When I think of a building being future proof I consider this to be the operational cost of the building into the future. It is a well-established fact that a very low percentage of the total cost of the built environment is incurred during the construction phase, with a much greater percentage being consumed by the on-going maintenance, management and operational costs. Therefore, for a building to be future proof it has to remain competitive, and in order to remain competitive the cost of ownership has to be considered. The cost of ownership includes the life cycle of MEP assets, 'maintainability’, and sustainability including reduced waste created and energy consumed by a building.
I’m a firm believer that ‘value engineering’ completed at the design stage can lead to better overall quality and improved ‘maintainability’ being achieved over a building’s entire life span. From a facilities management point of view, we have seen some remarkable building designs created throughout the world that have led to some near impossible maintenance dilemmas. Ultimately these issues were resolved through costly retrofits after building handover. A key recommendation to architects and construction managers at the design stage is to ensure that equipment is easily accessible and maintainable as this will ultimately ensure that the building can be cost effectively maintained in an efficient and safe manner.
A collaborative approach
The norm, particularly here in the Gulf region is not to involve facilities managers (FM) at the design phase, which is something I’m keen to see reversed. We are starting to see a shift in this, with some of the more established property developers now involving FM teams both internally and occasionally externally in the design and build phases of major schemes. In addition, a welcome change is that FM providers are increasingly being involved in the handover from build to operate stage. This is especially important to ensure the smooth opening of facilities avoiding unnecessary delay or inconvenience to end-users.
I would sight the popularity of Design Build, Finance, Operate (DBFO) models in some western countries as being a key trigger for the true integration of the various building development phases in the Middle East. DBFO models work where one party takes responsibility for the long-term operation of a facility through schemes such as PPP. If this was to occur in the Middle East, it could start a trend for all stakeholders to take an interest in the entire life cycle issues of a building. Experience from overseas has shown that this approach produced a cultural shift amongst industry stakeholders and resulted in a greater desire to engage and understand the entire life cycle issues of buildings with many positive lessons being learnt.
The lack of technological integration is another issue to be resolved. One solution is the greater use of Building Information Modelling (BIM). A BIM system that is correctly specified, deployed and maintained throughout the life cycle of the design, build and operate model phase can integrate most elements of the building and act as a key enabler for cooperation. This approach requires all stakeholders to come together to specify the core requirements of the BIM system to be used so that everybody can benefit in the long run. BIM systems can help to identify clashes of services during the construction phase and assist with BOQ creation. During construction, BIM systems can support team briefings and visualisations of critical build stages or complex layouts. BIM’s can be directly linked to Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) software to ensure that asset data is consistent and maintained, supporting asset life cycle analysis amongst other things.
Ultimately the integration of the design, build, finance and operate phases are a matter that all industry stakeholders should be working harder on. It’s all about creating a better building and more efficient operation in the long run. All of these functions must come together at an early stage to ensure that we continue to create sustainable buildings and great places for end users and residents. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.