Construction companies, and importantly clients, increasingly understand the value of involving facilities managers earlier in the project and even throughout it, to create more efficient buildings. So FMs will no longer be required to turn up at the end and do what they can with incomplete O&M manuals, desperately trying to run a building that was not designed with facilities management in mind. Instead, facilities managers will be involved horizontally, across the building lifecycle, much like a surveyor or a sustainability advisor might be. We’re already beginning to see design and construction contracts that are building in maintenance for an initial two or three years.
Enabling this move into a cross-disciplinary model for facilities managers is our use of BIM. BIM has brought facilities management design decisions to the fore, and made clients think about how they want their building to work (and not just how it looks and how people will move through it) at design stage. It’s making construction teams consider services in more detail – not just that a specific room needs three sockets but exactly how they need to build the concrete frame so that the sockets can come out at the right point for the kitchen’s kettle or the CEO’s phone. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen already, merely that BIM is enabling these details to be considered and discussed earlier and more meaningfully.
BIM is also allowing us to gather more data about the buildings. That leads to another benefit: transparency. Capturing more data – and more usable data - about the building informs future FM strategies ultimately making the building better. It becomes more efficient to run and requires engineers spending less time on site fixing things.
BIM is allowing clients to understand what facilities management actually is. Everything will be increasingly recorded, and abnormalities in service flagged up – and that means we need to ensure our focus is squarely on service and delivery. You can panic about this and see it as a bit too ‘Big Brother’ but the transparency this data brings is a significant opportunity. If we’re all working from the same Building Information Model with integrated FM data, then there will be much less opportunity to differentiate through cost. So FMs will need to do even more to add value and innovate. That’s why the new role of FMs throughout the project lifecycle makes sense. We can add value earlier. We can innovate earlier. And we can do that by moving our profession from a separate ‘industry’ to an integrated discipline.
Is it the beginning of the end for the FM industry? Perhaps. But if so, there are plenty of opportunities for FMs to raise their profile and be treated like the professionals they are at all stages of a building’s lifecycle. We just need to decide if we’re going adapt and thrive. A no brainer really.