What does a Facilities Manager do?

Doug Donald

Every commercial or institutional building has a primary function or activity. The primary activity of a hospital, for example, is the treatment of medical patients. The primary function of an automobile assembly factory is to build cars and trucks. The person responsible for the effective operation and maintenance of these buildings is the facilities manager.

Facilities managers handle health and safety issues in industrial complexes.
Facilities managers handle health and safety issues in industrial complexes.

The facilities manager is a staff position in most organizations. The job of the facilities manager is to support and improve an organization’s primary activities by providing an optimal environment and support services for the occupants of a building or building complex. Successful facilities management integrates people, processes, buildings and technology.

Overseeing the installation of a new air conditioning system may be part of a facilities manager's job.
Overseeing the installation of a new air conditioning system may be part of a facilities manager's job.

Facilities managers are employed in a variety of commercial and institutional buildings, including convention centers, industrial and office complexes, hospitals, hotels, vacation resorts and airports. The diverse and unique needs of each building require managerial competence in multiple disciplines. For instance, a hospital facilities manager might be responsible for things as varied as running laundry services and disposing of hazardous materials, the acquisition and installation of a new heating or air conditioning (HVAC) system or contracting for asphalt repairs in the parking lot.

Oversight of occupational safety and health issues is typically a facilities manager's responsibility. These responsibilities include fire safety, industrial emission controls, alarm systems and indoor air quality. The facilities manager is expected to be knowledgeable about local, regional and national safety laws and regulations. Other facility management responsibilities might include grounds management and maintenance, building automation and building systems management and moving or installation of new equipment and furniture.

In the global economy, the establishment of competency and performance standards and benchmarks is essential. The International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) created the Certified Facility Manager (CFM) credential. The stated goals of the IFMA are to assure professional excellence, establish standards for professional practice of facilities management, promote the value of professional facilities management and positively influence the future practice of facilities management.

To qualify as a CFM, a facilities manager must meet a standard of educational achievement and practical experience. He or she also must pass a competency-based examination designed to measure a person’s abilities against the established standards of facility management. The exam measures competence in nine areas, including but not limited to operations and maintenance, human and environmental factors, property management, planning and project management, personnel management and communication abilities.

The role of facility managers is continually evolving. Many facilities managers are also expected to contribute at a strategic level by providing the upper management with information regarding the best use of space and advising upper managers regarding decisions on space and support services. This strategic role underscores the growing influence and importance of effective facilities management in the global economy.

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