Today, we live in the 21st century, a world where things are done so fast with the use of technology as a tool to enable comfort, peace of mind and business optimisation. Amidst these developments, the built environment is still not being effectively managed because appropriate measurements are omitted or ignorantly avoided. The root cause of this situation is purely lack of technical-know how by the professional or organisation. This thereby denies the customers from receiving anticipated value added services that impacts positively on their bottom-line and also negatively stunts the expected growth to the body of knowledge. In the end, it creates a very difficult situation to raise the profile of this profession of choice, facilities management.
Let us take a look at other non-technical professions where measurement is required to meet their customers’ needs and also provide appropriate solutions to business demands. The Baker for instance measures the amount of ingredients such as egg, sugar, flour, butter and sometimes milk and chocolate to be added in order to bake that sumptuous cake, bread and other related snacks. Also, a music composer selects the key at which he wants to play his song based on some predetermined principles which may also dictates the notes of the parts; Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Base respectively. He will carefully do some form of measurements to determine if the musical piece are going to have running notes, slurs, accidental, flats and sharps to bring out the beauty of the song. Often, the composer considers his audience preferred style before mixing the notes to bring out the music output. In the same vein, the fashionist gets a piece of cloth and measures his intending customer while asking the right questions such as; the desired style, type of design, which weather the cloth will be worn, and so on. With this feedback, the piece of cloth is cut into different sizes with added patterns. The sewing is done and the piece of cloth is transformed to meet the customers taste and value is added accordingly.
From the foregoing, you will agree with me that it is going to be frustrating to bake cake, compose music and sew a dress without measurement. Imagine the world that it would create! A cake would either have too much sugar, butter or both. The musical piece will be awkward and Handel wouldn’t have been able to compose the classical and ever green musical master piece, ‘’Halleluyah chorus’’ and many lovers of music would have been denied the opportunity to recreate and have fun. The cloths sewed by the fashionist will look embarrassing to the customer because it will either look too big and unfit to wear or rather very small and not suitable. The two people I know that can get things done without measurements are David Copperfield and Professor Peller; these are great Magicians in their own right. With the use of their wands and saying the magical words, Abracadabra or Ajji Majji la Tarajji: the piece of cloth will just transform to a style and fitted for the intending customer, the baked cake will just appear while the ingredients will sync up to form the desired cake shape and taste, and the piece of cloth will also change to a wedding or a winter dress, the musical piece will also appear to either be in E flat or G sharp and all the notes are included with harmonious tunes. I would love to do that because it will make my work as a Facilities Manager easy. Unfortunately, I am not a Magician and I cannot even do simple tricks with a set of cards or bring out a Rabbit from my hat.
With this reality, it is still very amazing to see Engineers, Architects, Surveyors and other professionals use the so called rule of thumb to determine cost without appropriate measurement. How possible is it that an Engineer will just look at a building from afar and just assume that a 500KVA Generator will be suitable to power it. In addition to this, a self-acclaimed renewable professional also will advise that retrofitting the lighting systems from incandescent bulbs to LED is the first step to consider when reducing the energy consumption in a building. Here, no first level energy audit was carried out and no adherence to the basic process captured in the ASHRAE building energy audit & management principles. Following instituted processes is what any professional will consider with business processes, the use of benchmarking, ability to measure and manage energy with reliability and continuity in the end.
MR SMARTS’ ADVICE……
Allow me to share with you a short story of Mr. Smart, a real estate developer I met some weeks ago. My encounter with him actually inspired this article. Mr. Smart and I were in a meeting with his client and we discussed about providing energy management solutions to the Estate. Currently, they are billed on a fixed tariff, this means that each home owner is given equal share of whatever bill is allocated to the Estate on a monthly basis. Therefore, all the residence of the Estate gets an equal share of the total bill. Also, the common area is shared among the occupants accordingly. Here, one of the home owners asked about the rationale used for calculating the cost allocated to this area. Mr. Smart explained that 30% of the entire energy bill is allocated to the common area. He further explained that it is the common practice and that as it is widely accepted in the industry. I giggled and jumped into the discussion because we just got another David Copperfield or Professor Peller in the house. He was later given a name; Professor Smart.
It is really amazing to hear a professional speak in this manner and cause a lot of confusion and erroneously educate his clients. What is not measured cannot be managed, I shouted and all the home owners said in unison that is correct. How did he arrive at this figure? What metrics did he consider? Was any form of benchmarking utilised to arrive at this figure? The answer to these questions are none. Mr. Smart just felt in his heart that based in the number of housing units in the estate the energy cost for the common areas should take 30% of the entire energy bill. Fortunately, there are thousands of clean technologies that can be used to measure energy consumption in smart and accurate manner without ambiguity or guessing. This will offer the end users peace of mind that they are paying for what has been consumed. It will foster transparency, openness and accountability-qualities any client wants from his service provider. In addition to this, trend analysis will be easily achieved, assumptions will be avoided, energy conservation opportunities will be realised, cost savings can be determined, forecast can be achieved with adequate data to make good business and informed decisions.
The formerly uninformed audience adjusted their seats with a clearer thoughts and asked that they want such solutions immediately. Now, that is how to differentiate your business from the quacks with value offerings that are smart, distinct and dependable. It is important to understand that the desired end point of users in the built environment is quality, low operational cost, safe and productive workplace. Customers buying facilities management services have moved from the traditional practice where a service provider just keeps his workforce on his site and at the end little is added to their business objectives. They now require process optimisation with cost avoidance and reduction at the back of their minds. They want to be able to attract and retain top talents in their organisations and remain profitable as long as possible. This can be achieved only when industry best practice is considered and the customer is put first at the top of our value chain.