Should Facilities Managers be chartered?

By former CIBSE President George Adams

The built environment is hugely important to UK business and to our social requirements. Equally so are the essential reductions in carbon emissions required by the Government’s target of 80% within the next 35 years. Buildings affect people’s health, security, productivity and overall lifestyles. As they become increasingly complex and modern systems and operators become more focused on in-use performance levels, then building services engineers must play an important part in ensuring their efficient operation and helping to optimise facilities management delivery and energy efficiency.

Engineering and FM covers the life of an asset from concept design through operation, maintenance and ultimately disposal and replacement. This is often portrayed as a linear process, but to me it should be a circle of continuously improving functions and systems. Many engineering systems within a building will be replaced more than once during the life of that building. This challenges the traditional silos that are created around the stages in the life cycle, in which the FM occupies the operation and maintenance silo, and is expected to take, and make the best of, what is passed down from design and installation stages, or silos. This is why I called for a new engineering conscience in my Whole Life Thinking strategy in my inaugural address back in 2013.

MPs call for action on energy efficiency in buildings

Given the dependence of many buildings on the effective operation of the services within them, there is a strong case to be made that all FM teams need services engineering knowledge and training. This has the benefit that it enables greater in-house capacity to solve problems as well as a more informed stance when dealing with specialist suppliers and changes in layout of function.

There are two particular areas in which greater integration between the services engineers in FM and the wider construction team, and business as a whole, will increasingly be required. The first is energy efficiency and corporate responsibility. There are a growing number of requirements, some statutory, for larger businesses to measure and report their energy use or carbon emissions. In some cases, such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment, there are payments related to the scale of the emissions.

The second is the whole area of climate change. We have heard much debate about whether climate change is a direct result of the carbon emissions generated by human activity. But the reality is that the world is warming, on average, across its surface, and that our climate is changing, with more frequent occurrences of severe weather events. Increasingly this is having a direct impact on our built environment, as witnessed last winter in New York, for example. I refer to the recent article in The Guardian demonstrating the large number of coastal cities that will be flooded if we do not achieve our global Carbon targets.

Increasingly, who or whatever is causing climate change, our buildings will have to be adapted to it. The engineers in FM teams will be essential contributors to identify the potential impact of a range of climate related events on the building and business or social facilities and working out the most effective strategies to mitigate those effects, working with engineers of the built environment and architects.

 A talk on the role of the FM in building performance at the Facilities Show 2015

These two areas align as we develop plans for our cities for the rest of the 21st century, seeking to make them more resilient to the effects of climate change, reducing the demands for energy, minimising their emissions and embedding local energy generation into the built environment. Whilst also working with the landscaping specialists to capitalise on integrating greening of the local communities with green roofs, walls and tree canopies which are proven to reduce heat island effects and reduce energy and carbon. These are strategic subjects for our society, tasks in which FMs will need to play their role in a more collaborative industry. When we see the role of the FM in that light, perhaps it is time to ask why FMs should not be chartered?


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