Architects vs Facility Managers: The experts speak

Architects vs Facility Managers: The experts speak

Eminent leaders from both the fields shed light on the changing work culture where decision-making is fairer to all concerned

Architects are responsible for the design and delivery of a facility, while facility managers are responsible to look after it through the lifecycle. Specifically considering Design Development, Operational Challenges, Cost Optimization, Impact of Disruptive Technologies, Dealing with Management, Workspace Strategies and Space Management of workspaces, practicing minds from the design and facility fraternity were asked to deliberate their views on the prevailing notion of ‘Architects vs Facility Managers’ and mention way forwards in operating and maintaining a workspace facility in a smooth and efficient manner. 

Tanmay Khare, Mahindra Finance: The changing work culture has urged architects to create more agile, open and creative workspaces. Earlier, facility managers were not part of important discussions related to design, operation and maintenance. But now, we represent the projects in board rooms alongside the owners, architects and other stakeholders. After a space is designed and constructed, the facility manager virtually becomes the architect of the space and becomes responsible for its lifecycle. Hence, both architects and facility managers need to move ahead with the spirit of ‘us’ rather than ‘vs’.”

Dr Shakti Chauhan, HDFC Bank: It is important for businesses, including corporate houses, to have a prior comprehensive understanding and lifecycle assessment of their properties, and that is possible by accepting inputs from the whole team. To make sure that an infrastructure is long-lasting and productive at large, the facility team needs to be involved from the initial design stages.

About a decade ago, there was a huge gap in terms of bringing in facility managers to the discussion table; but thanks to the growing awareness, the issues are being addressed and the gap is shortening.

Capt. Sudeep Ghoshal, RelianceCapital: In my experience, the small- and mid-scale organizations are now bridging the gap more and facility managers are given their due recognition. But at larger offices, because of their volumes, facilitation of the same is lacking.

Manas Das, Adani Group: Many a times after the property is handed over, the implemented design or systems do not align with the requirement of the facility managers. Often, our aim of keeping up the financial returns is not catered to.
In my experience, the initial years of management of a new property are smooth and comfortable because of the availability of services, resources and technicians. Later, when the equipment turns outdated, the inventory runs out and the vendors withdraw their support, smoother maintenance becomes a hassle. Hence, the selection of BIM systems, equipment and other integrations must be done with proper analysis and study- during the design stage- such that the output office space is sustainable and enduring.

Imran K, Colliers International India: A latest rating standard and certification system suggests setting up of a process in which the facility managers are involved in decision-making at the design stage itself. Further, with the inputs of both the FMs and architects, an operational manual needs to be created to foresee possible difficulties to aid early prevention. This system should be accepted and implemented in all organizations and taken ahead as per the set process. 
Retrofitting, future expansion and upgrading of integrated systems in an existing project is not always taken into account while designing of the facility. Many a times, this generates difficulty for facility managers to incorporate a new system or repair an old one. At the same time, the employees and the managers need to be open and acceptable about the upcoming technology. This would require proper training to let the users adopt the change at a faster rate.

Nejeeb Khan, KGD-Architecture: For designers, designing is about creating experiences and emotions. We slightly deviate from thinking functionally to avoid tailoring straight boxed rooms. We rather try and create organic spaces that induce wellbeing of the users.  But at the end of the day, it is all about how efficient and productive the space is. To me, maintaining the balance between the role of both the architects and facility managers is important.
Today’s office spaces house millennials who demand a more open and collaborative work environment with green patches, lounging areas, recreational areas and so on. But, not all developers or facility managers will agree to such a design. It is important to understand that evolving with the trends and demands will directly up the standard of any facility and thereby boost interest and productivity among employees.

Nirmal Mangal, M Moser Associates: We always invite the participation of the facility group from day one so that we sit on the same side of the table, rather than the opposite sides. There is an underlying misconception that good design costs more money. Good design is a careful consideration of the built environment, materiality and economic efficiency, one that is backed by the whole team’s expertise.

Ninad Tipnis, JTCPL Designs: There is more room for design creativity in smaller projects. When working with a particular type of organization who supports a particular business plan, there is need of a skilled expertise that transcends beyond the designer’s knowhow. In such cases, the collaboration of FMs is a wise approach. Office design is now getting more team-centric; and I have seen that collaborative projects always succeed.
Some collaborative workshops make way for a platform where the FM, CRE, HR, CSR and architects sit together and come up with a holistic way of working out a project. In my personal experience, projects that allow this extra time period for collaboration always turn out successful.

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