Facility management, or facilities management often abbreviated as FM, is a multidisciplinary field that involves the management of various aspects of physical spaces and infrastructure to ensure they operate efficiently, safely, and effectively. The concept of facility management began in the 1970s which is largely technical based.

FM has evolved overtime and keeps evolving. It encompasses a wide range of services, processes, and activities that are crucial for the functioning of buildings and facilities in both the private and public sectors. FM is adapted to every sector of the economy .

Year 2017 saw the publications of facility management standards known as ISO 41000 series of facility management standards by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), developed by the technical committee, ISO/TC 267. The ISO FM standards provide a globally recognized benchmark for excellence in facility management.

Facility management is multifaceted and plays a crucial role in ensuring the functionality of the built environment. Its scope has expanded to address modern challenges, including sustainability and the integration of technology. Effective facility management is essential for organizations looking to optimize their resources and create a conducive environment for their activities.

Evolution of Facility Management

The field of facility management has evolved with the integration of digital technologies, smart buildings, and a focus on sustainability. The adoption of data analytics and IoT (Internet of Things) has allowed for more data-driven decision-making.

Definition of Facility Management

Facility management is the practice of coordinating and overseeing all the physical assets, resources, and services needed to support the core operations of an organization. This includes buildings, equipment, systems, and infrastructure.

Facility management is an “Organizational function which integrates people, place and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business.” ISO 41011:2017

This emphasizes that facility management aims to create a holistic and optimal environment that enhances both well-being and operational efficiency.

Related: Remote Facility Management

ISO TC/267 Technical Committee

The technical committee, ISO/TC 267 is responsible for coming up with international standards for the facility management profession. This has led to publication of the ISO 41000 series of facility management standards.

Objectives of Facility Management

The primary objectives of facility management are to create and maintain an optimal and productive environment for an organization’s occupants, employees, and visitors. This involves ensuring the safety, comfort, and functionality of facilities while controlling costs and reducing environmental impact.

Soft FM and Hard FM

Facility management encompasses a wide range of services aimed at ensuring the seamless operation of various types of facilities.

To break down this vast field, facility management operations are typically divided into two main categories: Soft Facility Management (Soft FM) and Hard Facility Management (Hard FM). Soft FM and Hard FM are two fundamental pillars of facility management, each contributing to the overall success and functionality of the built environment.

While Soft FM services focus on creating a safe, clean, and pleasant environment for facility users, Hard FM services revolve around maintaining the physical assets and systems that underpin the facility’s operation.

Understanding the distinction between Soft FM and Hard FM is essential for facility managers and stakeholders, as it allows for the precise allocation of resources and the implementation of strategic plans to optimize facility management.

By striking a balance between these two facets, facility managers can create spaces that not only meet the needs of occupants but also ensure the longevity and efficiency of the facility’s physical infrastructure. Ultimately, the collaboration between Soft FM and Hard FM is the cornerstone of effective facility management.

Soft Facility Management (Soft FM)

Soft FM services play a vital role in creating a safe and healthy environment for all facility users. These services are focused on enhancing the quality of life and well-being of occupants within a facility.

Here are some of the key Soft FM services:

Catering: Providing food services within the facility, catering ensures that occupants have access to nourishing meals and beverages.

Cleaning: Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in all areas of the facility, including workspaces, restrooms, and common areas.

Pest Control: Managing and preventing pest infestations to safeguard the health and comfort of facility users.

Waste Management: Efficiently handling waste disposal, recycling, and waste reduction initiatives to minimize environmental impact.

Car Parking: Managing parking facilities to ensure convenience and safety for all vehicle owners and users.

Hard Facility Management (Hard FM)

Hard FM services, on the other hand, deal with the physical assets and systems within a facility. These services are crucial for maintaining the infrastructure and systems that support daily operations.

Here are some of the key Hard FM services:

Plumbing: Managing and maintaining plumbing systems to ensure a continuous supply of fluid such as water, gas etc and proper drainage.

Lighting: Overseeing lighting systems to provide adequate illumination for safety and productivity.

Building Maintenance: Conducting routine maintenance and repairs to keep the facility’s structure and systems in good working condition.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC): Regulating temperature, humidity, and air quality through HVAC systems to provide a comfortable indoor environment.

Fire Safety Systems: Ensuring the functionality of fire prevention and firefighting systems to protect occupants in case of emergencies.

Key Functions of Facility Management

Key functions of facility management include the following:

Space Management: Efficiently allocate and manage space to meet the needs of the organization. Ensuring that the allocation and use of space align with organizational objectives, with considerations for accessibility and ergonomics.

Maintenance and Repairs: Plan and execute maintenance and repair activities to keep facilities in good working condition. Focuses on maintenance strategies and best practices, ensuring that facilities are well-maintained to support the organization’s core operations.

Safety and Security: Ensure the safety and security of occupants and assets through measures like access control, surveillance, and emergency planning. FM standard addresses safety and security by providing guidance on risk assessment, emergency preparedness, and the protection of occupants and assets.

Energy Management: Implement strategies to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainability. Energy management is an integral part of facility management, encouraging the use of sustainable practices and technologies.

Environmental Sustainability: Promote eco-friendly practices and manage waste and environmental impacts. FM supports resource conservation.

Budgeting and Financial Management: Manage budgets, expenses, and cost control for facility operations. FM encourages effective financial management, ensuring that facility management operations are cost-effective and contribute to the organization’s financial goals.

Technology Integration: Utilize technology and software for managing facilities, such as Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) and Building Management Systems (BMS). FM recognizes the importance of technology integration and use of digital tools to enhance facility management.

Types of Facilities

Facility management can apply to a wide range of facilities, including commercial buildings, hospitals, schools, manufacturing plants, government buildings, sports stadiums, and more.

The specific needs and challenges can vary greatly depending on the type of facility. FM is adaptable to various types of facilities, making it applicable to a wide range of settings, including commercial, healthcare, educational, and industrial facilities.

Challenges of Facility Management

FM professionals play a crucial role in shaping the environments where we live and work. They face various challenges that are diverse and dynamic including rapidly advancing technology, sustainability goals, changing workplace trends (e.g., remote work), and evolving regulations and standards.

Common challenges include:

Growing Complexity in Facility Management: The traditional tasks of facility management have evolved into a more complex and diverse set of responsibilities. FM professionals navigate this intricate landscape, balancing various aspects of building maintenance and operations.

Technology Integration Challenges: While technology has the potential to streamline FM processes, it also presents challenges. The integration of advanced technologies, such as IoT and AI, poses hurdles in terms of implementation, data security, and the adaptation of existing systems.

Changing Regulatory Landscape: FM professionals must constantly adapt to changes in regulations and standards.

Sustainability Demands: As society places increasing importance on sustainability, FM professionals face challenges in aligning their practices with environmental and social expectations.

Workforce Skill Gap: A significant challenge in the FM industry is the growing skill gap in the workforce.

Budgetary Constraints: Budget limitations often hinder the ability of FM professionals to maintain facilities at optimal levels.

Evolving Security Concerns: In an ever-changing world, security challenges continue to evolve. The complexities of ensuring the safety and security of facilities, considering the latest threats and the need for robust security measures.

Adaptation to Remote Work Trends: The rise of remote work has introduced challenges in managing facilities that were traditionally designed for in-person work. How FM professionals should adapt to the changing dynamics of workspace usage.

Human-centric Challenges: Ensuring a safe and comfortable environment for occupants is a priority in facility management. The challenges relating to creating human-centric spaces and the impact on the well-being of building occupants.

Vendor Management Challenges: FM professionals often rely on external vendors and service providers. FMs face challenges of managing relationships with external vendors and service providers effectively, from contract negotiations to service quality. Effective vendor management involves clear communication, fair negotiations, and continuous evaluation to ensure service quality.

Resilience and Crisis Management: Building resilience in facility management is crucial, especially in the face of unexpected events. FMs should adequately be equipped to preparing for and responding to crises, emphasizing the importance of proactive crisis management strategies.

Benefits of Facility Management

Effective facility management can lead to numerous benefits, such as increased operational efficiency, reduced operational costs, improved employee productivity, enhanced safety, and compliance with regulations.

Roles and Responsibilities of Facility Managers

Facility managers are responsible for overseeing the daily operations and maintenance of facilities. They often work in conjunction with various teams, including maintenance staff, security personnel, architects, and engineers. Their responsibilities may include strategic planning, vendor management, and ensuring regulatory compliance.

FM standards provide a structured framework for defining roles and responsibilities within facility management. It promotes the collaboration of these parties to achieve facility management objectives.

Competencies of a Facility Manager

Facility management requires a diverse skill set to oversee the efficient operation of physical assets, infrastructure, and facilities.

A competent facility manager is a key figure in ensuring that buildings and spaces function optimally, are safe, and align with the strategic goals of an organization. The facility manager requires knowledge, skills (technical and business skills) and capabilities to function effectively.

Essential competencies that a facility manager should possess include:

Technical Knowledge: A facility manager must have a deep understanding of the technical aspects of building systems and infrastructure. This includes knowledge of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems, electrical systems, plumbing systems, vertical transportation systems and more. Technical expertise is crucial for effective troubleshooting and decision-making.

Communication Skills: Effective communication is paramount. Facility managers need to interact with a wide range of people, including staff, contractors, and upper management. Clear and concise communication ensures everyone is on the same page, leading to successful operations.

Project Management: Facility managers often oversee various projects, from renovations to system upgrades. Strong project management skills are necessary to plan, execute, and monitor these projects within budget and on schedule.

Budgeting and Financial Management: Managing budgets and financial resources is a fundamental skill. Facility managers need to allocate resources efficiently, make cost-effective decisions, and ensure that expenses align with the organization’s goals.

Risk Management: Identifying and mitigating risks is crucial for maintaining a safe and secure environment. Facility managers should be adept at assessing potential risks and developing strategies to prevent accidents or disruptions.

Regulatory Compliance: Facility managers must stay up-to-date with building codes, safety regulations, and environmental standards. Compliance is non-negotiable, and failure to adhere to these regulations can result in legal and financial consequences.

Vendor and Contractor Management: Facility managers often work with external vendors and contractors for various services. Strong vendor management skills, including negotiation and contract management, are essential to maintain quality and cost control.

Sustainability and Environmental Awareness: In today’s world, sustainability is a growing concern. Facility managers should be well-versed in green practices, energy conservation, and environmental impact reduction.

Technology Integration: Technology is transforming facility management. Facility managers should be knowledgeable about Building Management Systems (BMS) and other technology solutions to optimize operations and reduce energy consumption.

Emergency Preparedness: Being prepared for emergencies, whether natural disasters or security incidents, is a critical competency. Facility managers should have plans in place to ensure the safety of occupants and the preservation of assets.

Adaptability and Problem Solving: Facility managers often encounter unexpected challenges. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and think critically to solve problems is a valuable competency.

Customer Service: Facility managers must cater to the needs and concerns of occupants and staff. Excellent customer service skills help build positive relationships and ensure satisfaction.

Data Analysis and Reporting: Analyzing facility data, such as energy usage and maintenance records, is essential for making informed decisions. Facility managers should be proficient in data analysis and reporting.

Leadership and Team Management: In larger facilities, facility managers may lead a team of professionals. Leadership skills are vital for directing and motivating staff.

Continuous Learning and Professional Development: The field of facility management is constantly evolving. Facility managers should invest in ongoing education and stay current with industry trends and best practices.

Facility Management Associations 

Various professional organizations, such as the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM), GlobalFM, Association of facilities management practitioners, Nigeria (AFMPN) etc provide resources, certifications, networking opportunities, common framework for facility management professionals and organizations.

These associations serve as foundations for professional development and training for facility management professionals.

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