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The changing face of facilities management and the 3 game-changing trends

Sustainability, procurement and thermal comfort are three of the major trends changing the shape of the facilities management industry, according to Martin A Leitch, principal consultant at FM Scope, who has been involved in shaping Total Facilities expo in Sydney at the end of this month.

Thermal comfort, the challenges of introducing “smart” into buildings, the growing awareness of wellness in the workplace, co-working as a sustainable workplace solution, and how much further the built environment commercial sector needs to go in reducing its environmental impact. These are just some of the latest considerations driving the next generation of facilities and workplaces.

Today’s facilities management, or FM, landscape is all about integrating the built assets of real estate and facilities with technology and other solutions to meet the needs of building owners and occupiers.

Now it’s not only our role as facility managers to ensure the proper operation of all aspects of a building to create a healthy, safe and cost-effective environment, but we are also helping to drive how workspaces are created.

All too often FM gets bogged down with the day-to-day operational demands of the organisation, so it’s important for us as an industry to focus on more of the strategic considerations – particularly with rapidly changing technology and how to integrate these into improving the built environments that we look after.

1. Sustainability needs to be top of mind

Martin Leitch

It is also crucial that we maintain a focus on environmental sustainability within the built environment, ensuring that it is not only top of agendas across our industry but across the whole economy. The knock on impact of ensuring buildings are working effectively cannot be underestimated, particularly across the property development sector.

We are seeing some significant progress on a local level here in Sydney, thanks to the work of Norman Disney & Young sustainability expert Tony Arnel, Good Environmental Choice Australia chief executive Kate Harris, and the University of Sydney’s leading academic in thermal research, Professor Richard de Dear.

They are some of the key influencers contributing to industry changes that are reflected in just two of Sydney’s newest buildings – Australia’s premier convention, exhibition and events precinct, ICC Sydney, and the CBD’s landmark 200 George Street by Mirvac.

200 George recently became the first Australian building to be certified under the WELL Building Standard, a US rating system offering a comprehensive set of criteria that measures indoor environment quality, covering everything from ventilation and lighting through to nourishment and materiality, to improve the wellbeing of workers.

Tony Arnel, NDY’s global director of sustainability, calls initiatives such as WELL “a move in the right direction”.

“[It follows] interest from some of the larger players in the building industry who recognise that the market today now demands more green attributes within office buildings. It also signifies that there’s a clear link between the workplace and productivity, as a bottom line financial situation,” Arnel says.

Sustainability is still way too “middle of the road”

Arnel says the new WELL Building Standard from the International WELL Building Institute enables buildings to be certified with a more holistic approach.

“[However,] there are challenges and currently WELL rating certification is expensive and potentially cost prohibitive, due to the complex nature of the criteria,” he says.

And when it comes to sustainability, Arnel says while minimum standards have helped to mainstream energy, water and waste saving initiatives, Australia’s achievements in sustainability is “middle of the road”.

2. Sustainable procurement

Good Environmental Choice Australia CEO Kate Harris sees similar challenges across the industry in her work providing professionals and consumers with the resources to find products that are a better environmental, social and healthier choice.

“It is a critical time to be driving environmental choice across Australia as sustainability becomes an expected part of business delivery,” Harris says.

As CEO of Australia’s only independent, not-for-profit, multi-sector eco-labelling program and the only Australian member of the Global Ecolabelling Network, Harris is working closely with the International Organisation for Standardisation on its soon to be released ISO 20000-400 sustainable procurement guideline, designed to optimise sustainable goals for business and buildings.

“Everyone struggles to find sustainable products and services across cleaning, waste management and recycling sectors,” she explains.

“This is why a new international guideline is needed. Strong recommendations are being made around labelling of products which can help with risk mitigation and best practice. This will ensure Australia is playing its part in ensuring sustainable outcomes for people and planet.”

3. Thermal comfort (and what’s Laura Palmer got to do with it?)

Professor Richard de Dear, director of Sydney University’s Indoor Environmental Quality Lab, has focused his recent research on defining what occupants want and need from their built environments, and assessing the performance of buildings in terms of meeting those requirements.

His latest study features his adaptive model of thermal comfort in naturally ventilated buildings.

“Searching for thermal pleasure may not make the priority list for employers or staff, but an optimal thermal temperature in an office has transformative potential in terms of wellbeing and productivity,” Professor de Dear says.

“Research findings on air movement enhancement informs recommendations for air conditioned and naturally ventilated buildings.”

Professor de Dear is often accompanied by the aptly named “Laura Palmer”, a life-sized mannequin that is instrumental to Professor de Dear’s work. Laura provides assistance to the rigorous scientific methods that measure thermal comfort.

She is invaluable to ongoing investigations into improving the quality of internal environments in buildings where people spend over 90 per cent of their day-to-day lives.

Improving internal environments is a key driver for today’s facilities managers, along with a focus on finding real solutions to operational challenges, which in turn contributes to driving business performance.

Movers and shakers of our industry are helping our people to keep up to date with the latest innovative products and services, offering forward-thinking strategies to optimise facility and workplace performance with key considerations for continued environmental sustainability.

Martin A Leitch FBIFM MRICS is principal consultant, FM Scope. He is a consultant to the Total Facilities expo at ICC Sydney from 29-30 March. Professor de Dear, Tony Arnel and Kate Harris will deliver keynote presentations on the topics outlined above at the event.

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