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Joined-up thinking

1 July 2013


Interviewed in our last edition, new CIBSE president George Adams put forward what seemed at first to be two contrary positions.


First, that we need to get “back to basics” and make the most of currently available equipment to improve energy efficiency in our existing buildings (shunning cutting-edge “green bling” technologies); second, that we should involve ourselves in “macro strategies” that go way beyond just our own buildings, thus helping to facilitate the de-carbonisation of our cities.

Those are two pretty broad themes, both seemingly pointed in different directions; a narrow, internal focus on making the most of maximising the potential of the equipment you’ve got, against a wider, external focus involving interaction with those around you to bring about a much larger goal.

Mutually exclusive? In fact, says Adams, both objectives can be achieved if we concentrate on bringing some ‘joined-up thinking’ into play.

On the face of it, that’s hardly the most original of messages. I think we can safely say that joined-up thinking is, in all likelihood, more constructive than disconnected non-thinking. But that’s to belittle the core aspect of Adams’ message.

Because if you joined-up think about it, FM is going through a bit of a data-driven connectivity revolution at the moment. From the analysis of operational data in order to better plan maintenance and capital expenditure (as posited by specialists such as Tim Oldman) to the importing of operational data into building information models (as being mandated by central government for projects on its own estate), the logic of joined-up thinking underpins it all. (If anything, the equipment we install in our buildings is easier to analyse and connect to our wider plans than any human issue.)

The problem isn’t with the concept, it’s in getting the message across to those in charge of the purse strings that, when it comes down to it, good FM is always a matter of joined-up thinking.

It’s just a case of following a cause with its effect. Keen on introducing more flexible working? OK, Mr/Ms Senior Director – but have you considered the impact on our heating requirement? Looking to fit more people into less space? Well, that’s fine, The Board – but have you worked out whether the telecoms infrastructure can handle it? Or the air conditioning? Good analysis of these impacts should be easier to conduct now than it’s ever been.

By now you may well be rolling your eyes. Yes, you’re saying, I know all of this. It may be common sense, but the problem is that those that count still don’t get it.

While this may be true for many, the fact is that these developments, and the need they introduce for joined-up thinking, are here to stay; the data genie is not going back into its bottle (it’s probably calculated the space-to-working ratio involved in doing so). Whatever the future for BIM, for example, and FMs’ stewardship of it, the logic involved will only grow.

Yes, data can and will be misread from time to time, but in our interconnected new world it’s increasingly visible and thus, from a wider organisational perspective, impossible to ignore. Joined-up thinking in FM: it’s a no-brainer.

Martin Read is managing editor for FM World