Facilities management within the residential market may have many of the same requirements as FM for non-residential buildings, but as the residential team at Knight Frank tell Sara Bean, there are also some unique challenges
Our survey of FMJ readers earlier this year revealed that whatever the sector – healthcare, education or corporate office – respondents’ core concern was achieving compliance to ensure the health and safety of occupants. Arguably nowhere is health and safety more important, as the terrible tragedy of Grenfell showed, than in a multi-tenanted residential building, where residents are much more vulnerable because it’s not a place where they work, but where they live and sleep.
Yet FM within a residential setting is relatively low key, with many property agencies offering landlords a range of solutions. This may comprise building managers who are aligned with a site but may have mixed capabilities, or property managers who have overall responsibility for a range of buildings but little or no compliance oversight. This, argues Michael Toogood, Partner and Department Head for Residential Asset Management (RAM) at Knight Frank, could leave potentially dangerous gaps in safety.
“When you have a number of different resident buildings with a number of different onsite staff members, and management structures within those buildings which vary according to individual client needs, you need in my view a facilities manager or facilities management speciality who can bring a commonality of standards to those sites,” he says. “This is why I believe we’ve a superior structure that we’ve developed and invested in over time, with a team of facilities managers who manage a range of buildings and building managers, utilising a fully compliant process.”
Paul Wilson took on the role of Central Portfolio Facilities Manager earlier this year to oversee a large and diverse range of residential properties for Knight Frank’s central London portfolio. He says his primary focus is on health and safety and ensuring a compliant, safe and comfortable environment for residents. Wilson moved into the role from the University of Law, where he was responsible for the London campuses hosting around 2,500 students and encompassing over 100 classrooms and offices across two London sites. “Because facilities management is still quite a new industry,” he says, “it is only now gaining a much higher level of recognition as FM wasn’t even brought into residential before.”
The RAM team at Knight Frank operate in three phases – management consultancy, mobilisation and block and estate management. One issue which most FMs experience today, no matter the sector in which they operate, is being consulted much earlier in the design and build process, and residential FM is no different. The extent to which the facilities manager is involved in the first two stages depends on the developers, says Toogood, who believes it should happen more during the first phase.
“The ideal client would come to the team at an early stage once planning consent had been achieved and the marketing has started for the residential units. We would prefer if FMs were to help at the planning stage to consult on how the facilities will operate, which would also help with budgeting, such as the cleaning and maintenance costs.”
For instance, one complex was potentially being marketed with a three-metre indoor swimming pool, but the RAM team advised that the costs of providing lifeguards to man it for 14 hours a day would make it untenable in terms of the service charge. Reducing the depth to a 1.4 metre pool made a huge difference in how it was managed and service charge costs were contained.
In another scenario, ponds were installed underneath the windows on the ground floor of a multistorey building, meaning the window cleaner’s cherry pickers couldn’t operate properly. Says Wilson: “There is often not enough joined-up thinking between an architect and the FM, as the architect has their vision but doesn’t consider the practicalities, and the FM comes in at a later stage and has to explain why you can’t do that. This is why FMs are playing catch up a lot of the time, and is just further proof as to why FMs need to be there at the beginning of design and build to give our expert guidance.”