Facilities management is in danger of losing valuable skills

by FM Media
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While realising the importance of sustainability, ANDREW BULL of Colliers International is worried about the fact that the ‘green tidal wave’ has taken the focus off issues such as compliance.

Hands up everyone who gets excited at the thought of risk management? When was the last time you went to a seminar on procurement or read an article on service delivery? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
As an employer of more than 70 facilities management professionals across the country, I’m in the fortunate position of not only reviewing training requests, but also to learning about what specific aspects of the industry a prospective employee is passionate about.
Invariably the response is ‘sustainability’. The green tidal wave has washed over the property industry and changed it forever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a climate change sceptic and I do think that the industry has to be aware of resource consumption, societal change and the effect we have on the planet’s ecology, but I worry for the future of the industry. With the rush to be seen to be contributing towards the betterment of the planet, valuable skills and experience are being lost.

Industry sources tell me that several municipalities are about to carry out prosecutions of landlords who have not fulfilled their essential services maintenance requirements in accordance with Victorian law. A quick count saw me come up with at least 12 pieces of federal, state and municipal legislation that a facilities manager in Melbourne must deal with directly in their normal working lives. Where has this knowledge gone?
The demise of the national air-conditioning contractor Hastie Services, along with a number of other service providers to the industry, has made procurement topical at the moment. Who are the procurement practitioners within the facilities management industry with the knowledge and experience to navigate through the due diligence process, ensuring that the appointed contractor not only delivers ‘best in class’ service while demonstrating value, but remains a viable business for the term of the contract?

Every two years, Colliers International carries out one of the industry’s most anticipated surveys. The 2012 Colliers International Tenant Survey assessed 300 decision-makers leasing commercial property who occupy space of 500 square metres or more in the head office locations of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth, Auckland and Wellington. The respondents represented 1,636,960 square metres of office space across Australia and New Zealand. Australian tenants represented 1,308,250 square metres of the total or 5.5 percent of the country’s total office space.
As in previous years, the survey has shown that ‘excellent indoor air quality/good air-conditioning’ continues to be the second most valued building attribute (behind the actual location of the building) when tenants are evaluating their options. While some may argue that indoor air quality/good air-conditioning is a component of sustainability, when asked the question directly, respondents rated the environmental performance of a building 11th behind other attributes such as ‘lifts that operate quickly and efficiently’ and ‘on-site secure car parking’ when evaluating potential corporate space.
The survey also highlighted the fact that 45 percent of tenants have little or no understanding of the NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) rating system, despite the Commercial Building Disclosure program established by the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act 2010. Comprehension of the Green Star rating system improves slightly with 38 percent of tenants having little or no understanding.

These facts beg the question: who is driving sustainability to the fore in the facilities management industry? Is it tenants, landlords, the government or a combination of all three? How much is being driven by suppliers of goods and services that see a good marketing opportunity?
A recent article in Facility Management asked: “Should the sustainability agenda be core to facilities managers’ duties? Or possibly the question should be: will facilities managers survive if their key focus is not on the corporate sustainability agenda?”
If you are about to enter the industry or are new to the industry, embrace sustainability and let it permeate everything you do, but, please, don’t let it be the only thing you do. Your career and our industry will be the better for it.

Andrew Bull is Colliers International’s national director of facilities management.

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