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Sun 21 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Stairway to heaven

Paul Collett talks to ServeU MD Stephen Barker as to why FMs should be in on the construction ground floor, and about the state of the nation.

Paul Collett talks to ServeU MD Stephen Barker as to why FMs should be in on the construction ground floor, and about the state of the nation.

The phenomenon that is ‘brand Dubai', according to some, masks some unsatisfactory practices and processes in its quest to build faster, bigger, grander.

Facilities management has a key role to play in the sustainable development of the region, but faces some tough challenges ahead.

It's indicative of the impatience of some developers to get projects off the ground and handed over before they're finished.

Barker believes the perception of facilities management is hindering the developement of the construction process as a whole.

"Facilities management is an excepted and expected element of project design in Europe, the US and even parts of Southeast Asia. But here the notion of FM is very much in its infancy, even if the discipline itself is not. I have stated in previous commentary that our industry needs to educate its clients as to its importance at all stages of the design process."

The notion of facilities management, says Barker, to some developers and companies is of a secondary, stand alone maintenance provider. This is not helped by the emergence of an increasing number of maintenance companies that have rebranded overnight to resurface as facilities management companies.

"The proliferation of under qualified and performing companies has had a knock on effect with developers, creating a fragmented marketplace. The emergence of the management agent as an entity in the client/provider supply chain highlights the lack of confidence which some developers and clients place in the current FM arena."

In an established commercial environment Barker sees the management agent as a "natural ingredient in the food chain", but cautions that if service providers are not credibly positioned, the process will be cost, rather than value, driven.

"The scenario is increasing at an alarming rate and I feel the regulatory authorities are guilty of a lack of control, and it's certainly not helping the industry's perception in the marketplace."

It is common knowledge that a number of developements have, and continue to be, handed over before completion. "This is indicative of the impatience of some developers to get projects off the ground and handed over with the entire construction process being handled with a fast-track build mindset," says Barker.

"It's short termism, and not sustainable. The opportunity for long term, expensive maintenance costs to be designed out at the design stage through FM design audits is a critical element of ensuring an operationally cost effective building."An internationally accepted rule of thumb estimates that a building that costs 100 million dollars to construct will cost four hundred million to maintain over its 25 year lifecycle. "If as little as five per cent can be saved over that period, then the financial benefit will be 20 million dollars."

It's not just about cost Barker continues, but also about the building's ability to be effective during its lifespan, its negligable impact on the environment and the quality of life it affords its inhabitants.

Workers and residents are also affected by poor quality builds and a lack of regulation. The introduction of Strata Law though is designed to afford them greater protection. Historically developers have paid scant regard to the management and operation of their projects post completion, and the costs involved.

The aim is to balance creativity and flair with best practice. To this end I'd welcome discussions within the industry to stimulate debate and initiate change.

Strata aims to change this through transparency and accountability. But just how the disclosure obligations will impact the pace of current development in Dubai and facilities managers' role in it, is open to debate.

"The legislation is long overdue and can only be positive for home owners, tenants and business users," says Barker. "However, it will cause delays, as developers will be obligated to carry out pre-contract consultancy. Lead times will increase and costs will go up. We may see the role of the facilities manager further marginalised, especially in mid-range accommodation where cost is all."

The aim, for Barker, is to balance creativity and flair with best practice. "To this end I'd welcome open discussions within the industry to stimulate debate and initiate change.

"The industry has to be driven by the recognition that post-build facilities management involvement is not the direction to take. If you look at the discipline in global terms it is a hugely significant element of the design process, because it is recognised that the sustainability of the building is down to input in the preliminary stages."

Dubai is both ancient and infant, impatient to move forward, sometimes unheeding of process and procedure, but brimming with possibilities and vitality that only a new world can bring. But constructive debate and action has to be the way forward if the legacy is to last.

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Hal-Luke Savas 10 years ago

The reason a lot of people are getting confused is because FACILITIES MANAGEMENT (FM) is not readily understood by ordinary business executives but STRATEGIC PROPERTY ASSETS MANAGEMENT (SPAM) is!! Therefore, in my opinion the true title should be SPAM and not FM. I would change the title tomorrow if the British Institute of Facilities Management agreed to it !! I hope they do because we love SPAM!!!! ;-) Hal-Luke Savas MBA FCIM MBIFM ICIOB aff.CIBSE londonmanagement@aol.com