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Facility Management: Overview & Best Practices

Whether it is enhancing the experience of patrons or minimizing downtime on mission-critical equipment, facilities have a direct impact on the success of your organization. The purpose of a contemporary facility management program is to efficiently provide a comfortable, functional, and safe built environment. This applies to any organization that owns property, but is also relevant to tenants of commercial leased space with an obligation to maintain the building.

The International Facility Managers Association (IFMA) defines Facility Management (FM) as: “a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process, and technology.” (Figure 1).

Components of Contemporary Facility Management

Figure 1: Components of Contemporary FM. Source: International Facility Management Association

The Evolution of Facility Management: From Reactive to Proactive

The reactive approach to managing facilities was resulting in financial and operational inefficiencies, diverting resources from mission-critical functions. Facility Management was therefore modernized to encompass disciplines in business strategy and the building sciences, contributing greater value to the organization. The most common elements of contemporary Facility Management include:

  • Strategic: aligned with the mission, supportive of key functions, and reflective of your brand image
  • Collaborative: an inclusionary, stakeholder approach to connect the boiler room to the board room
  • Proactive: a planned, risk-averse approach instead of the “run to failure” method of maintenance
  • Data-driven: using objective information, facts, and benchmarking to make informed decisions
  • Sustainable: efficient buildings equate to lower costs, emissions, and carbon footprint

Total Cost of Owning a Facility

The most effective means of understanding the total cost of ownership in facilities is through the lens of the triple bottom line. Also known as the pillars of sustainability, the triple bottom line incorporates a long-term view for assessing potential effects and best practices for three kinds of resources: economic, social, and environmental.


Facilities are one of your greatest ongoing expenses. Industry benchmark surveys report an average range from $6 to $8 per square foot for annual operating costs (which includes: administration, maintenance and operations staff, maintenance and repairs, security, utilities, insurance).

Additionally, building systems have a predictable life expectancy and need to be replaced at appropriate intervals to ensure business continuity. Therefore, overall occupancy expenses are significantly higher than initial design & construction costs over their life cycle (See figure 2).

Total Cost of Ownership

Figure 2. The total cost of ownership as it applies to the financial bottom line over the life of a building. Source: U.S. Federal Facilities Council Technical Report No. 142

Key Point: Money not invested in preventive maintenance and capital replacements ends up instead being spent on more costly emergency repairs and results in higher energy costs.


Facility management plays an important role in supporting occupants by providing a safe, healthy, and comfortable place to work/visit. An effective facility management program therefore results in increased job satisfaction, and helps attract and retain employees. Aligning the facilities management program with the mission, and including it in strategic planning optimizes space for people.


Because buildings consume a substantial amount of energy, they generate a significant amount of emissions. In fact, they produce over one-third of US greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The United States Green Building Council’s bulletin on climate change explains the magnitude of the issue, while local initiatives are in motion to galvanize positive change. The following links provide further information and examples:

A Call to Action: Fortunately, developments in technology can provide upgrades to your building systems that significantly reduce energy consumption/cost. With rebates that help off-set initial project costs, many of these upgrades will ultimately pay for themselves and permanently reduce carbon emissions. Your facility management program is therefore a platform to demonstrate your concern for the environment and wellbeing for the community – while permanently reducing your energy bill. The U.S. Department of Energy and most states, cities, and local municipalities and utilities all provide helpful resources on saving energy (and therefore reducing emissions) for building owners. Resources can be found via the following links:

Facility Management's Scope of Services

A comprehensive understanding of what the work entails is essential in establishing a facility management program. Additionally, it is imperative that primary decision makers are aware of this scope in order to connect the necessary resources to essential activities. The scope of contemporary Facility Management can be divided into the following categories:

  • Administrative: the process of guiding, planning, budgeting, organizing, reporting and evaluating the facility management enterprise. Examples include: annual operating and long-term capital budgeting, processing invoices, variance analysis.
  • Building Services: focused on maintaining building components and extending equipment life. Examples include: HVAC, Electrical/Lighting, Fire Safety, Roofing Systems preventive maintenance and repairs.
  • Occupant Support Services: highly visible services that support daily functions. Examples include: janitorial services, landscaping, event/meeting set-ups, emergency response, security.

The Facility Management Team: Distributing Responsibilities from Board Room to Boiler Room

Building a successful Facility Management program requires engagement from both internal and external stakeholders. Your organization’s facilities team should span multiple levels, engaging the necessary perspectives and skill sets (Figure 3). This structure allows for cross-functional overlap between roles to best contend with complex issues, time-off, and turnover. It also comprises the ideal structure for effective project management.

Roles of the Facilities Team

Figure 3. The collaborative roles that comprise the facilities team. Source: Tony Kaufmann

  • The Strategic Role: consists of the Building Committee, Executive Director, and/or CFO. This role plans, provides resources, and creates platforms for the department to fulfill the mission.
  • The Operational Role is led by Director of Operations and/or Facility Manager. Coordinating daily activities, maintenance & repairs; coordinates/supervises staff and vendors; carries out initiatives, drives projects to completion, measures performance, and relays discontinuities to the team for resolution.
  • The Tactical Role is represented by in-house maintenance staff who operate the building, provide light maintenance to building systems, and respond to requests for building/occupant services.
  • The Technical Support Role consists of specialists and skilled trades who service and repair complex building systems (HVAC, Electrical/Lighting, Fire Safety, Roofing techs; Facility Management Consultant).

Note: A Facility Management consultant can supplement and complement the facilities team by reducing the learning curve and navigating through complexities. Elevating the knowledge base of all involved, a qualified FM consultant offers objectivity, expertise, and access to valuable industry resources.

Facility Management in Action

The ongoing success of the Facility Management program relies on a regular process for communication, which in turn connects the mission, needs and resources. Figure 5 illustrates the applied process of contemporary Facility Management, best represented as a continuous cycle.

Ongoing Process of Facility Management

Figure 4. The Ongoing Process of Facility Management. Source: Tony Kaufmann


In conclusion, by taking a contemporary approach, your facility management program can lead to improved outcomes for the organization. Even an incremental improvement can result in measurable benefits to economic, social, and environmental bottom lines.

Is your organization ready to take Facility Management to the next level? Download a checklist of best practices in Facility Management and use it as a roadmap to transforming your facility from cost center to value center.

Contributed by: Tony Kaufmann, Integrated Facility Management Consulting LLC