New kid on the sustainability block: The facilities manager

Facilities managers are like orchestra conductors, helping buildings to run at optimum efficiency. As the SMART Facilities Management Solutions Exhibition approaches, Eco-Business examines their role and how sustainability can enhance a building’s assets.

singapore skyline
High-rise housing blocks in Singapore. About one-third of the city-state's built environment is certified sustainable under the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark scheme. Image: Pixabay

When it comes to making eco-friendly buildings a reality, hiring the best architects, engineers and landscape artists is no longer enough. You need a good facilities manager.

Like a conductor directs an orchestra, the facilities manager increasingly plays a key role in coordinating and maintaining functions in buildings, keeping them energy-efficient and sustainable. Gone at the days where facility managers are “out of sight, out of mind.” 

As Singapore pushes ahead with its ambitious goal to transform 80 per cent of all buildings into green ones by 2030, developers and tenants are starting to appreciate the importance of facilities management (FM), a field that is increasingly adopting cutting edge technologies to improve energy efficiency.

Last year, then-Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck said that FM is an “increasingly important sector,” as it can help the cost efficiency of buildings.

According to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), the Singapore government agency that certifies green buildings under its Green Mark scheme, 31 per cent of the city-state’s total ground floor area has been declared green, as of last year.

With half of the country’s buildings targeted for greening by 2030, the FM market is set to grow, a trend that is seen across the region. According to Mergers and Markets, the FM market is expected to grow at the highest compound annual growth rate of 14.4 per cent between 2016 and 2021, a boom driven by clients anxious for high-business performance and more efficient business decisions.

A week ahead of the SMART Facilities Management Solutions Exhibition 2017, facilities managers and building owners shared with Eco-Business some key sustainability and business issues top most on their minds.

Most people agree that sustainability is a good thing but few want to be inconvenienced.

Overcoming technological barriers

Today, demand for FM services is driven by the emergence of cloud-based solutions that allow for easy process integration, effective energy utilisation, and real-time tracking with inherent safety and security features.

According to Jean-Baptiste Hazard, business VP for eco business, Schneider Electric, the Internet of Things and the explosion of connected devices is driving a new era for buildings and their managers.

“However, with that, facility managers are now under pressure to deal with an unprecedented number of systems and the ensuing complexity they bring, while there is currently a lack of solutions that can help eliminate that,” he says.

To cope with this, the French company has designed a ‘digital architecture’ to help facility managers make quick decisions based on data delivered by the cyber secure cloud. Predictive analytics have also been used to improve asset management and performance.  

Michael Ng, vice president of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Singapore Chapter, says that FM solutions powered by data analytics are still “lacking in the market.” He hopes the upcoming SMART Facilities Management Solutions Exhibition 2017 could provide facilities managers with opportunities to learn new technologies from key speakers.

Ng says: “Data-driven analytics will give facilities managers an edge in real-time situations, allowing them to attend to it before the breakdown. Firefighting the situation is not a sustainable solution. This is true, especially in the healthcare sector.”

Changing mindsets, making a business case

Beyond the technical know-how and gadgetry of greening a building, changing the mindsets of stakeholders can be difficult too.

Facilities managers at the food and facilities management company, Sodexo, found changing user behaviors the “most challenging” part of the sustainability drive. A Sodexo spokesperson says: “Most people agree that sustainability is a good thing but few want to be inconvenienced. Also, sustainability is a journey. Some users expect to get quick returns for the investments.”

Green technologies and practices must make business sense, says facilities managers. While many Sodexo clients have moved, or are moving, to “zero waste to landfill” policies, initial investment costs is often a deterrent to achieving better energy and water efficiency, says Sodexo.

Developers and tenants may also differ on how important green facilities management practices are. While developers might have a stronger interest in green buildings because of the potentially higher rental income, the same cannot be said for tenants on short-term leases, says FM specialist James Ng, who has spent 20 years in managing buildings.

Ng says that some buildings have kept the traditional switch and resisted the use of sensors, citing high installation and maintenance costs. Disagreeing with them, he argued: “Our cost of labor has increased and utilities have risen, so the cost of sensors are now much cheaper.”  

Ageing buildings also present significant challenges for facilities managers when it comes to achieving energy efficiency.

Philip Goh, IFM Singapore operations director from Jones Lang LaSalle, says that building asset efficiencies degrade with age, increasing the lifecycle cost. Older chiller systems inherited from previous facilities managers may not be as energy-efficient as newer systems, says Michael Ng, adding that revamping these systems depends very much on the capital that building owners and managers are required to pay upfront.

Enhancing assets

To be held on 20 and 21 July at Singapore’s Sands Convention & Exhibition Centre, the 4th edition of SMART Facilities Management Solutions Exhibition seeks to address the growing demand for FM services across Asia, and explore how assets can be enhanced in managed facilities.

How can the layouts, efficiency and facilities of a property be improved so that they are more sustainable, address the changing needs of consumers, and deliver solid returns for investors?

Last year’s SMART Facilities Management Solutions Exhibition

The two-day trade show will feature some 20 exhibitors from three countries and is expected to draw some 1,000 attendees. The organiser of the show, Singapore Press Holdings subsidiary Sphere Exhibits, is supported by key industry players across the region.

Sphere Exhibits Chairman Chua Wee Phong says that professionals and industries need to keep abreast of developments with the advent of the digital economy.

“We are pleased that this trade platform is able to deliver a tailored knowledge-based sharing programme as well as a focused product showcase to help spur the necessary and relevant dialogues for FM professionals in confronting and addressing the challenges ahead of them,” he says.

Facilities managers looking to deepen their FM expertise can attend the 3rd edition of Facilities Management Conference, co-organised with Singapore Institute of Building Limited alongside the trade exhibition.

Here, attendees can get insights on how FM can be transformed through innovation and how assets can effectively be enhanced. They can also network with some 150 delegates expected at the conference.



The fourth edition of SMART Facilities Management Solutions Exhibition and 3rd edition of Facilities Management Conference 2017 aims to provide insights into how facilities management can be transformed through the effective and productive use of resources and smart innovation in an increasingly digitised and urbanised economy.

Organised by Sphere Exhibits, SMART Facilities Management Solutions Expo will be held from 20 to 21 July at Singapore’s Sands Expo and Convention Centre. SMART Facilities Management Conference is organised by the Singapore Institute of Building Limited and Sphere Exhibits, a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings. 
Visitor Pre-Registration and Online registration for delegates is available here 

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