Facilities management companies need to be involved right at project's design stage

Professional facilities management has grown in popularity – typically, as an asset is designed, constructed, and handed over to extend the asset's lifecycle. At that stage, elements and systems encompassing the built-up environment are already in place, and asset owners engage FM companies for operation and maintenance.

These include, but not limited to, building facades, air-conditioning, drainage, garbage sewers, ceilings, light fixtures, irrigation, security, parking, and others. All that is needed is a facilities management team to come on board, manage the asset's build and maintain accordingly.

Sounds straightforward, but is bringing an FM company on board once the build is ready, the only approach? The simple answer is ‘No’. You could engage an FM company right from the initial design stage.

Gaps show up later

Let's imagine a high-rise with an attractive glass façade, unique design, impeccable interiors, and the latest imported systems have been designed and built. Facilities management companies who would be in charge of maintaining the tower are not usually involved at this stage.

Now that the build is operational and an FM company is brought on board - some challenges and complications could start to appear. This could arise from a design that did not take environmental, weather and surrounding conditions into consideration causing window-related challenges, noise and odour coming from garbage sewers and waste disposal chutes, clogged drainage, challenges to clean facades and terraces, or faulty lighting fixtures, to name a few.

New costs will intrude

Yes, the assigned FM company will do the job, but they might need to operate an energy-intensive air-conditioning system, for example, invest in machinery that they've never used before to clean the 'attractive' facade, train staff to operate and maintain these machines and systems, import spare parts and deal with additional shipping fees and duties, and so on. These costly expenses would be borne by the asset owner and factored into the FM company's commercial scope of work and contractual agreements.

On the other hand, when FM professionals are involved with owners, architects, designers, and other stakeholders from Day One, they can offer their knowledge and technical expertise during the planning, designing, and pre-construction stage of a project. They can help identify obstacles that may arise when a particular design or system is chosen, make more cost-efficient and practical recommendations aligned with the asset owner's goals, and preserve its long-term value.

Despite this advantage, the role of FM is often overlooked at the early stages of property design and development. Our data shows that only 20-25 per cent percent of projects involve FM companies during the design and construction phase.

There will be a payoff

Although engaging FM at the beginning of the asset's lifecycle would incur an avoidable cost, it could help avoid potential operational challenges that risk bringing down property value and require a larger investment to operate and rectify any issues that became visible after handover. FM companies also utilise technologies like Building Information Modelling (BIM) to plan effectively, design, create and manage buildings and infrastructure and, in effect, reduce costs, create efficiencies, increase productivity, enhance safety, and improve quality.

More asset investors, designers, and developers are starting to bring FM companies and consultants on board from the beginning to minimise future challenges and create long-term asset value from the conceptional design stage. This, in my opinion, is the way to preserving long-term asset value.



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