Facilities management must be brought in at the design stage if the building is to remain sustainable. This is the joint message Operon Middle East and RAK Properties will be promoting as they join forces and create a new FM company.
Last month, facilities management Middle East reported on the signing of an MOU to form a new FM company by Operon and RAK Properties. The new company's name is yet to be announced, but this hasn't stopped Stephen Barker, director of OPERON Middle East and Alastair Burns, chief operating officer of RAK Properties, expressing their views on the FM market.
Both Barker and Burns are committed to involving facilities management at the design stage, with the new FM company having an ongoing input into the design and creation of RAK Properties' Mina Al Arab resort that is currently under construction.
"One thing we identified is that we needed to have facilities management on board as we move forward with designs, to try and make the designs as economic and sustainable to management and after-sales service as possible," expresses Burns.
This statement is a refreshing and encouraging change to the usual confused and speechless expressions developers usually give when asked if they have involved facilities management professionals at the design stage.
While involving FMs at design stage is slowly starting to take pace, the many buildings and developments that have been constructed or are currently near completion have not seen this vital input. Because of this, many FM companies and individuals have been and will have, buildings handed over that could well need additional extensive work carried out in order for the FM to manage the building correctly and efficiently.
"Many developers might well know about facilities management, but at what stage they will embrace it is questionable. Do they look at it as being something that is necessary post-construction or not? I think not.
"Developers should be embracing this practice pre-construction, as Operon are doing with the Mina Al Arab development for RAK Properties. Our FM involvement at design stage is a contribution that is critical in creating sustainable and cost-effective buildings and environments. We are working together with their designers to help create buildings which are more economically efficient to operate," states Barker.
Even on an international level, involving FM at the design stage is a debate that has been in the spotlight for some time. And for evolving places such as Dubai and Qatar, the developers have a real chance to embrace the concept and show the international property market just how buildings should be designed, constructed and finally, looked after.
Both developers and facilities managers are looking for the same end result - cost efficiency and cost, savings. Both parties have to balance capital and maintenance costs with budgets. The message both Barker and Burns want to get across to developers is that they must start thinking about the lifecycle costing and not just what will get them through until the building has been handed over.
"Even small details like the possibility of restricting the number of entrances that require the actual physical presence of guards - this can make significant savings. Developers could also look at installing electronic controls that will maybe minimise the human resource element that goes into security," explains Burns.
"In balancing these things, we can provide a more cost effective and sustainable development," adds Barker.
However, adopting this approach is the first phase of a three-tier system that only works if the other parts are effective. The second phase is a smooth and effective hand over to a reputable and knowledgeable FM company and the third one is the availability and supply of products and services the FM company will need in order to maintain and operate the building.
Before the new facilities management company was launched, the FM market in Ras Al Khaimah was extremely basic.
"The market here (Ras Al Khaimah) is very under supplied, it's almost non-existent," says Burns. "There are a number of maintenance companies around but there's no one actually running at a full facilities management level.
"There's a gap in the market to be filled and that gap will grow because there are more large scale developments coming to the area which has not been the case in Ras Al Khaimah to date," he adds.
The current perception of the FM market by many people is that of a basic maintenance company offering soft services such as cleaning and security. However, internationally, facilities management is a strategic profession that encompasses a number of highly specialised technical disciplines - something the Middle Eastern market is still to come to terms with.
By joining forces, Operon and RAK Properties hope their initiative will act as an education catalyst in the booming property development market, in helping to position FM at the forefront. Both companies have declared they see the formation of the new FM company to be a platform from which they can leverage in the future.
"We hope that once it (bringing FM in at the design stage) has been proved to be successful, people will start to see facilities management as a strategic service delivery and not just a maintenance company," says Burns. "It's all about sustainability."
The new joint venture FM company, formed with the objective to deliver full FM services to all of RAK Properties developments, will initially be responsible for the total FM operation and maintenance of the Mina Al Arab project which is scheduled to see its first residents taking possession in 2008.
The development, which includes an eco-resort will place a very critical area of responsibility and focus on the new FM company.
"The facilities management company will be charged with educating the population of the community to be conservation conscious," says Barker.
"The development will recycle its own green waste and waste water will be put back into the irrigation system to be reused," adds Burns.
With the Middle East now starting to become more environmentally conscious, it seems both Operon and RAK Properties will be leading the way in strategic, environmentally sound facilities management.