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Constructive criticism

If Britain is going to achieve the aims of the Construction Sector deal then facilities managers MUST be involved in construction projects from the beginning says Mark Coates, Head of Strategic Asset Development at Viewpoint

This October (12th) marked 100 days since the launch of the Government’s flagship Construction Sector Deal, one of just four sector deals launched as part of a new industrial strategy for Britain.

While the construction sector has often called for greater support there has never been a better time in recent history for the Government to provide this assistance. We are on the cusp of a golden age of investment in British infrastructure and construction with a record national infrastructure pipeline of more than £600 billion of spend over the next decade and major construction work across the public and private sector.

Delivering improvements to construction productivity and using modern methods of construction could have a tremendous impact on the national economy, helping to save time and money and enabling funding pots to stretch further so we can develop more assets for our money.

However, in return for handing over more than £420 million to drive the transformation of the construction sector, the Government has set some ambitious targets for the industry to deliver:

  • Better-performing buildings that are constructed more quickly.
  • Developing projects with a whole lifecycle cost approach which take into account the initial capital cost, operational, maintenance, repair, upgrade and eventual disposal costs of a built asset.
  • Building more efficiently to secure a 33 per cent reduction in the cost of construction and whole lifecycle cost of assets.
  • A 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment.

There are a whole host of reasons why facilities managers should be involved in construction projects from the outset in order to help deliver more cost-effective and energy efficient buildings.

  • Life-cycle costs far outweigh the cost of building with non-residential operating costs increasing rapidly – by more than a quarter since 2003.
  • Studies in the United States have shown that annual operating costs can exceed 10 per cent of the original construction expenditure which means that on-going costs can eclipse the price of construction in less than 10 years. And even with more typical average annual costs equating to 4.5 per cent of the build price then on-going operating costs will have surpassed construction costs in just 22 years.
  • It is reported that between 70-85 per cent of building maintenance and operation costs can be influenced during the design stage.
  • Buildings account for around 40 per cent of energy consumption in the UK and 19 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. The adoption of new information management measures, digital and manufacturing technologies will improve project management of construction projects and lead to incorporation of new technologies, such as sensors, smart systems and materials to create smart buildings.
  • Delivering projects which run more efficiently will reduce running costs and curb carbon emissions.

However, despite these significant financial drivers it remains an industry norm that running costs are not viewed with the same scrutiny as construction costs, despite the fact that asset owners face this cost every single year.

As a result, facilities managers are often left out of the design process despite the crucial role they play in managing operating costs, maintenance and whole asset lifecycle costs. The end output of this is that the buildings which are constructed are not as efficient, cost effective and user-friendly to operate and maintain as they should be.

As the Construction Sector deal states a change in mindset to whole life asset performance should move the industry’s emphasis away from the costs of construction to the costs of a building across its entire lifecycle. Achieving better energy efficiency of buildings will also help the Government to achieve its Clean Growth Grand Challenge in the industrial strategy.

BIM and Common Data Environments (CDEs) such as Viewpoint are starting to create a paradigm shift in how we design, construct and manage projects, allowing project teams to develop a true partnership approach between architects, designers, contractors, consultants and owners. These assets also enable project partners to deliver much more comprehensive insight into the true lifecycle cost of assets.

CDEs enable facilities managers to reduce the costs of maintaining and refurbishing buildings by creating a comprehensive record of both individual projects and their entire portfolio of built assets.

Businesses which operate across multiple sites are also able to achieve significant efficiencies by using collaborative software.

By mapping their entire estate on to a collaborative data environment facilities managers are empowered to be involved in a project from the very start, as they can deliver more insight and help critique and improve plans to minimise on-going operating costs and optimise building performance for end users.

The elements of building design that facilities managers should be involved in from the beginning includes but is not limited to:

  • Managing utilities usage including energy and water and emergency power systems.
  • Heating, ventilation and aircon.
  • Transportation, access and circulation through the building.
  • Space management and furniture.
  • Servicing, cleaning, ground maintenance and waste disposal.
  • Communications and control systems.
  • Life-cycle costing and churn.

Using CDEs facilities managers can review and share drawings more quickly and make comments/suggest improvements to new builds, refurbs and extensions of buildings and contribute to the conversation with the data they have from other sites they manage on behalf of the owner.

Working this way can enable facilities managers to share plans with equipment suppliers who know exactly what systems need installing, maintaining or replacing.

In order to improve facility maintainability there is a need for input from facility managers at the project design stage. Involving facility managers in project design will result in designs and material choices that make facilities easy and more cost-effective to operate and maintain creating a better outcome for both the client and most importantly the end-users of the building, who ultimately will vote with their feet to determine the success of a project.

Having facilities managers involved in construction projects at ground zero will help the Government to achieve its objective of delivering better performing buildings more quickly.

About Sarah OBeirne

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