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Facility Manager should be part of Architect’s team – A DEBATE

Clean India Journal brought together a panel of experts – Architects and Facility Managers – to discuss this issue. In discussion were –

Sheetal Rakheja, Architect and Partner at Design and Development, New Delhi: An accredited Green building professional and firm believer of sustainable architecture. She has designed three Platinum-rated and two Gold-rated LEED certified buildings. She is the designer of “Shunya”, India’s first Net Zero energy home.

Vidur Bharadwaj, Director of 3C Company: Chairman of the Indian Green Building Council-Delhi and the recipient of the President’s Award for designing Platinum LEED building for Wipro Technologies, Delhi.

Kajal Bhattacharya, Head-Facility Management Division, the 3C Company: Driven by the motto of Creating, Caring and Conserving of 3C, he maintains the green developments in Delhi / NCR.

Brigadier Ashok Kumar Jaitly, General Manager, Training – FMS & PMS, Knight Frank India Pvt Ltd.

CIJ’s Renu Ramakrishnan

CIJ: Sheetal and Vidur, as architects do you involve FM professionals early on in your design process?

Vidhur: In our organisation we are very fortunate to involve the facility managers at our design stage itself. We have a lateral integration process of all our businesses – from design, construction, development, facility management to IT. We have it all.

Sheetal: But not many people may be doing it and not many people are fortunate enough to have these systems in place.

Ashok: That is precisely my point. Designers should work with FM early on so that maintenance issues that come up with difficult or innovative designs can be easily tackled. Let me give you an example of a building we were associated with where a dome, which formed the top of the atrium, was so high that it could not be cleaned efficiently at all. Sure it looked lovely, but what is the point when it cannot be maintained?

Sheetal: Quite right. For this reason we have workshops with facility services consultants while the design is being finalised so that they give their inputs and points of view. A lot of times, the architect can skip certain aspects related to maintenance. But if the FM managers are involved at design stage, they can look at it from the maintenance angle.

Let me give you an example of Green Boulevard, which we designed as a LEED Platinum certified green building. This is one of the largest CORE & SHELL platinum certified building in the world. Generally, when you design buildings, you plan one tonne of air-conditioning for every 150sqft of the office space. This was designed for one tonne per 350sqft of air-conditioning. In reality, it is performing even better, as 800sqft of space requires only one tonne of air-conditioning. So this is a positive feedback we are getting from FM team.

Vidur: Yes, it gave a fantastic performance in energy savings. But Kajal and our MEP consultant came back to us and said that in the free cooling, if we had a variable motor, we would find that the energy efficiency would go up even further. It was learning for all of us, and now we are in the process of changing to variable motors which will further enhance the energy efficiency. Though these buildings are not so common, we can use this learning in our other projects.

Sheetal: This is where architects should continuously stay in touch with the building through the facility managers for the entire life of the building. This interaction should not stop because that knowledge can help to improve the performance of the same building as well as future buildings. FM helps architects to maintain a relationship with the building throughout.

Vidur: What this boils down to is that, whether what we have designed and contractors have implemented are as per design intent, and really being functioned into operations. That is the feedback the facility managers can give us. If it is not, it is learning for us architects. Let’s learn from our mistakes and do it even better. FM can always give us valuable inputs before construction and also after a year post construction.

Ashok: A very important point that has emerged from this discussion is that once you get an input from facility managers, either during the design stage or after usage, you get an input which you can use and so in the next design you know what is to be done. And these are examples of best practices and these should be shared within the industry so we can all benefit. I am not sure if there is a mechanism to share this as of now.

CIJ: So how do we get more architects to share and get the involvement of the facility managers?

Sheetal: I think it has more to do with the owner or the client. If owners or clients can involve FM in the beginning stage of design it can be very useful for the project.

Vidur: I don’t think architects really control it. And in a way, it will be hard, because some of them really don’t care. They may not think about how a building is going to perform post construction or may be that they don’t want to face up to it. If you look at it, in a way, it is a suppression of their architectural impression. They could have made the dome smaller or accessible, as Brigadier Ashok Jaitly said, if they had all thought about it together, but that might not have been what the architect had wanted.

Sheetal: But there are times when architects want the facility managers’ input, but they have no control if the owners want to get them on board only at a later stage. I feel architects should also strongly advice owner of project to get FM on board at earlier stage. FM should be well informed and advised on design intent and design concept. So that they know which areas of the building have to be critically monitored for performance.

Vidur: It has been our experience that what the MEP consultant specifies and what the facility manager wants are same to about 80-85%. The difference will be just about 20%. For example, if our MEP consultant recommends using an electric part that comes from company A which is a reputed company, we will agree and so will our contractor. But the FM knows that if something goes wrong with a system, Company A will take 20 days to revert. That is something the architect and the consultant won’t know and the owner also won’t know. The facility manager can suggest going with Company B whose service is very good. Those are the kinds of inputs which are very important. It is very crucial but I don’t think that it is yet mandatory anywhere in the world, even in the US where you have to have a facility manager on board before you go in for design.

Ashok: I think they are mature in the developed countries to an extent. More often than not, the facility manager is on board or facilities inputs are on board.

Vidur: When you have people who are doing repeated projects, who have gone through this grind and understand the necessity of having a facility manager on board, things can improve. And it is very rare, still.

Ashok: In this curve, I think we are right at the bottom and it will take 10-15 years for us to get there. But if we can bring about awareness and if this information is shared, you will have to have lesser replacements costs and better functioning facilities and services in any building.

CIJ: Are there any areas on the building that are more critical to get the facility managers on board when you are designing the building? Sheetal: Glass and the façade cleaning and maintenance are definitely important and need to be given importance in planning and so are energy and water consumption in buildings and landscaping.

Vidur: What happens is that 90% of the time for the passive aspects you don’t need somebody highly trained. However, for certain design applications you do. For example, we are doing this project called Delhi One. It has a very peculiar incline surface like a ‘K’ and this has even got us struggling as to how this glass is going to be cleaned. So now in the architectural structural part, we are already incorporating the façade cleaning system along with the structural design. This is because we have the experience and the awareness to understand that this will be an issue later.

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