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March 05, 2015

Facility Management beyond the building – three key trends

As the field of facility management and corporate real estate continues to evolve, the responsibilities of facility managers keep changing as well. What are the key trends that change our perspectives on buildings and, therefore, the profession of facility management.

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1.      Technology is the change-agent for buildings
Technology is a potentially disruptive driver of change for buildings: adding technology to the built environment will change the ways we use and operate buildings. This is best illustrated by looking back in time. The emergence of high rise buildings was stimulated by the invention of the telephone. Before, bell boys went through the building to spread messages. Once the phone was created, people could contact via the phone, enabling the creation of high rise buildings: the “barrier” of high numbers of floors between people was suddenly removed.

Now, communication technology has evolved into social media. These social networks virtually connect multiple people and things, sharing all types of information between them. New generations of workplace information systems will enable users to share their workplace information real-time. This gives insights for other users in real-time availability information and increases the ease of working from home.

2.      Emerging typologies of workplaces 
Changes in work patterns are also creating new typologies of workplaces to accommodate them:

  • Co-Work places enable people to meet and collaborate at will. In general people pay for their use on an actual-use basis. The Impact Hub at King’s Cross in an example of a co-work place. Here people come together to work, innovate and network.

  • Open-house concepts denote types of facilities that are owned by an organization that invites non-employees and other organizations in their surrounding area to come and work there. Zappos, a down town project in Las Vegas, is an open-house concept inviting everyone to partake in their work environment for free. The notion behind this idea is that bringing together employees with others will bring innovation.

  • Cohabit concept involves a number of different types of organizations deliberately joining to acquire a shared facility to use between them, effectively mixing their workforces. The Grid70 is a cohabit concept bringing together different companies into one hub.  Again the objective here is that by mixing the workforces, new and innovative ideas will foster innovation for all.

In his paper “Work and Workplaces in the Digital City,” researcher Andrew Laing prompts the notion of WAAS: Workplace As A Service, indicating that property ownership models are under change today: access to property services are becoming more important than owning them.

3.      The city as a workplace
According the United Nations, the urban population will double by 2050. This development introduces challenges in terms of effectively sharing the urban infrastructures between us: merely scaling up the urban infrastructure is no solution: vital functions like transport and (work) places cannot be scaled that easily. As a consequence, sharing should become second nature and a lot of research is put into finding out how we can manage that. As stated by the MIT City Form Lab: “One of the primary challenges here is to maximize interaction between people and places while minimizing friction.”

The quest for designing urban environments that will be able to cope with higher densities of population is also known as “Smart Cities.” Cities aim to minimize friction between people, while the spaces are shared more. To minimize elements of friction we need to understand the behavior of people. Technology to measure behavior is readily becoming available, certainly around the workplace. In the context of Smart Cities, buildings will take on new roles and behaviors. A building is not a thing on its own, but it will behave in smarter ways within their smarter environments.

These key trends will influence the field of facility management. For the facility management profession it both provides great opportunity as well as challenges to understand how we can leverage these developments.  To what extent have you already encountered these trends? Is your organization dealing with these trends? Use the comments box below to let us know. 

Erik Jaspers
Global Product Strategy & Innovation Director