Facility Management Report: Industry demands FM professionals - Dec 2016

By Darius Helm

Despite challenging conditions, facility managers have stayed focused on a new global partnership and a range of initiatives that are elevating the profession’s profile, creating new standards, unifying the field and enhancing the professionalism of facility management work.

The Great Recession had widespread impacts on the commercial market, as budgets were cut and services tailed back, and for facility managers it has meant maintaining operations with fewer resources. That has led to a lot of deferred maintenance, and now that the economy has stabilized and most businesses are no longer in critical condition, it’s up to facility managers to play catch up.

That’s tough on facility managers, but it should help sustain demand for flooring products for the next few years, as aging flooring installations are replaced and different flooring types with lower maintenance profiles and longer lifecycles are specified.

Mind you, facility managers are always playing catch up, as buildings and businesses evolve and expand. While it’s common knowledge that facility managers are among the busiest and most harried professionals in the commercial built environment, what’s less known is that, despite the demands placed on them, they somehow find the time to not only manage the big picture but also to follow key trends, new technologies and myriad details, from carpet fiber types and sustainability attributes to building information modeling (BIM) and evidence based design.

In the U.S., there are currently no hard numbers on facility management (FM) professionals, for a surprising reason: the U.S. Department of Labor has never listed FM occupations. Everyone from floral designers to substitute teachers to computer user support specialists have SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) codes, but apparently it’s taken this long for the Department of Labor to get its arms around the concept of facility management.

The good news is that SOC codes are on the way. They’re still in the public comment phase and are slated for formal inclusion in 2018. It’s likely that there are several hundred thousand FM professionals in the U.S., managing millions of buildings.

The Department of Labor’s long-overdue classification of facility managers exemplifies the difficulty in fully understanding the domain of FM. Part of the problem is that it is an occupation that evolved organically from a foundation of commercial building maintenance into something exponentially more complex and wide-ranging—as buildings have grown more complex and businesses have grown beyond single buildings, most everything relating to those developments were added onto FM responsibilities.

The domain of facility management is best expressed in the 11 core competencies of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), which are assessed in its Certified Facility Manager exam: communications; quality; technology; operations & maintenance; human factors; finance & business; emergency planning & business continuity; leadership & strategy; real estate & property development; project management; and environmental stewardship & sustainability.

So facility managers really don’t manage commercial buildings anymore; rather, they manage commercial ecosystems. It’s no longer just about building systems and materials. Data analytics, for instance, are central to the FM role, but most significantly, the emphasis has shifted toward the people who work in their spaces and their wide-ranging needs.

Another major group for facility managers is BOMA, the Building Owners and Managers Association International, originally founded in 1907. Its members comprise building owners, managers, developers, leasing professionals, facility managers, asset managers and product and service providers.

In the past, Floor Focus has conducted facility manager surveys to keep up to date with how the industry is evolving, but this year we chose to conduct qualitative interviews with a range of FM professionals (see box top right). And it’s worth noting that every one of them has a degree in either interior design or architecture. Some worked in their chosen fields for years before transitioning into facility management, while others went into the field straight out of university.

The McMorrow Reports for Facilities Management has been closely tracking the FM industry since 2004, led by Eileen McMorrow, an industry expert and former editor of Facilities Design & Management magazine. She is also the director of the annual Best of NeoCon competition.

McMorrow breaks out the FM industry into three categories—corporate, healthcare, and government and education—which it serves with website and newsletters. Content includes everything from news and features to trends reports and proprietary research.

According to McMorrow, the biggest sector for facility managers is corporate, where giant firms operate multiple campuses across the country, responsible for millions of square feet. McMorrow tracks the different structures and priorities of FM in those market segments. Education and government, for instance, are driven by public funding, while corporate is privately funded. And healthcare is unique in part because of the specialized needs of medical spaces.

For this article, Floor Focus conducted interviews with several FM professionals working at a range of institutions, from healthcare and higher education to corporate. Some spoke on the record but many chose to talk confidentially, because they work at major companies and schools with rigid communications regulations. However, they had a lot to say and were eager to find a forum to discuss their opinions and observations.

Facility managers were interviewed from three Fortune 500 firms, as well as a global leader in business software, a high profile engineering firm, two major universities, a leading supplier of technology to the military and a teaching hospital. In addition, we conducted interviews with two A&D firms focused on serving FM, along with an FM consulting firm.

Facility management may have originated in physical functions, like repairing roofs, replacing floors, selecting furniture and maintaining heating and plumbing, but these days many of the responsibilities revolve around parsing and distilling data.

According to Jim Whittaker, president and CEO of Facility Engineering Associates and former chair of IFMA’s board of directors, people outside of the profession don’t realize the central role that data plays in FM responsibilities. He adds, “While two decades ago there wasn’t any data, now it’s almost the opposite, with a whole bunch of data from a range of tools.”

Whittaker also points out that there’s not much in the way of data standards or governance. There’s a lot of data surrounding high performance buildings, but tools are needed to measure that performance. That’s where systems like BIM come in. The concept of virtual representations of building components and their characteristics arose in the 1970s and developed hand in hand with the digital evolution. Today’s BIM systems are virtual buildings in the truest sense of the word, multi-dimensional models of build environments whose components go through functional lifecycles and interact with every other component in perfect synchrony with the real thing. So that’s something else facility managers have had to master.

Another is environmental sustainability. Some people might be surprised to discover that, despite how over-extended they are, facility managers are generally focused on and passionate about sustainability. Part of this is due to their culture. So many FM professionals are schooled in architecture and design, and it’s that very A&D community that has been so central to the development of green products and practices. Also, their expertise in systems management and data analysis lends itself to the multi-faceted interactive nature of large-scale sustainability programs.

According to Dave Irvin, associate vice chancellor for facilities at the University of Tennessee, “Lifecycle costs have always been a concern for facility managers, but in the past it was harder to make the case.” FM professionals have a fundamental understanding of lifecycle costs, so the development of sustainability practices has served to bolster their operating philosophies. But what’s interesting is that most of the facility managers we spoke with have a much more pragmatic approach to sustainability than their A&D colleagues, regularly eschewing LEED certifications while at the same time building to those standards.

This is largely because of cost, a fundamental dimension in every facility manager’s philosophy. Many FM professionals, and indeed many stakeholders throughout the commercial market, are unwilling to pay the high cost of LEED certification. It’s simply not worth it to them, and they value the green accomplishments more than the certifications.

An FM professional at a teaching hospital reports that sustainability, while essential, is often not pursued in a formal way. “We don’t go for the certifications,” she says, “but the choices we make are based on the same principles.”

Later generations may well look back at the students of the early 21st century as central players in the march toward sustainability. Not only do they impact sustainable development through their educational focus and their more thoughtful consumption and spending strategies, but they also directly impact the environments in which they live.

At the University of Tennessee, for instance, a student vote established the Green Fee in 2005 to provide funds for generating ideas (from students, faculty and staff) for green projects, and it has led to a range of programs that have lowered the university’s environmental footprint, including the purchase of electric vehicles and leveraging local utilities for renewable energy. In fact, 42% of the school’s energy comes from renewable sources, and it has a 25% waste diversion rate. And nearly 20% of its students take courses relating to sustainability.

Also, as growing bodies of data confirm that students increasingly weigh a university’s sustainability progress when choosing schools, it’s becoming increasingly important for institutes of higher education, already competing aggressively for the best students, to focus their efforts on creating greener campuses.

The evolution of commercial spaces has also enhanced the role of facility managers. Corporate workplaces have changed substantially in the last couple of decades, going from cubicles to more open and collaborative environments, and more recently the industry has seen the development of retreats and quiet spaces to counterbalance the high-energy, interactive work spaces.

When it comes to healthcare, the entire concept is being retooled. Obsolete facilities are being torn down or renovated, obsolete technologies are being replaced and evidence-based design is leading to new healthcare models that are driving total redesigns of healthcare institutions.

In higher education, study spaces have evolved, mixed-use spaces have arrived in many forms, and architecture and design is generally growing more sophisticated, as schools compete for the next generation of thinkers, leaders and entrepreneurs. Another trend in education is increased brand visibility. School colors are interwoven into interior decors, with custom colors in carpet, logos waterjet cut into resilient flooring, and school mascots, crests and mottos emblazoning the walls.

Another trend cutting across all commercial sectors, though particularly in the office market, is wellness. It’s a new phase in sustainability centered on ensuring that buildings and all their components are designed to maximize the comfort and well being of those that use the space. It’s the latest iteration of “a happy worker is a productive worker,” but its borders are not clearly defined, and it’s not yet clear if human wellness can be efficiently categorized and quantified to build effective models for the commercial market.

From a project management standpoint, keeping up with these dynamic trends can be hugely stressful. Businesses want the next best thing, and it’s up to facility managers to deliver it, but enacting those changes means navigating between the needs and desires of a range of stakeholders.

The need to work with increasing numbers of stakeholders has defined the evolution of facility management. Twenty years ago, a facility manager’s meeting would consist of a handful of entities, like department heads and contractors. Now it’s a range of different groups, from human resources, transition services and safety to grounds people, sustainability teams and IT departments. FM professionals need to be cognizant of everyone’s needs and adept at navigating through all the red tape, so they can get past the decision-making to the actual process of managing the facilities.

When it comes to flooring, lifecycle costs figure high in FM calculations. After all, it’s their job to maintain the flooring and make it last as long as possible, so running costs are a high priority. Kim Hong, interior design director at Granum A/I, an architectural interior design branding firm, points out that the lifespan of a product and the reality of how often it can be maintained is central to deciding what type of materials to consider, adding that “limited budgets prevent facility managers from performing the high level of maintenance they used to provide.”

Many facility managers are loyal to specific manufacturers because it takes a lot of guesswork out of the equation. But with their A&D backgrounds, they also tend to be curious about the next best thing and how it might solve a problem or lower costs, so many go out of their way to stay informed.

Furthermore, there are design trends to consider. Whether or not a flooring product has performed well after a decade of use becomes moot if it’s so dated that it reflects poorly on the company—and that’s not something that companies can afford these days. So facility managers need to be flexible enough to accommodate these trends.

One product whose fortunes have changed with facility managers is VCT. It used to be a fairly common choice for high traffic areas because it’s durable and cheap. But it has a higher maintenance profile than any other type of flooring, and beyond the maintenance costs is the down time. Some institutions, like hospitals, can’t afford to close off corridors for frequent buffing and polishing. These days, LVT is commonly specified over VCT by facility managers. In hospitals, sheet vinyl is the flooring solution of choice for sterile applications. Rubber and linoleum are also strong in healthcare, and in both cases part of the appeal is their long lifecycles, since healthcare facilities often don’t renovate for 15 to 20 years. One facility manager said the only place he uses VCT is in closets.

LVT styling has also helped the category grow. And thicker wearlayers have helped convince facility managers that the product installations will succeed in some of the tougher commercial environments.

Down time is an issue on the carpet side too. That’s one of the reasons why carpet tile has taken over most spaces from broadloom, whose adhesive systems slow the process and limit the efficient use of space. It’s a lot easier to replace a tile than an entire floor, and cutting-edge carpet tile installation systems are generally ready for use almost immediately after the install. Many facility managers keep an attic stock of product that they regularly use to replace damaged or worn tiles. And of course it’s much easier to transport carpet tile; you don’t need freight elevators or wide clearances as you do for broadloom. That reason alone limits broadloom installations beyond the ground floor.

A facility manager from a major business software firm reports that she almost exclusively uses carpet tile, not so much because of the ability to swap out tiles, but because of design. The versatility of installation options alone makes carpet tile more suited to current design trends.

Broadloom still has a place, particularly in boardrooms and executive offices, and some facility managers report that they’re increasingly using broadloom in custom cut rug applications, particularly in the corporate sector.

Facility managers are also drawn to the green story of carpet tile. The carpet tile producer most frequently cited by facility managers is Interface, thanks to both its green story and its progressive styling. Many also cited Shaw Contract. Other brands mentioned include Patcraft, J+J Flooring, Tarkett (Tandus Centiva), Bentley, Mohawk and Milliken.

On the hard surface side, facility managers pull from a wider range of producers. While giants like Armstrong, Mannington and Tarkett figure heavily, many facility managers report that they are increasingly using hard surface products from Shaw and Mohawk as well. Roppe was also named as a favorite producer. But they don’t rely solely on U.S. producers. They’ll look to smaller firms like Upofloor for non-PVC resilient flooring and Asian producers like Tajima for LVT planks. They’re looking not just at style and low-maintenance profiles, but they’re also looking at cost, and when it comes to LVT, that often means imports.

Within the flooring industry, the lack of skilled flooring installers is a leading issue, and for facility managers it can be a real impediment to the smooth running of their operations—and they face this issue with a range of craftsmen, not just flooring installers. Many have established relationships with commercial flooring contractors, but even in those cases it can be a struggle, since most contractors are having trouble fielding big enough teams. And some contract dealers don’t want to get involved in projects where they do installation only—they want to do the whole thing, and that means selling the product as well.

With labor so tight, increases in refurbishments only make the problem more severe, accentuating the bottleneck. And that’s what’s been happening with the issues of deferred maintenance. Many facility managers were forced to lengthen maintenance and product replacement cycles to meet the tighter budgets during the recession—one facility manager, for instance, had to eliminate the bi-annual steam cleaning of carpets—and now the cost of that deferred maintenance has arrived in the form of a wave of demand. In terms of flooring, time has run out on a lot of product in the commercial arena. Some flooring installations have exceeded their average lifecycles, and others have come due early, having uglied out through insufficient cleaning and maintenance.

Even as facility managers are undertaking major rehabilitations of their built environments, they are reassessing the materials they use, focusing not only on lower maintenance products but also on longer lifecycles. That means, for instance, a lot more LVT replacing VCT.

The prominence of the deferred maintenance issue has helped educate a lot of stakeholders about lifecycle costs, according to University of Tennessee’s Irvin, and in response presidents and boards have been more willing to support facility managers regarding long-term decisions.

“Facility managers didn’t always do a great job of communicating the issues of lifecycle costs and deferred maintenance,” Irvin adds. “And now that’s what’s changed.”

Clear communication between the various entities has been a growing problem for facility managers as more people have joined them at the table. In many ways, the different stakeholders speak different languages when it comes to their needs, their understanding of each other’s roles and capabilities, and even their role in influencing decisions. But the silver lining with challenging conditions is that they tend to be educational, and there’s reason to believe that communications are improving, hopefully in a lasting way.

The collaboration between IFMA and RICS (the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors), announced six months ago, represents a milestone in the global facility management industry with its goals of creating a “gold standard for workplace strategy expertise, education and practice,” according to IFMA, and unifying FM professionals across the globe through shared strategic resources and industry support.

According to RICS CEO Sean Tompkins, “Whilst there is growing market demand for facility management skills around the world, currently there is a shortage of professionally qualified practitioners equipped to deliver this service. Our collaboration will establish a clearly defined, single-career pathway, which will see FM practitioners acquire the leading skills they need to become recognized as preeminent professionals.”

The collaboration’s goals include bringing together the FM community through the sharing of knowledge, using RICS qualifications and IFMA credentials to elevate the facility management profession, driving younger generations into the profession, and using best practices and other FM knowledge to create “a more comprehensive picture of the built environment.”

All FM-qualified RICS members will qualify for IFMA member benefits, and IFMA members and credential holders will in turn be able to attain RICS qualifications and benefit from its global network and international standards. RICS accredits 125,000 qualified and trainee professionals.

Another major FM initiative is standards development. IFMA is currently involved in the development of international standards through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). While some regional standards exist, like CEN in Europe, there are no global standards specific to the profession.

IFMA has been working on this initiative with ISO since 2012. Currently, the ISO 41001 management system standard is slated for publication in early 2018. And two guidance standards, ISO 41012 Facility Management Terms and Definitions and ISO 41013 Facility Management – Guidance on Strategic Sourcing and the Development of Agreements, will be published early next year.

And with the introduction of SOC codes for FM professionals also within the next couple of years, further formalizing the role of facility management, it looks like the industry will finally be getting its long overdue recognition.

The International Facility Management Association was originally founded in 1980 by George Graves of Texas Eastern Transmission Corp., David Armstrong of Michigan State University and Charlie Hitch of Manufacturers National Bank of Detroit, and its first meeting was attended by 47 participants, half of whom were association members. For about a year its official name was the National Facility Management Association, changing to IFMA to accommodate its growth in Canadian members.

Now IFMA boasts more than 24,000 members from about 100 countries, including approximately 19,000 U.S. members. Globally, IFMA estimates that there are 25 million FM professionals running a trillion dollar FM industry.

IFMA offers credential programs in three categories: Facility Management Professional, Certified Facility Manager and Sustainable Facility Professional. According to IFMA’s most recent annual report, there are currently 2,746 CFMs, 6,604 FMPs and 673 SFPs, along with 386 RCFMs, which are lifetime credentials through a one-time fee.

About a third of the group’s revenues are generated from its credentialing and education programs. Another third comes from membership dues, and the balance from trade events. World Workplace is held annually in the U.S., most recently in San Diego and next year in Houston. And it also produces World Workplace Asia, World Workplace India and, starting next year, World Workplace Europe.

Earlier this year, IFMA announced a collaboration with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) that IFMA calls the “most significant evolution in the history of facility management.” The goal is to align standards and professional development globally, which will also serve to elevate the profile of facility management.

Copyright 2016 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Mohawk Industries, Tarkett, Roppe, The International Surface Event (TISE), Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Armstrong Flooring, Interface, Mannington Mills