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The role of FM in a sustainable built environment cannot be ignored

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Strategic facility management does not only concern facilities maintenance
Property Weekly

Property investment is one of the biggest investments that people make in their lifetime. While location, price, unit layout and amenities all form an integral part of the buyer’s decision-making process, knowing about property maintenance and the long-term health of the asset is also an essential element that investors often neglect. This tends to affect the asset value in the long run.

Tariq Chauhan, Group CEO of EFS Facilities Services, says that the role of facilities management (FM) is quite significant in the life cycle of any built environment. He adds that property owners should know the breakdown of the service charges, specifically the FM costs and service level agreements therein.

“Buyers, while investing in property during the off-plan stage, fail to get into the details of the FM or service costs. They are only engaged at a later stage once the property has been bought. But by then any concerns and worries about the FM or services costs will have very little effect,” says Chauhan. “Therefore, it is important that buyers should know the actual services as per the service level agreements [SLAs], and FM best practices, and there must be a clear and transparent understanding between the buyer and builder on the scope of services on various requirements. All developers should provide the scope of FM services in their SLAs. The cost component of each service should also be mentioned specifically.”

Strategic FM

Robert Jackson, director at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Middle East and North Africa, says the role of FM is greatly misunderstood in the region, adding that the strategic facility management is not facilities maintenance.

“Strategic FM can help maintain or enhance the capital value of built assets,” he says. “It can drive operational performance from the asset, as well as deliver appropriate environments for end users so that residents remain happy and loyal and corporate occupiers can focus on maximising their productivity in a workplace, which is managed by others to create a conducive environment for maximum workplace productivity.”

He says buyers should ask the asset owners about how the facility is managed and check the funding provisions — whether they exist or are being accrued to repair or replace high capital value equipment or infrastructure.

Jackson explains that the early involvement of FMs, even in the design stage of a building, will add significant value to a property market. “This will only benefit the end user and create confidence in the market that will help drive continued sustainable investment,” says Jackson. “FMs need to be considered as strategic delivery partners and contracts need to be encouraging more collaborative relationships and over a longer-term period so FMs can add innovative solutions, which increase the value to both clients and end users.”

Benefits

Markus Oberlin, CEO of Farnek, says that early introduction of FM helps minimise the impact of design and build issues, and ensure the maintainability and operability of the building or development for the lifespan of the project.

“Generally, FM is often viewed as an unnecessary expense at the early stages of a project and, therefore, there is limited access to incorporating FM services. However, the fact is utilising FM at the early stages actually saves money in the long run,” says Oberlin.

Positive change

The role of FM in the initial stages of construction and design is currently becoming a reality with visible impact in the strategy of many developers. “A lot of emphases is being placed on the attainment of value for money, end user satisfaction and the delivery of improved buildings that are economical to run, stress-free for the occupiers to maintain, control and manage, and easy to respond to the maintenance needs of the occupant,” says Chauhan.

He adds that the impact of FM on the success of the built environment is rapidly becoming a reality and is evident that sustainable design and construction contribute to the creation of facilities that are energy efficient, less costly over their life cycle and enhance end-user experience.

“In many surveys conducted recently in the construction industry, it is concurred that the active participation of facilities managers during the planning, design and construction phases ensure that the strategic role of FM is not undermined and sustainable built environments are strengthened,” says Chauhan. “It is critical to propagate the involvement of FM from the design process through to handover and its subsequent roles in the project life cycle. We need to define the role of facilities manager in the building design phase and examine the techniques and issues, which will ensure the role of FM in the design process to be a permanent and useful one.”

As per international practice, FM providers have seven- to 10-year contracts with developers, however, Chauhan says this is not followed in the Middle East.

“Short-term contracts restrict companies to appropriately invest in critical mobilisation costs such as investments in equipment, machinery, technology, etc., to achieve the goal of FM and sustainability of the building,” he says. “Therefore, long-term contracts will help investors to write off critical initial investments over a longer period as well as meet supply chain management challenges due to frequent contract life cycles.”

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