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Changing Needs and Covid-19 Driving Facility Management Companies to Raise Their Game

Chee Kit Ho • 15/10/2020

Singapore’s Building Construction Authority set up the tripartite Facilities Management (FM) Implementation Committee in April 2018 to develop a blueprint for FM companies to enhance Smart FM service delivery. The committee, comprising building owners, FM service providers, trade associations and chambers pivot to technology as an enabler. 

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of technological adoption across the built environment, and especially within facilities management. 

Facility management (FM) professionals are taking the opportunity to re-look at space usage, advising asset owners and users on the most effective use of building space to meet changing demands of the workforce and improve asset monitoring and performance. It is tempting to think that with more employees going back to the office, the office experience will revert to business-as-usual pre Covid-19 conditions.  

Nothing is further from the truth. Employees are now more sensitive to the quality of the user experience; first off, they want the assurance that their safety and health is assured the moment they step into the office building, ride the lift up to their office, move around for the next eight hours within the office to the point that they leave the office. Facility managers (FMs) are therefore faced with the challenge to move from managing operations to managing the workplace user experience.

Proptech 2.0

The idea of proptech increasing the efficiency of buildings has taken on a new meaning with Covid-19. This virus has been a catalyst for technological adoption across the built environment, particularly within facilities management. FM professionals are taking the opportunity to reconsider the use of space, advising asset owners and users on the most effective use of buildings to meet changing demands of workforces, and improve asset monitoring and performance. There is no better time than now as corporate occupiers begin to test their agility models with more employees returning to the office, taking into account the processes which have been re-engineered during the circuit breaker into Phase 2 and the new technologies that have been used to re-build business processes.

Smart Buildings, with IoT and AI-enhanced facilities, can positively impact productivity for occupants and the perceived property value for the benefit of owners but it is important to start with the end in mind. The built environment exists for the end user so customer satisfaction is ultimately the goal. In this regard, there are countless technology solutions being tested to help improve the customer experience – apps to book desks where users can immediately give feedback about their experience, log issues they face as they use the space so that they can be served on demand, rather than served based on a strict adherence to a maintenance schedule. The same app to book a desk can also be used to order a cup of coffee, select a time to collect their dry clean, search for F&B options around the area – consolidating all these data over time will give building owners valuable information about the types of services their customers are looking for and will play a key role in shaping the kind of retail brands they should be looking to fill the space at their building. 

Big data in action

Within the office, the same sensors that are being used to track availability of desks can potentially be analysed further to track occupancy patterns during the day, during the week and during the year. This will enable building owners and facility managers to make predictions about vacancy rates in the medium to long term and respond accordingly. The same applications that log customer feedback will, over time, also enable facility managers to anticipate problem spots and rectify them ahead of a problem presenting itself. In a nutshell, access to real-time data-driven insights facilitates predictive management of facilities and the net result is that the building occupier’s experience is  seamless.

Technologies that enhance connectivity and unified management also enable workplaces that perform better, scale faster and deliver an interactive experience for customers. FM companies who amalgamate these data from portfolio of buildings they manage are also well positioned to optimise their operations to deploy mobile technicians as and when there are trouble spots. What is taking the industry by storm is the emergence of The Virtual Technician who scans wide portfolios of individual buildings, bundled by assets – industrial, commercial, retail – in a remote operation centre. The technician, who scans data that is continually being pushed out through iOT and sensors that keep the pulse on air conditioning controls, indoor air quality, water and energy usage, traffic patterns, is able to zoom in on potential defects and quickly able to activate a technician to fix the problem on site before it worsens. Building owners are in favour of data driven maintenance because it helps them achieve a balance of optimizing building and operation performance against cost and risks exposure. 

Some market observers have begun to map the needs of the built environment against Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where building performance moves up the value chain from being compliant at the minimum to being productive and upwards to a level where a stimulating experience counts and where buildings are sustainable. Applying these metrics encourages building owners to save costs, operate at maximum efficiency and create quality experiences as buildings move up the value chain. 

Changing Needs and Covid-19 Driving Facility Management Companies to Raise Their Game

RICS 2020

In effect, the evolution of workplace practices is creating an opportunity for facility managers to leverage tech-enhanced services to attract a premium, generating cost savings and operational efficiencies at the same time. FM is evolving from maintenance and basic functional support to the provision of an experience that delights tenants and enriches their interaction with the facility.

To find out more about how Cushman & Wakefield can help with Facilities Management, please visit this page.


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