The beginning of Facility Management

In the early 1970’s, two significant simultaneous events helped set the evolutionary course of facility management (FM) in the United States of America:

  • the use of independent, freestanding dividing screens in the office environment gradually faded in favor of today’s sophisticated systems furniture, commonly known as cubicles;
  • the introduction of the computer terminal into the workstation.

At the time ‘facility managers’ were members of other associations, but those groups could not supply the information needed to manage the offices of the future. The first step towards the formation of a more specialized organization occurred in December 1978 when Herman Miller Research Corp. hosted a conference ‘Facility Influence on Productivity’, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At this conference the three founders of the National FM Association (NFMA), George Graves, Charles Hitch and David Armstrong, voiced a need for an organization comprised of facility professionals from private industry. In May 1980 George Graves hosted a meeting in Houston to establish an FM association. NFMA was born.

Shortly after the 1981 NFMA conference the name was changed to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA). In 1982 David Armstrong, one of the founders of the FM Institute, wrote his famous article describing the core value of FM: integrating people, process and place. In 1983 professor Franklin Becker introduced the first BSc and MSc degree programs in FM at the Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Professor B. Vranken of the Grand Valley State College, Allendale, Michigan offered a M.F.M. degree program. It was in 1984 in the ‘IFMA Report #1’ that the use of the ‘People, Process and Place’ model became well-known.

In 1984 it was the British architect Sir Frank Duffy that started using FM in Europe when designing offices. ORBIT I and II are the famous studies that helped develop FM. In 1985 the English ‘sister’ of IFMA, AFM, was founded. Since then the development of FM in Europe has been very diverse. National culture, language, law and market structure have influenced the direction and form of FM strongly.

In 1987 the first exploratory meeting to create a European FM network was hosted by Mr. Bart Bleker in The Netherlands. In 1993 the European Facility Management Network was officially registered by NEFMA, the Dutch FM association now called FMN, the Danish FM association DFM, the British Centre for Facilities Management led by professor Keith Alexander (information taken from the notary act).

‘The Juggler’ is a classic video made by Steelcase explaining what FM was in these years.

From 1993 till 2002 each one of the 27 European national FM markets developed in its own pace and direction. In some countries FM was started by real estate or maintenance professionals. In other countries the focus was more on services. IFMA helped develop the European FM market by founding national chapters and organizing the World Workplace Europe conference. Several countries also founded a Centre for FM or developed a faculty for FM at universities.

Defining European facility management

In 2002 national FM representatives from 15 countries decided to develop a European definition of FM. In 2006 all 29 European countries agreed to use the following official definition of FM:

Integration of processes within an organization to maintain and develop the agreed services which support and improve the effectiveness of its primary activities. (EN15221-1: 2006 Facility Management – Part 1: Terms and definitions)

They also defined terms like benchmarking, client, customers, end-user, facility service, facility, integrated facility service, service provider, supplier, It was agreed that FM covers and integrates a very broad scope of processes, services, activities and facilities. The field of FM was being grouped under two headings representing ‘People, Place, Process’:

  • Space & Infrastructure;
  • People & Organization.

Space & Infrastructure includes the client demand for (work-) space through services such as space planning, workplace, design, construction, lease, occupancy management building operations, maintenance, furniture, equipment, technical infrastructure, cleaning, etcetera.

People & Organization includes the client demand for health services, catering, event management, ICT, hospitality, security, safety, human resource management, logistics, office supplies, document management, accounting, marketing, etcetera.

As a consequence the European FM representatives defined other aspects of FM such as benchmarking, asset, due diligence, etc. These terms had not been defined and put in a European standard before by any other building life-cycle stakeholder. The intended focus of the European FM model is to underline the client orientation of FM and to make clear that a service provider can be an internal as well as external organization. This approach respects the diversity of the European market. The FM model explains the basic functioning of FM within an organization. (Be aware this is not the original model from the actual standard. The original, copyright CEN, should be taken from EN15221-1: 2006 Facility Management – Part 1: Terms and definitions.)

Based on this model (figure 2) CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, developed a ‘Guidance on how to prepare FM agreements’. This European standard allows for developing the relationship between an organization that procures or outsources facility services (client) and an organization that provides these services (the FM service provider). The guide facilitates cross-border contracting within the European Union by including references to existing European regulations.

In 2006 the European FM market started defining:

  • a classification, taxonomy and structure for FM
  • space and area measurement for planned and existing leased or owned buildings 
  • a guidance on quality in FM
  • a guidance on FM processes

Terms like real estate, support process, tenant, cost of capital, depreciation, business support, cleaning, hospitality, ICT, floor, and workplace were defined. This had never been done on a European level before. September 2010, the experts represented in the technical committee 348 of the European Committee for Standardization agreed on the text for these four new standards making. The proposed standards will be brought to formal voting at the end of 2010. In 2011 a guide on ‘Performance Benchmarking’ will be added.

FM is the largest business services market in Europe.
This market has been estimated to be € 640 billion large by German Sven Teichmann. Other experts estimate the FM market is 5% till 8% of GDP depending on the country and the maturity of FM in that country. Various sources from both Europe as well as the United States of America indicate that an average workplace needs about € 10.000 per year to support it with facilities and services. Based on these figures the European facility management sector delivers about 40 million FTE of work per year.

The development and growth of FM basically followed the path of integrating people, place and process. The development can be visualized in figure 3.

So, over the years the European FM market has included more and more business services and has become more mature. Currently it is the largest business services market. In an increasing number of countries FM professionals take part in construction projects, help develop and manage DBFMO projects and are the leaders in workspace management projects. FM has become the facilitator of sustainable life-cycle solutions for buildings, new ways of working initiatives and business services innovation.

In 2010 EuroFM started connecting with the European construction industry, the European Union and (corporate) real estate networks. This means the European FM network has started adding measurable value to the European Union and its employment, productivity, transparency and competitiveness. The European FM market has reached a position to facilitate Europe 2020.

The Next Generation

Even before the impact of the collapse of the world’s financial systems was felt, the EuroFM’s FM Futures Project had identified major trends affecting FM in Europe requiring fundamental change. The combined impact of demographic trends, climate change and advances in information society technologies was seen to present an unprecedented opportunity and challenge to the fledgling profession and industry, almost before it had established its credentials and found a leading position in organizations.

The agenda for European FM is set by both the Lisbon Agenda and the ‘Europe 2020, a European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ European Union strategy. European FM has to define its contribution in three main areas:

  • knowledge-based economy;
  • sustainable growth and employment;
  • social and environmental objectives.

FM can be aligned with European policy and identifies forces for change shaping and integrating the physical, mental and virtual business environment. The FM Futures Project has created plausible scenarios and suggested implications for research, practice and education. The project calls for the next generation of FM to take a leading role in transforming organizations and contributing, in a sustainable way, to the European knowledge economy.

From EuroFM workshops and research seminars five views of the future were developed.

A vision – the desired future. FM takes a leading role in making Europe the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world. Becomes an influential partner and is able to clearly demonstrate its contribution to sustainable economic growth, the creation of more and better jobs and in promoting greater social cohesion and respect for the environment.

A strategy – a created future. EuroFM focuses on promoting open innovation and creativity in FM and realizes the power of its unique network of practitioners, researchers and educationalists for co-creating the environment in which social enterprise and individual talent can flourish.

Opportunities – a possible future. Recognizing the need for change. EuroFM member organizations combine with public, private and social partners in a European-wide initiative to manage and share knowledge and invest in a FM education and research in order to build a future for professional FM.

Assumptions – the probable future. FM fails to evolve and continues to respond to an agenda focused on short-term, factional interests of business and the market. Further commoditization of the products and services delivered in the name of FM become even more efficient, meeting strict cost and performance criteria, but adding no real value.

Discontinuities – an unexpected future. In a post-crunch era, conventional FM practice becomes increasingly irrelevant to societies ‘needs and is replaced by a community-based approach, responsive to the personal needs of users and enabled web-based technologies in a networked Europe.

The role of education and research in developing the knowledge, systems and skills needed for an unpredictable future is paramount. The inter-relationship amongst practicing managers, researchers and educators is the hallmark of EuroFM activity and the history of the European FM market. Although the FM Futures Project emerged from the needs of researchers to understand organizational issues and trends to which FM must contribute and respond, it is a vital component of the future programs across all groups and should be central to European FM future strategies.