The benefits of incorporating facilities management at the design stage

Mike Moore, our director of facilities management advisory services in Saudi Arabia, discusses his thoughts on the role of facilities management (FM) in design.

I firmly believe that good FM starts on the drawing board. At the initial design phase, the practical ‘real life’ experience of the facilities management professional can prove invaluable in optimising the performance of building spaces BUT we must get involved from the start. While hindsight is a wonderful thing, in my experience, great ideas which come too late are routinely overlooked.

At this early stage, effective collaboration needs buy in from all parties. The design team can sometimes be closed and defensive around the involvement of the FM professional who may be seen to be ‘criticising the design’. Clearly that’s not the case, the whole team needs to work together to achieve the optimal design, that can win awards on day one, but also perform efficiently across its whole life.

Let’s be clear, the facilities management professional does not design the building. But if given the opportunity, they can review the design and make practical suggestions on how the operability, maintainability and sustainability aspects of the design can be improved.

An example of this compares two hospitals. The first had been designed to a very prescriptive set of client requirements. It closed within a few years as the needs of the market had changed and the rigid design meant that it simply wasn’t able to adapt.

The second hospital took a much more practical, long-sighted vision ensuring that its spaces were designed to be ‘multi-functional’. The size, facilities and finishes were such that when the market demands changed, the rooms were still functional. This hospital has been an incredible success and has grown from strength to strength.

When it comes to operational efficiency, I have been undertaking design reviews on buildings for more than 25 years and sadly we see the same challenges again and again. One of the classic mistakes is the location and distribution of FM space.

We understand we are destined for the basement, such is life, however for a super high-rise building imagine how much time is wasted waiting for the goods lift. Allocating very small amounts of FM space across the length and breadth of a project can make an incredible difference to the efficiency of the service provider and deliver a substantial reduction in OPEX costs.

A good example of this occurred when I undertook an FM design review on a super-high rise building under construction north of Jeddah. We reviewed the plans, made the observations about distributing FM space and undertook an optioneering study which demonstrated savings in excess of SR 600,000,000 across the 50-year life expectancy of the building.

From a sustainability perspective it’s typically that old chestnut CAPEX Vs OPEX. If the design team and client were more knowledgeable and open to the whole life costs of a project, in many instances the design would be much more sustainable.

On the other hand, it can be as simple as providing advice at an early stage. Going back to the super-high rise building, I recommended an innovative solution to façade cleaning – self-cleaning glass, washed down by recovered condensate water from the air conditioning. This solution would have saved around SR140,000 as well as mitigating risk of safety and environmental issues. Sadly, we were brought in at detailed design phase, so the idea wasn’t implemented in practice – timing is everything.

As we look to the future and consider the influence of integrating technology and data analytics into the FM process, the phrase ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ comes to mind. We talked earlier about flexibility in base design and that’s a great starting point. If data analytics can be captured for key metrics such as % room occupation, numbers of people entering and exiting the building, occupancy trends through the day and through the week, then the usage and distribution of rooms can flex to support the needs of the business.

Similarly, system controls can reflect the data to ensure that the internal environment most closely matches the trend data, ensuring energy efficiency and maximum useful life of plant and equipment.

Another spin off is the ability to flex the size and makeup of the FM team to ensure that the right numbers and blend of skills are available when they‘re needed rather than sitting around waiting for something to do.

Ultimately, to address the growing demand for sustainable and energy-efficient building solutions while balancing cost considerations and user comfort, there are two main things to contemplate:

  1. Flexible base design able to flex and evolve to align with occupier requirements

If these things are truly considered on the drawing board, both user comfort/satisfaction can and will be optimised and usually, whole life costs are reduced as early investment gives long term savings.

For more information on how we could apply our FM expertise to your projects, contact Mike Moore – [email protected]

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