Written by Mike Packham, Partner-in-Charge FM Consultancy, Bernard Williams Associates, July 2006It's no longer enough for facilities managers to ensure the availability of resources to complete the job - they're also required to use those resources in an environmentally-friendly manner. This new focus on sustainability provides facilities managers the opportunity to further demonstrate their skills in a value-for-money context.
Most facilities managers will be familiar with the concept of value-for-money service provision. Traditionally (usually around the time of the annual budgetary cycle) they will have been challenged by the powers that be to either provide more for the same amount of money or to provide the same level of service for less money; if they were really unlucky they might have been asked to do both!
Latterly of course, the whole idea of value for money has achieved a much higher profile. This derives primarily from the series of central government initiatives (Best Value and the like) that have been targeted at improving service delivery in the public sector. This increased focus has in turn led to a plethora of new definitions as to what is meant by value for money. Thus, by way of example, HM Treasury define value for money as: "The optimum combination of whole-life costs and quality (or fitness for purpose) to meet user requirements".
Whereas British Standard EN 12973:2000:Value Management states that: "The concept of value relies on the relationship between the satisfaction of any differing needs and the resources used in doing so." It further comments that: "the fewer resources used or the greater satisfaction of needs, the greater is the value" and thus concludes that: 'Value = Satisfaction of Needs'
Use of Resources
Whilst the terminology used in these two definitions is (not unexpectedly) different, it should be apparent that there are some common theses, namely:
- Satisfaction of needs/user requirements;
- Optimisation of cost over time;
- Efficient use of resources (labour, materials, plant) - again over time.
It is however in the context of the third of the themes identified above - efficient use of resources - that we are seeing the next major challenge for the facilities manager. Resource availability in terms of labour, materials and plant has always been a consideration but now the emphasis has changed. No longer does it suffice just to ensure that sufficient resources are available to complete the job; now the facilities manager is tasked with using those resources in an environmentally-friendly manner. In other words, sustainability has arrived.
As a major consumer of resources it is undoubtedly correct that FM and the built environment for which the facilities manager is responsible should play a major part in the sustainability agenda. The concern is that insufficient consideration is being given to the extent and nature of that involvement and, perhaps more importantly from the facilities manager's perspective, the potential time implications attaching to this. Consider the simple example of a cheese and pickle sandwich available from the staff canteen. In a truly sustainable world the facilities manager would be concerned to know:
- The provenance of the constituent ingredients - were they produced without the use of pesticides, Fair Trade considerations and so on?
- Was the completed product made without undue waste?
- Was the packaging biodegradable; if not, is it recyclable and in this case who separates the cardboard from the cellophane?
- How much energy was used in getting the ingredients to the sandwich 'factory', from there to the staff canteen and in collecting the packaging and taking it to the recycling centre?
The above example is deliberately simplistic. If consideration is then given to all the other aspects of a typical catering function and then broadened out to take into account the other activities that today's facilities manager is typically responsible for - maintenance, cleaning, security, reception, porterage, archiving, reprographics etc. - then the complexity of the challenge that sustainability poses in an FM environment becomes evident.
Given this scenario, it would be easy for the facilities manager to get bogged down in detail at the expense of the bigger picture both in terms of sustainability and, more widely, the whole concept of value for money. To avoid this it is suggested that a value management type approach, suitably modified to take on board sustainability considerations, should be adopted. In simplistic terms such procedures typically espouse a three-stage methodology; thus a sustainability-friendly process might comprise:
- Stage 1: Identification/appraisal - the formal process of identifying a facilities requirement and evaluating the optimum level of quality, cost and sustainability required to deliver a 'best value' solution;
- Stage 2: Implementation - the procurement of the facilities requirement accompanied by strategies for measuring cost, quality and sustainability performance;
- Stage 3: Monitoring - measuring the ongoing performance of the facilities requirement to make sure that changes in circumstances are always detected and reflected in amended cost, quality and sustainability delivery strategies (thereby completion the cyclical nature of the whole process).
- What is the precise objective of the task? Is it simply to make the facilities service more environmentally friendly or is it part of a wider corporate social responsibility initiative? If the latter, then the facilities manager's remit is going to be organisation-wide rather than limited to the organisation's support services.
- What is the timescale? Buildings are typically designed for a 60-year life, but it is a nonsense to try to draw up a plan for this length of time when technological and other changes make it difficult to predict what the organisation will look like in five years.
- Where is the required data to be sourced from? There is undoubtedly data available but it is not always as comprehensive as might be wished. Above all, any data used must be robust if sustainability comparison between different FM regimes is to be meaningful.
Bernard Williams Associates (BWA)
Kings House, 32-40 Widmore Road
Bromley, Kent BR1 1RY
Tel: 020 8460 1111
Fax: 020 8464 1167
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