is bring a degree of practicality as to how a building will be maintained, cleaned and generally used by giving thought to such requirements as access and circulation routes, easy maintenance and cleaning, and general storage needs,” says Heath.
Chief Executive, DTZ, KSA
In DTZ, they always encourage their clients to involve them in the design process as early as possible. “We prefer to work in conjunction with the Architect and as part of the overall development team. We would look to ensure our early involvement had minimal impact on the overall design of the building, by working closely with the architect we would be able to ‘design in and out’ any potential item’s that would prevent the building from being maintained as efficiently and economically as possible over its lifecycle,” adds Richard Naylor, Chief Executive, KSA, DTZ. A good design, says Harfield, should incorporate all the needs of the occupier. “A well-designed building should cover all aspects from the ‘wow’ factor of the entrance lobby to the simplicity of removing the rubbish from the service yard. Good design is creating a sustainable, functional and liveable building. Features and iconic statements are all part of the process,” he says.
According to Ahmed, problems only occur when the FM advisor is brought in too late into the project. “Often by this stage changes to designs to incorporate maintenance requirements are viewed as ‘sacrifices’ or aesthetic ‘compromises’ for practicality sake.However, where FM is brought into the team at the earlist design conceptualisation, maintenance allowances are blended within the design, as opposed to an intrusion. For both designers and FM professionals, a positive ‘user experience’ is the ultimate goal. Better collaboration between the two can result in a development that is both visually appealing and ensures the maximum efficiency and operability of the building well into the future,” he adds.
The delay in adopting this practice is largely because the FM market in the GCC is still in its infancy stage and it still has a long way to go before it gains recognition as a pillar of the built environment in the way that architecture, construction, and engineering has. Many believe that the perception of the importance of FM is slowly changing, but there is still work to be done. “On many of the larger/ mega projects in the region there are signs that FM has been incorporated at the design stage. This is highlighted by a noticeable growth in the FM Consultancy market. The challenge lies in highlighting the benefits of these developments in the marketplace. FM is a specialty in its own right, and while we work closely with architects and construction/engineering, it is really up to the FM sector to take up the ‘mantle’ of publicizing and promoting our place in the industry. It’s up to us as a sector to raise awareness of the value FM can add to a development, and how much more can be done at an early stage,” says Ahmed.
Harfield adds, “It comes down to that simple comment, “everybody is a cleaning expert in their own mind”, and will openly comment on the standard of cleanliness in a building, as cleaning is deemed to be basic and common to all and FM is often seen as a simple service type industry. Designers often feel that they, as accomplished professionals, have insight and ample technical reference literature and resources to guide them on their way to producing master designs. Aside from the FM industry technical knowledge, we know how a building is lived in,
occupied and used. Simple examples like a bin store will smell and there is no tap to wash the bins, or people will always try and park as close to an entrance door as possible, the laundry operator will use his trolley to push the doors open as he does his rounds, smokers will wedge the fire door open so as not to get locked out, and we’ll have to cut holes in the ceilings to change the filters on the fan coil unit, or pull out kitchen units to reset a fire damper. These and other simple facts need to be considered in the design process. The building may look stunning on the opening day, but what will it look like in 10 years’ time? The reason these practical examples are usually over-looked is mainly because once the design is done, the designer (allowing for no major issues) feels his job is done. How many designers actually revisit their completed building after 3, 5, or 10 years, or do a post design review, or even ask the occupiers for feedback? The simple fact is that only the basics are often covered, but the devil is in the details, and that takes a lot of time and many challenges on the way to get it right.” When we look at more mature FM markets, it has a much higher degree of recognition. Legislation has also been brought in to necessitate the consideration of requirements; hence the practice of involving FM at an early stage has begun in other countries.
But now with the market slowly maturing in the Middle East, and client awareness in FM increases one can expect to see a greater involvement of the service providers in the design, maintenance and day-to-day operations of a building. “My personal view is that the GCC region is in many respects further ahead than some of the more advanced International countries when it comes to giving due consideration to FM in the development stages of a project. The introduction of BIM (Building Information Modelling) though is helping the industry as a whole to ensure cost effective development, providing due thought about the practical operating needs are still given,” concludes Heath.