Why FM job seekers need to understand the role of sustainability in the role

In the past, facilities managers often only needed to take a short-term view. Leak on the fifth floor? We’ll get someone up there… But that kind of simple, operationally-based approach is no longer enough to satisfy potential employers. If you want to progress in this industry today, you need to show that you understand sustainability, and how profoundly it affects what facilities management is all about. 

The FM scope has widened significantly

One of the challenges for people building a career in FM is to understand how much the scope of the function has increased. It’s no longer just about providing a managed workplace. Many clients want their building to showcase their values – demonstrating in physical terms that they are an environmentally sensitive and responsible business. And of course, in energy saving terms, this also makes economic sense. 
The facilities manager has to be prepared to get to grips with solar heating, wind turbines in the grounds, battery storage of energy and so on. It’s not that every office block has these – it’s that they are now within the scope of facilities management. It doesn’t matter so much whether you have practical experience of these systems – but you do need to be aware of them and show that you’re willing to learn about them. Reading the FM trade press – online obviously – is a great way to be well informed about what leading-edge companies are doing in this area. Because what is considered “out there” to begin with has a way of trickling down and becoming normal a few years later. We’re in a period of enormous change in the way we relate to our environment, and you’ll need to show awareness of this. 

Employees are driving some developments

Another area that would not have entered the heads of old school facilities managers is internal pollution. Yet this is a growing area of concern for employees. Just as external pollution has resulted in an effort to reduce emissions, concerns over internal air quality are resulting in changes to air conditioning and ventilation systems. 
Similarly, people now work differently – with many people working at home more often, and visiting the office sporadically, a sustainable building needs to be flexible, and easy to reconfigure for different types of employee groups. 

Roofscapes and gardens

Many office blocks have unused space around the ground floor and on the roof. In the past, it was a simple matter of getting the grounds person to mow the lawn and planting a few nondescript shrubs. 
Now, companies are using their green space to encourage sustainability initiatives, such as bee-friendly planting. Rooftops are being turned into herb and vegetable gardens, often with the product being used in the company cafeteria

Be ready with your own ideas

Imagine that you’re going for an interview, for a job you really want, as facilities manager for a large office block with some grounds, in a city centre. The candidates are shown around and given information about the building. It’s your turn to be interviewed. Imagine that the director turns to you and asks: “What would you do to make this building more sustainable in the long term?”
It’s a key question. So could you answer it?