Facilities managers are the unsung heroes of the built environment. They are the people responsible for keeping buildings and facilities running smoothly, efficiently, and safely. Despite the importance of their work, many people are unfamiliar with what facilities managers do and why their job is so essential. This article will explore the importance of facilities managers in commercial facilities, the current challenges they face, and why they are essential for growth.

What do facilities managers do?

At its core, the job of a facilities manager is to ensure that a building or facility is safe, comfortable, and functional for its occupants. According to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), 80% of facility management professionals are responsible for managing maintenance and operations.  This includes everything from maintaining the HVAC system and ensuring proper lighting to managing the security and fire protection systems. Facilities managers also oversee routine maintenance tasks, such as cleaning, landscaping, and repairs, and they are responsible for ensuring that any upgrades or renovations are completed on time and on budget.

Managing ESG directives

One of the key reasons why facilities managers are so important is that they are often responsible for creating, implementing, and maintaining ESG directives in their facilities. This includes everything from creating safe working environments to ensuring a building or facility is energy efficient. A facility manager is therefore responsible for making sure ensuring all entry points are secured and optimizing the use of natural light to reducing water usage and implementing energy-efficient HVAC systems. By implementing these strategies, facilities managers can not only reduce operating costs but also reduce the environmental impact of the building or facility.

Building and managing budgets

Another reason why facilities managers are so important is that they are responsible for managing the budget for a building or facility. This involves not only ensuring that routine maintenance tasks are completed on time and on budget but also overseeing any major upgrades or renovations. Facilities managers must balance the need to keep the building or facility running smoothly with the need to manage costs effectively. This can be a challenging task, but with the right strategies in place—such as using preventative and predictive maintenance to preserve capital expenditure funds—facilities managers can help ensure that the building or facility is operating at peak efficiency while also managing costs effectively.

Creating optimal spaces for customers and employees

Perhaps most importantly, facilities managers are essential because they are responsible for ensuring that a building or facility meets the needs of its occupants. This includes everything from ensuring that the lighting is appropriate for the work being done to managing the space and layout of the building to ensure that it is conducive to productivity. Facilities managers must be able to anticipate the needs of their occupants and be proactive in addressing any issues that arise.

Understanding current challenges

A survey conducted by Building Operating Management found that 50% of facility managers reported being understaffed and 55% of facility managers reported that maintenance budgets were either being reduced or staying the same. This is a major concern for facility managers, as it can limit their ability to maintain and repair buildings, equipment, and infrastructure. This, in turn, can lead to a decline in the overall quality of facilities and the services they provide. As budgets are reduced, facility managers may have to make difficult decisions about which maintenance tasks to prioritize and which to postpone, potentially putting the safety and well-being of building occupants at risk.

This can subsequently have dramatically negative consequences for property owners: The cost of deferred maintenance in commercial buildings can be significant, with an estimated 30 cents of every deferred maintenance dollar resulting in additional expenses later on, according to a report by the National Institute of Building Sciences. In a separate study by CBRE, unplanned maintenance costs are the leading source of operational expenditure in commercial real estate, accounting for 42% of total costs. The same CBRE survey found that 70% of property managers believe that the cost of maintenance will increase in the coming years.

This highlights the importance of facilities managers in finding innovative ways to reduce costs while still maintaining the building's safety and efficiency. Short-term thinking is not only squeezing facilities managers’ ability to operate but also negatively impacting long-term operational health. Facilities managers must be able to identify cost-saving opportunities while still ensuring that the building is maintained to a high standard.

Tapping facilities managers for future growth

With the rapid advancement of technology and the increasing emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency, facilities managers are needed more than ever to keep up with these changes and ensure that buildings are equipped with the latest technology and infrastructure to remain competitive and meet the needs of their occupants.

And this need is only accelerating. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global facilities management market size is expected to reach $2.42 trillion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 6.7% from 2020 to 2027 with the average cost per square foot for maintaining a commercial property around $2.28, according to a survey by BOMA International. Over the next few years, maintaining properties while trying to meet ESG directives will only further burden budgets and operations.

In addition, facilities managers are responsible for ensuring that the facility complies with local and federal regulations, providing a safe and healthy environment for occupants, and managing costs to ensure financial sustainability. They are essential for the future growth of commercial facilities, as they are the key to ensuring that buildings are well-maintained, efficient, and adaptable to changing needs and technologies.

There is a key strategy in using facilities managers to ensure future growth: moving from reactive to preventative and predictive maintenance mindsets. Consider that 60% of maintenance work orders in commercial facilities are reactive, meaning they are not done in advance, with an average cost of a work order around $1,100 (study by Falls Management Institute). Shifting to preventative and predictive models can see substantial savings. A study by the IFMA found that implementing a preventive maintenance program can reduce maintenance costs by up to 18% and increase asset life by up to 33%. Investing in facilities managers and a robust facilities maintenance program can realize cost savings and stability over time, allowing for return investment into operations and the business.

Meeting the moment and ensuring success

Facilities managers are essential to the success of any commercial building or facility. While their work may go unnoticed by many, the importance of their role cannot be overstated. They are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe and comfortable working environment, managing the budget, and ensuring that the building or facility meets the needs of its occupants. Without facilities managers, buildings and facilities would not be able to function efficiently or safely, and businesses would suffer as a result. It is crucial that we recognize the importance of their work and support them in their efforts to keep our built environment running smoothly.

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