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How We Were and Will Be

15 March 2006

Reviewing two decades of development across the breadth of FM responsibilities could fill volumes.
PFM’s contributors encapsulate the high and low points, and predict much more change to come

In its first two decades facilities management has to grow and mature fast as a discipline, taking on responsibility for areas of activity, technology and the law that have never been faced before. As this review of progress in key areas of FM responsibility shows much of the new legal, technological, safety, environmental and workplace design issues have landed on the desk of the FMs both at home and abroad. As these issues have grown in importance, the FM is also on the front line to protect the organisation’s public reputation, to achieve its corporate social responsibility goals and to attract and retain its staff.

As our expert contributors reveal, there is much more to come. FMs need to grasp the potential of new technologies that will radically change the work activity, where work happens and by whom. In future, FMs need to get ahead of the game, understand the trends and technologies and anticipate to lead rather than just react.

Legal duty
David Sharp, founder and MD of the WorkplaceLaw Group: Compared to 1986, a much higher value is now placed on the quality of working life. Much legislative change has been driven by our membership of the European Union, particularly in employment law and health and safety. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981(‘TUPE’) prevented FM service providers from shedding workers when taking over a new contract. A raft of Employment Acts in the 1980s, culminated in the Employment Rights Act 1996 which set out an employee’s right to a written contract. The European ‘six pack’ of health and safety regulations were introduced in 1993, covering minimum standards for heating, lighting and ventilation at work, workstations, handling heavy or awkward loads, rest breaks and personal protective equipment. This year, employers must tackle stress at work, restrict working time and adopt a more enlightened approach to disability and other forms of discrimination.

The law has moved away from prescription and towards self-regulation. Nowhere has this been felt more strongly than in health and safety, where the process of risk assessment is now firmly established. Prescriptive measures have largely been abandoned, even in fire safety where the employer (or occupier or owner) must now self-assess safety precautions. Self regulation places a tremendous burden on employers to ensure their people are always competent to carry out risk assessments, particularly for fire safety or asbestos where the consequences of error are serious.

Although the Environmental Protection Act came into force in 1990, terms such as ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ were still considered a side issue in the commercial world. Not until the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 did the developed world recognise the need to cut greenhouse gases in order to protect the environment, and not until the Kyoto Summit in December 1997 did European and UK governments began to tackle seriously issues such as minimising packaging waste, reducing landfill, controlling electrical waste and improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

Directors (or ‘controlling minds’ within organisations) are coming under closer scrutiny to prove that they have acted with due care. Penalties for failing in their duty include personal anti social behaviour orders (ASBOs) for environmental offences, right through to imprisonment for manslaughter. Following years of dithering, it is likely that some form of corporate killing offence will make it to the statute books soon. Public interest cases such as the Paddington and Hatfield rail crashes, and the Barrow in Furness legionella trial, have made this a near certainty.

So what of the future? Expect a whole insurance industry to grow around the needs of directors and senior managers whose work involves health and safety responsibilities. The UK is likely to lose its current opt-out on the restriction of working time. Age discrimination will be outlawed soon, and the average age of the FM workforce is likely to rise by 2026.

Future governments will most likely force the building management sector to reduce carbon emissions yet further and manage their operations more efficiently, using less fuel and producing less waste.

Brand value
Paul Hutchinson, joint MD, BDGWorkfutures: If we accept that the 1980’s was the decade of conspicuous consumption and excess then the 1990’s about people and ethics. The way we work evolves continuously but most significantly in the last 20 years due to a number of significant technological, social and economic factors occurring simultaneously.

The commercial property markets began to stutter in the late 80’s and finally crashed in 1989. For the first time in two decades property costs became a key concern for organisations. Efficiency and economy of space came to the fore, this, coupled with major advances in technology and a move to flatter management structures triggered a revolution in the way we worked and regarded the office.

In 1986 the arrival of PCs and mobile phones were laying the foundations for the modern day mobile ‘knowledge workers’. The ‘clock-in, clock out’ mentality and seeing ‘working’ only as being at your desk was being replaced with new appreciation for different workspaces for different working activities. This manifested itself in areas given over to break-out spaces and project rooms, for example.

Laptops, Blackberries and Bluetooth are some of the technological enablers that make workers more accessible without having to set foot in the office. The office today increasingly exists as a physical space to satisfy the human need for social interaction and knowledge-sharing with our work colleagues.

In the last 20 years there has also been a shift in the balance of power from the organisation to the employee. Competitive advantage has to be gained with greater intelligence and creativity and part of this is that workspaces must work harder and smarter. Talent amongst knowledge workers is at a premium and the quest to attract and retain the best people is paramount – increasingly flexible working conditions and stylish workspaces are desirable must haves, which pushes the importance of the right environment to the top of the agenda.

By the mid 80’s task system furniture that had first been introduced in the early 70’s began to be adopted by the majority throughout the eighties. A plethora of new dealerships seizing the opportunity in this seismic shift in workplace furniture fuelled a boom and ergonomic research and technology from NASA was being applied to chair seating leading to the task chair.

Brands rule the consumer world, and over the last 20 years they have increasingly dominated the balance sheet in the business-to-business sector as well. Employees are equal stakeholders in brand building and the working environment plays a vital role internally, to reinforce the brand identity and values. Organisations now realise that this is way beyond having their logo above the reception; it requires a deeper understanding of the culture and behaviours of a company.

Now the complex and unique requirements of organisations and the individuals within them need to be expressed through the design solutions for the working environment.

Global reach
Mike Liddle, MD Business & Facilities LLP: Since the early 1980’s FM has grown in the UK, Germany and Holland mainly fuelled by a series of crippling recessions which bit very hard. Companies were forced to take drastic action to stay afloat by creating greater efficiencies, and FM was one of the areas that excelled. IT improvements enabled FMs and management to much more easily understand ‘What it had’, ‘Where it was’ and ‘How it is performing’. This revealed the actual business needs and costs all the risks to the future business.

There have been several attempts to go Pan European with FM and Real Estate contracts but up until now most of the other EMEA countries have not had the necessary skills available in the FM arena. Real Estate, however generally has this expertise - FM needs to catch up.

Successfully implementing a Pan European change process change is always difficult because, as we all know, there are huge cultural differences all over Europe. Where companies have been successful it has been by understanding and incorporating these differences.

Into the future I see FM marching ahead in places like Spain, France the Near East and Africa. In these countries it should be possible to go straight to where we are now in the UK but significant training will be required not only for FM professionals but also FM providers who traditionally provide M&E services. This will be the most challenging area.

PPP is, I believe, the way forward for most foreign Governments. Among current projects are the building of a series of general hospitals in Madrid, roadways in Norway and Ireland, a teaching hospital in Rome and sports stadia in Iceland. I have had several enquiries recently from Africa and indeed I was invited to lead a workshop in South Africa for the South African Government PPP unit specifically for the various Departments of Health.

PPP is very mature in the UK and there is a great opportunity to take the innovation that has been created here and export with local help to many countries in EMEA.

Healthy Reputation
Paul Foxcroft, MD ems (which was also founded in 1986): As the first full time employee with Environmental Monitoring Services (now EMS) I joined a fledgling industry. Businesses were just waking up to workplace environmental issues following increased publicity of ‘sick building’ syndrome and Legionnaires’ Disease caused by the trend in fully air-conditioned and sealed buildings with poor air and water management. The challenge was then for companies to maintain a healthy environment for their staff, balanced with the need to control costs.

This slow uptake of managed solutions changed when massive media coverage of serious Legionella outbreaks in 1988 and 1989 focused those responsible for managing the workplace. This combined with new Health and Safety legislation produced a crucial sea-change in how the environment was managed. People were being killed by badly managed and poorly maintained buildings, and suddenly the threat of prosecution from non-compliance, the potential damage to reputation and profits raised the profile of the whole issue. Building health moved up the agenda to Director level.

Coupled with these factors, the late 1980’s, early 1990’s also saw an increase in larger, more complex buildings and in the private sector, the advent of the FM. Responsibility moved away from engineering and the emphasis shifted to keeping the building safe and healthy for the occupants rather than just keeping the plant running.

Complete audits of the workplace that enabled FM managers to prove compliance, demonstrate value for money from service providers and promote the facilities function were pioneered by EMS to help meet these new circumstances.

Over the last 10 years the major challenge facing those responsible for managing the workplace have increased with legislation on asbestos, fire safety and disability access. The resulting changes in accountability, responsibility and the focus on corporatemanslaughter has reinforced the trend towards protection and prevention resulting in a wider range of risk assessment, management systems, bespoke training and other solutions.

Looking ahead, I foresee the FM becoming of higher strategic importance as how the workplace is selected and managed becomes critical to overall business performance. Poorly managed buildings can now mean imprisonment and irreparable damage to reputation. Driven by continued new legislation and the inclusion of facilities like gymnasiums in the workplace, the range and type of hazards managers have to deal with are likely to grow and become more significant, and specialist help and advice will be essential to demonstrate competent management.

A whole new generation of employees, stakeholders and customers are demanding issues such as recycling, energy management and sustainability are addressed. Decisions on who people work for, who they buy from and who they invest in will be decided by an organisation’ s social and green credentials.

Energy roller-coaster
Andrew Bray, head of energy services, Johnson Controls: At the time of writing security of energy supplies in Europe - including the UK - is a hot topic and relations between Russia and some former Soviet republics are still delicate. Twenty years ago, security of supply was also an issue in a Britain recovering from a bruising battle over coal, then the backbone of electricity production. The Miner’s Strike had impacts far beyond the energy sector, but in particular it set the scene for the wholesale privatisation and break-up of the nationalised energy supply industries.

So what else has changed? According to Government estimates, we are wasting around 20 per cent of our energy (20 years ago it was just 15 per cent). Security of supply is still an issue, yet controlling demand through effective energy management remains under-valued. The energy supply industry, after being broken up into a number of competing units with generation and distribution kept separate, has recently been undergoing consolidation again. Supply is now in the hands of a few large companies, often foreign-owned.

With the recent sharp hikes in energy prices and the increasingly alarming evidence about climate change, energy management is becoming more of an issue for both the public and private sectors. However, trying to get some companies to produce a year’s worth of energy bills in order to do some basic analysis is like asking for their most closely-guarded commercial secrets. For 15 years large electricity customers had been able to install half-hourly metering systems but inaccurate supplier bills are still far too common.

Although the last 20 years have seen the rise of building management systems in many buildings, why is so much energy still being wasted? One reason is that technology is not always used to best advantage. The key is effective management. Despite two decades of‘roller-coaster’ price changes – resulting from the introduction of competition, the oil crises, the advent of NETA, etc – in real terms energy is still cheaper than 20 years ago.

A number of forward trends are already discernible and these are likely to spell the end of cheap energy. Security of supply and climate change are likely to dominate energy debate for the next few years. When will renewable energy become financially competitive? Should we have a new generation of nuclear stations? How do we reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases enough to avoid catastrophic climate change?

With more energy ministers than sports ministers recently what does this say about the importance energy is receiving in the corridors of power? We really need an energy minister in the Cabinet, with the political muscle to make his or her voice count. If this does not happen, we are unlikely to be adequately prepared for the changes that will have to be made in the next decades.

In the face of increasing energy scarcity (and higher prices) as well as growing demands for environmental stewardship, it makes sense to look carefully at energy use. The European Commission, has echoed the analysis of many governments including our own, and says that existing, cost-effective technology can reduce our energy demand by 20 per cent. We could achieve our Kyoto targets and cut our energy bills at the same time with techniques and equipment that is available now. Surely that makes good business sense?

Enabling FMs
Pam Taylor, marketing director, MASS Systems: The past 20 years FM software has moved from simple spreadsheets, through modular, integrated systems to the enterprisewide web-based solutions of today. The 1980’s brought the first integrated CAD and database systems designed to help FMs with operational tasks, such as space planning and asset tracking. Many of these had their origins in the US and were largely single user systems, often operating on pre-Windows DOS platforms. Some focused on parts of the FM remit - maintenance management for example. The multi-modular, integrated systems emerged with distinct advantage of a single common database. FM systems helped the FM to automate timeconsuming tasks and reduce the need for ‘firefighting’ by enabling a planned approach to the job.

By the mid-nineties, systems were moving to Windows-based technology which brought improved ease of use, helping to de-mystify the CAFM concept and make it more accessible to more people. In the last ten years or so there has been a growing emphasis by suppliers on providing complementary services, such as data transfer and project management, to maximise the successful use of their systems, a factor that has had a major impact on the success rate of today’s installations.

The single most transforming influence on FM technology during the mid to late nineties was undoubtedly the rapid growth of the Internet and corporate intranets leading to enterprise-wide installations. The ability to access information ‘at the touch of a button’ has now revolutionised the way that organisations carry out their business. Reporting has been greatly simplified and transparency increased.

FM software is the enabling tool that provides the manager with the information needed to make the best decisions, whether it be optimising space use, planning moves, running a helpdesk or managing health and safety. Now the emphasis is increasingly on speed of deployment, with COTS (Commercial off the Shelf) systems replacing highly bespoke solutions. Leading software authors have driven this change with many offering ‘roles and processes’ based solutions which focus on workflows rather than functions.

Perhaps the time has come to acknowledge FM as ‘core’ to business success rather than traditional a supporting role. Technology will play a vital part in the workplace of the future. With 20 million Americans now working from home using networks, maybe it’s only a matter of time?

Mobility built in
Tony Leppard, an early pioneer of CAFM, is MD, FMx the company he founded in 1984: I don’t think it is really possible to overstate the differences between the FM industry in the mid-eighties and now – from where we began, to the development and launch of our latest version of CAFM Explorer earlier this year. Back in 1986, development comprised of a main frame derived system called Mini VAX that had 40mb hard disk and would support a maximum of three workstations and a plotter/printer. We were still on DOS – there was no widespread Bill Gates and Windows in those days - AutoCAD hadn’t yet taken off and the PC was being laughed at. Our development team would spend their time working more on porting our software to run on different systems and writing printer and plotter routines, rather than a focus on what the application should deliver.

Customers were wowed by a desk moving across a computer screen. Software costs were £40,000 for a couple of licenses and hardware was twice that price.

We entered the market by providing bureautype services rather than get the customer to face up to the huge capital investment, with our own CAD engine integrated in the database. Most customers used the product for space planning and management, with little or no building maintenance at all.

AutoCAD started dominating the CAD market in 1988 so we and our competitors had to drop our CAD engines and take a step back and link up with a third party product i.e. AutoCAD. This had a profound effect on the market and slowed the progress of delivering true FM systems which are non-graphic led! I think Autodesk confused the market as all CAFM vendors then danced to Autodesk dominance until Bill Gates gave us Windows in 1991. Only then could we work on getting the priorities right for a nongraphic led FM.

A decade ago FM systems started to go from strength to strength and CAD has been used in the right context. CAFM products have evolved in their own right, without a dependence on AutoCAD - and now CAD remains as a small, optional part of CAFM.

Into 2006, and we move from that strength on again into mobility – Blackberry-enablement and the like – reacting to the next generation of market expectation and planning for the future.

On-line to ‘in-line’
Philip Ross, CEO, Cordless Group: The 1980s was the decade where the raised floor appeared along with Ethernet cable. We had an in-tray rather than an in-box. Paper phone message slips were delivered by secretaries in the office and the pager was the ultimate status symbol. Hasn’t life changed beyond recognition? We have come a long way since the birth of the PC and the first word processors that began to enter the office in 1986. Tipex and carbon paper are now dim distant memories. Soon fax machines and telephone systems will go the same way. Information and communications technology (ICT) is disruptive, and now we are at an ‘inflexion point’ – as important as the last phase of rapid change in the 1880s when electricity, the telephone, typewriter and elevator transformed the spaces in which we work.

Technology is now beginning to challenge the purpose of a building. In 1986, bricks and mortar represented the company – its postal address – and to talk to someone you dialled that building or sent a fax to it. Now, with the ‘death of distance’, this no longer holds true. Addressing has become virtual, with email, instant messaging, mobile telephony and call centres changing the rules of location. Tomorrow’s building will not even house the servers that run applications and host data, let alone the vast infrastructure needed for telephone systems, or the array of voids for carrying copper cables.

Over the next 20 years, change will be even more dramatic. Accelerated technological progress in both the developed and developing worlds will have different impacts on economies, work and lifestyles. In Europe, the internet will continue to disrupt established markets, especially in telephony and commerce. It will also become wireless; access to the internet (probably for free) from the palm of your hand at blistering speed, has the potential to transform how we shop, work, enjoy leisure and even date. In a world of cheap, ubiquitous computing devices, connectivity will be taken for granted; the internet will be used by hundreds of millions of people who are today ‘disenfranchised’. Already the first word of English for many in the developing world is ‘Google’. Expect this to challenge the ‘developed world’s’ service/knowledge economy power base.

In computing, user identification will no longer require memorised alphanumeric strings but will move to biometrics, where your retina and finger print will recognise and authenticate you. Robotics will have advanced to an extent that many menial jobs will be undertaken by mechanics, with robot cleaners, security and facilities support staff becoming common place at work. While people will be on-line, buildings will become ‘in-line’; connected, aligned assets for a digital workspace.

Miniature radio tags will begin to track our every move, and if the astonishing market of mobile devices for people seems dominant, the one for machines to connect to other machines will dwarf it by 2025. A future building will allow every asset to be tracked, from a chair to a laptop. Personalisation and automation will be the benefits of this on-line connected world. Loss of privacy and ‘big brother’ will be its negative.

But for the FM, a real time building has substantial opportunities. An ability to manage or sweat the asset, through live occupational data and real time controls, monitors and sensors, brings new levels of accountability and management responsibility. Convergence challenges many of the established rules, and industries and professions need to adapt, notleast FM.

Traditional facilities responsibilities, from office printers, photocopiers and telephone systems through to security, vending, building management systems and fire detection are all under threat as bespoke, separate infrastructure heads towards shared building backbones. And the question that will rise up the agenda is ‘whose backbone is it anyway?’ Which department will manage the shared infrastructure in the ‘intelligent’, connected building of 2025. Is it FM or IT?

No one really knows what the world will be like in 2025. Shanghai will probably be theworld’s no.1 megalopolis. Mass advertising will be dead, everything will be personalised. 2025 will be in the decade of hyper-digital communications, where free messaging travels globally, where people are connected and where the FM could control global, real time, real estate assets that are on-line and in-line.

The organic office?
Oliver Fenwick and Lisa Parrott, research graduates, Department of Physics and Astronomy and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College, London: Some exciting ‘organic’ science that could be in your workplace soon. For most people the term ‘organic’ is a word used by the supermarkets to tell us what did (or didn’t) go into our foods. However, in the world of chemistry the word refers to carbon-based molecules including the ones that make up ‘organic’ matter. Recently a small sub-section of these organic materials has been causing a quiet revolution in the electronics and optoelectronics industries.

Scientists have found that they can be incorporated into electronics, solar cells and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). In most applications these organic materials perform little better than the current materials but they are very easy and cheap to produce ideal for use over large areas. They are also soft like plastic resulting in many novel ways of incorporating electronics and displays into the industrial and office environment.

Some of these applications are with us now. Organic LEDs (OLEDs) have, for example, been used by Philips for a couple of years on some of their electric razors and there is a good chance that your MP3 player will incorporate an OLED display. Others uses are just emerging, such as electronic paper and flexible displays which are among some of the exciting products that will hit the marketplace in the near future.

All of us have experienced workplaces with yellowish dull lighting and the effect it has on our mood. This is because, currently, the most efficient way of lighting large areas is by fluorescent tubes but they lack colour ‘tunability’. However OLEDs are able to offer a more eye-pleasing alternative and are threatening to match or exceed fluorescent tubes in efficiency. The ease of manufacture of OLEDs also means that they are likely to beat their competitors for cost and their colour tunabilty is enabling matching of natural lighting conditions in the workplace.

The OLED light source can be mounted as a large flat panel to give a more uniform brightness to the office than from the current arrangement of a small number of overly bright sources. But the flexibility of the OLED also means that LED lighting could be installed in places where fluorescent tubes cannot – on curved surfaces, for example. They can also be portable - if you want to be visible in a hazardous environment, why not install flexible OLEDs into your clothing rather than relying on reflectors?

The low energy consumption of LEDs also lends them well to bright emergency lighting. With 20 per cent of all electricity being consumed by lighting, innovation in this field is a big step towards meeting internationally agreed energy saving targets. (

Flexible organic solar cells have been in development for some time and are starting to approach the power conversion efficiencies of more traditional solar cells. But their flexibility opens up many possibilities for imaginative installation. Perhaps your blinds or fold-out suncanopy could be made from a flexible organic solar cell. Or you could have power-generating doors and windows. Further in the future, imagine that your product is ‘self-recharging’ through flexible solar cells in the plastic casing! (

Flexible organic electronic circuits are being used to drive new electronic paper - e-paper - products. E-paper is a static but updatable display built onto a flexible plastic sheet. It has now been developed to A4 size. It can be rolled into about a 2cm diameter, making it highly portable. Like black and white printed paper, epaper consists of a number of pixels, except in this case the pixels can be updated to change the text or image on the paper.

The pixels don’t emit light and power is only consumed when the page is ‘turned’. Combined with wireless technology, e-paper could provide up-to-date information to mobile employees at a fraction of the cost, size and power consumption of a PDA. This could have enormous applications in the workplace including:

... Portable document readers used to carry around up to date stock lists or floor plans. Imagine your daily newspaper in a compact device that fits in your pocket but folds out to A4 when you want to read it.

....Intelligent shelf labeling systems to avoid relabeling shelves or crates. An electronic paper label could be updated remotely and cheaply, and it would use almost no power. An e-paper version could be a cheaper and more flexible alternative to currently available LCD-based products.

....Smart card displays could enable pre-payment cards such as Oyster cards for travel in London or cashless vending cards to tell you through an on-card display how much credit was left on it.

....Smart packaging. E-paper could help businesses to clearly display the required information to meet increasing labeling demands. Product packaging could contain vast amounts of information. Customers could scroll through pages on an integrated flexible display and this display could even be incorporated into the wrapping. ( and (

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