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The movie ‘The Towering Inferno’ tells the harrowing tale of an iconic building design gone wrong. In the world of Facilities Management (FM) one cannot help but wonder where the FM team was in the design of this fictional building?
While the movie might be an extreme example, it does bring across a valid point: beautiful buildings aren’t all that easy to maintain. Indeed, an iconic building might cost you more than you bargained for if not designed in conjunction with an FM team.
Far from just managing a building, FM providers today are consulted to provide solutions at the design stage. These include solutions that cut costs and bring ingenuity and innovation into the workplace. These components will improve the expected lifespan of the building but lower lifecycle costs and, importantly, assist the organisations that occupy the building to attract talent and better retain staff.
Looking to the future
The reality is that after the building owners pop the proverbial cork in celebration, it is down to business; investors are now looking forward to a return on their investment (ROI) and a quickly aging building is simply not part of the plan.
To future-proof a building, the design team, contractors and FM experts thus need to sit around one table. While stunning architecture is at the top of list it should also go hand in hand with practicality; the occupants of the building will soon forget how beautiful it is if the air conditioning blows hot air or the bathroom facilities are "out of order" on a regular basis.
In the industry we have come across a number of cases where maintenance costs start skyrocketing prematurely due to impractical design. A simple example is the carpet laid in the reception area. All of us would like to see a stunning natural-fibre jute rug, which is simply not practical. You need a hardwearing carpet or tiles that can withstand the elements, be it mud, water or just general foot traffic. Replacing the carpet every six months is costly and impractical.
Furthermore, the FM experts will ensure that materials used are up to standard. For example, cutting corners when it comes to paint is a very short term cost-cutting exercise with a costly long-term price tag-- you want your paintwork to last at least a couple of years. It must, for one, be easy to clean. Secondly, it should not start flaking at the slightest change in humidity.
Also, the design of areas that feature a lot of people, technology, cabling and so forth, such as a call centre, requires the input from an FM team. Again, it is about designing an aesthetically pleasing yet practical area - a space that doesn't have to deal with continuous outages as result of poor cabling or physical infrastructure.
The reality is that without a FM team onboard, you won't achieve the full lifespan of the building. A building that can’t be properly maintained is a building that will age rapidly and, even worse, cost a fortune in upkeep.
An FM team will ensure that your building is sustainable and you gain the maximum benefit from the facility. It is critical that property owners integrate FM at the design stage to ensure that an iconic building stays just that: iconic.
Locally, in public/private sector partnerships, FM is from inception a prerequisite to any building contract. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for private sector developments. As a result, we are increasingly finding buildings that have to cope with escalating and unnecessary maintenance costs quite soon into their lifecycles.
There is undoubtedly a disjoint between the design team, contractors and FM experts. However, we do believe as the benefits become more apparent, property owners will have a greater understanding of the value of FM.
Ultimately, FM should be part of a total solution, one of the wheels that drive the design, building and maintenance process. The benefits are blatantly obvious and make complete sense in a world where sustainability is critical.
Rally Moodley, Business Development Manager: Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions