Sustainability and upskilling shaping the future of Facilities Management


By Dr. Hassam Chaudhry, Associate Professor at Heriot-Watt University Dubai


Filed under
Facilities Management
January 10, 2024
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Sustainability and upskilling shaping the future of Facilities Management

Amidst the ever-evolving dynamics of facility management, 2024 marks the beginning of a progressive period boosted by pioneering trends that pledge to revolutionise the approach to overseeing and preserving commercial spaces. With advancements in state-of-the-art software, IoT technology, and an increased emphasis on sustainability, preventive maintenance, and employee welfare, the industry stands at the brink of a transformative shift in paradigms. As buildings evolve into more sophisticated structures, the duties and demands of a facilities manager undergo swift changes. Presently, smart buildings are a key focus in the industry, with projections suggesting a market expansion to 408.21 billion USD by 2030, a significant rise from 96.96 billion USD recorded in 2023.

In 2023, real estate proprietors, managers, and facilities teams encountered challenges posed by elevated interest rates, persistent sustainability initiatives, and a transformative push to reintroduce office work, altering the management landscape of buildings. These challenges forced them to navigate a landscape described by complex hurdles. Simultaneously, the industry grappled with ongoing sustainability imperatives, demanding immediate action and resource allocation to align properties with environmentally conscious practices. Moreover, the transformative thrust toward re-establishing office work amid evolving remote work trends prompted a fundamental reassessment of building management approaches. This critical shift necessitated a comprehensive review of space utilisation, collaborative work environments, and the integration of technology to accommodate hybrid work models effectively.

The prominence of conventional AI, trained to extract insights from limited datasets based on specific rules, is set to expand in 2024. However, generative AI applications will sweep through not only the real estate sector but various other industries in the coming year and beyond. Technologies leveraging AI to oversee HVAC systems or building management, environmental, weather, and diverse data types, will fundamentally transform how workspace occupiers and facility managers operate. AI will assume a pivotal role in delivering crucial insights that empower organisations to recalibrate and optimise their office spaces in line with their objectives, drive toward achieving net-zero targets, and curate the optimal workplace ambience necessary for their employees to excel. 

As technology becomes increasingly integrated into buildings, facilities managers face the challenge of overseeing advanced and intricate building systems. This includes upgraded electrical, HVAC, safety, and engineering systems that transition towards more streamlined, automated, and interconnected models. This makes it crucial for facilities managers to enhance skills in utilising building information systems tailored for monitoring and reporting within these innovative facilities. These systems serve as necessary tools enabling managers to access data from various amenities and operations, offering a comprehensive insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the building. The adoption of these contemporary, intricate systems empowers facilities managers to establish workflows for the teams operating within the building, ensuring efficient and effective management practices.

Environmental sustainability also remains a key in facilities management trends for 2024. Organisations increasingly prioritise eco-friendly practices, incorporating renewable energy sources wherever possible, implementing waste reduction strategies, and adopting green building certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Carbon footprint reduction initiatives, water conservation measures, and sustainable procurement practices are integral components shaping the agenda of facilities managers. Foremost, educational institutions are projected to play a crucial role in this evolution. Anticipated developments include the implementation of advanced training programs aimed at equipping facilities managers with the skills to adeptly integrate emerging technologies. This strategic upskilling will enable managers to expand their scope, manage time, and achieve cost efficiencies. Additionally, facilities managers are poised to assume a crucial role in strategic planning, including IT security, health, safety, environmental risk management, HR, and portfolio planning. The resurgence of office work will bring forth both opportunities and challenges for these professionals.

While the return-to-office movement expands possibilities, cost reduction pressures will necessitate meticulous staff and supplier management, driving the quest for innovative approaches to craft conducive work environments. Moreover, the forthcoming retirement of seasoned facilities managers and technical staff will create inevitable voids. To address this, organisations will focus on cultivating a new generation of leaders, and fostering talent through trade school internships or apprentice programs. Plans for seamless transitions will involve retaining retiring employees longer, ensuring knowledge transfer to the incoming cadre of leaders. Educational institutions will continue contributing significantly to this transition by nurturing and preparing the next generation of facilities management leaders.