Sam Wishart – Facilitating the future
FM talks to La Trobe University’s director facilities, assets and services SAM WISHART about balancing the needs of 50 year-old infrastructure and 40,000 students while helping the university hit its net zero carbon emissions goal by 2029.
FM: Let’s start with a brief overview of your background.
Sam Wishart: I lead the fantastic facilities, assets and services team within the infrastructure and operations division at La Trobe University and have for about seven and a half years. Prior to this, I was part of the operations group at Deakin University where I worked for over a decade after starting out in their graduate program.
What led you into facility management?
Great question. I grew up in the small country town of Finley, NSW and I knew from a young age that I wanted to attend university. That led to me pursuing and achieving a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. The course taught me a first principles approach to engineering. Having always been more interested in what I could see and touch than the theory side, this opened the door for me to pursue building services and facility management.
What are your key responsibilities at La Trobe University?
Everything and anything! In a nutshell, I am responsible for the strategy and management of all operations and maintenance within the buildings, facilities and grounds. This includes cleaning, waste, landscaping, security, mail, electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, life safety, building fabric and civil works for the university.
To be honest, the answer to that question changes on a daily basis. The university is over 50 years old, so the infrastructure has aged. We’re over 240 hectares in size, have sites throughout Victoria and have more than 250 buildings in use. Pair this with the needs of approximately 40,000 students and a financial budget and you can see why every day presents unique challenges.
What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
This is a difficult question, as I think that I am just getting started given how much there is to learn within the FM industry.
The number one highlight for me would be the people I work with, especially those within my team. Seeing the value of investing in the technical and non-technical skills of my team and I and seeing how they have responded and grown is a major achievement.
Another would be the opportunity to be part of two evolving initiatives within the university. The first is the University City of the Future, which is set to provide $3.5 billion in gross revenue product over the next ten years as we welcome the local community onto the campus as a place to live, learn, work, socialise and stay healthy.
The second is the La Trobe Net Zero initiative. Upon completion in 2029, La Trobe will be Victoria’s first university to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
What are some of your responsibilities as part of the Net Zero initiative?
As projects are finalised, the responsibilities for ongoing asset management will transfer to my team. As such, we are across the majority of projects currently being mobilised, including:
- Upgrading to energy efficient LED lighting solutions
- Installing over 7000 solar panels on more than 25 buildings at the Bundoora campus
- Working with La Trobe academics and students to create the La Trobe Energy Analytics Platform (LEAP) – an energy analysis platform that monitors consumption patters and building performance
- Creating action insights from LEAP to reduce our energy consumption, and
- Optimising our building management system to improve our air-conditioning, electricity and gas consumption rates.
We’re also the first university in Australia to utilise the SoilFood concept – an on-site composting unit that will divert organic waste from landfill.
Do you have any words for other FMs whose assets may go through a similar overhaul in the future?
Sustainability needs to be a commitment across the organisation, and within the organisation’s FM, so get involved in every discussion and every opportunity as early as you can. You don’t want a $75 million investment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2029 to happen without you!
What are your goals for the future?
The easy answer on this one is that I want to continue to solve the problems that we face within the community and across the world. I believe in the power of education to change lives, which is why I love working at a university. So the goal is to continue enabling the university to do what it does.
Finally, what’s one thing you believe FMs should start paying attention to now before it becomes a major factor in their work in the future?
The data and the people. I suppose that’s two things. The collation of big data enables us to make decisions based on patterns and trends, but all FMs must ensure that these decisions consider the behaviour and requirements of the people we serve.
Images courtesy La Trobe University.