As the Irish Property and Facility Management Association (IPFMA) celebrates its 25th anniversary, FM Magazine discusses the future of the facilities sector in the Republic with recently inaugurated Chairman, Vincent Hickey.
In your inaugural address, you stated the occasion of IPFMA’s 25th anniversary was an opportunity to reflect on the organisation’s “purpose” and “structure”. Have either changed significantly over the years?
There has been momentous growth over the past 25 years in the property and facilities sector in Ireland and the IPFMA structure has responded well to this. We now find ourselves in a property and facilities market that is more professional, regulated and demanding than ever before. Education has played a significant part in the association’s response to this market growth and we will now have to take this to another level; especially outside Dublin.
Do property management and facilities management make good bedfellows?
Not necessarily. I think both disciplines have entirely different perspectives. Whilst both have an overall objective of maintaining the client’s assets and investments, their ultimate approach to achieving this can be very different.
There are those who argue that property managers will always adopt a shorter term outlook than facilities managers, since their objective is to minimise expenditure and maximise ROI for building owners. What do you believe?
I believe this to be true particularly in today’s environment. The majority of leases these days are for shorter terms with favourable conditions for tenants. Property managers are now more focused on keeping tenants’ needs satisfied in order to retain them for longer periods. In recent years, building values have dropped significantly and property managers are therefore tasked with both maintaining and upgrading premises on tight budgets, and ensuring that service charges remain competitive when benchmarked against any peer premises. What are IPFMA estimates for the current size of the facilities management market? Our current estimate of the facilities market in Ireland is in the region of €650 million and this is a figure that continues to grow as more and more multinationals locate in the Republic of Ireland.
In the United Kingdom, 60 per cent of facilities management services are provided by external providers. Is the figure for Ireland comparable?
It will be lower than that in Ireland. 45 per cent is a more realistic estimate based on tender returns information.
The European headquarters of several multinationals are located in Dublin and Cork, with “big” names including Google and key players in the life-sciences industry. Do you believe their presence has influenced the development and character of the Irish facilities management industry?
In a major way. Their presence has driven up standards expected in the facilities market and forced many providers to improve their performance simply to ensure they are considered by these multinationals. This is especially evident in tender documentation where testimonials, past client references and evidence of financial resilience, are all required at the request for information (ROI) stage of the tender process. The Irish facilities market and the facilities companies which operate within these precincts have responded well to these requirements and this has improved standards significantly.
Your corporate membership includes both multinational and local service providers. Do local companies compete effectively with their bigger cousins?
Not really, multinationals tend to go for global facilities management suppliers and are disposed towards favouring providers they have partnered with internationally or, at the very least, companies that can provide services on a global basis if invited to do so. This is undoubtedly my experience of the Irish Market.
Ireland is emerging as the global cloud computing hub. Are data centre operators joining IPFMA?
They are, but not in the numbers that we would like to ensure their effective representation within the association. This may be attributed to the traditional perception of the IPFMA as a predominantly property-focused organisation. It has been an objective of the association for a number of years to change this perception, and our FM Committee has produced several relevant and useful publications with the intention of capturing the attention of these FMs.
The government has been promoting energy sustainability through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). What is the relationship between IPFMA and SEAI?
The IPFMA structure provides for active, working committees representing each function within the sector. To this end, a Sustainability Committee was established in 2012 to ensure members are kept updated on advancements in the area of sustainability. This committee has regular sessions with representatives from the SEAI to ensure we are up to date with current initiatives and that we can provide feedback on the effectiveness, or otherwise, of these initiatives.
Does IPFMA have regulatory or disciplinary powers over member companies or is the government responsible for intra-industry regulation?
The IPFMA is a member association and members are required to adhere to our Code of Professional Conduct, Ethical Standards and Regulations. Under one of the provisions of the code, the IPFMA is required to await the decision of any regulatory body investigating a complaint (for example, the Property Services Regulatory Authority in respect of claims of misconduct made against a member engaged in residential management), prior to launching its own investigation. Moreover, whenever formal complaints are investigated, the IPFMA reserves the right to discipline members.
Do you require members to obtain professional certification or undertake continuing professional development (CPD)?
We do and it is an important part of what the organisation is about. Both the industry and levels of governance and compliance, continues to evolve. It is vital that our members are prepared for these changes and our CPD programmes allow us to appraise members’ competence and inform them of industry best practices. Members are required to undertake 60 hours of CPD over a three year cycle.
There are many roads to facilities management. IPFMA itself was established under the auspices of the Society of Chartered Surveyors and represents an industry that is increasingly dominated by MEP engineers. What skillsets do facilities managers need today?
In the early days of facilities management, the two major focuses of the facilities manager were cleaning and the air conditional environment.Indeed, it was said that if you got both areas right, you would go a long way towards having a satisfied client. However, the industry has changed rapidly and a lot more is expected from today’s FMs who need to have a working knowledge of several disciplines. In addition to adapting to new requirements that have come about as a result of the increase in the number of higher specification type buildings, FMs are expected to be acquainted with the utilities markets, health, safety and employment legislation, fire certification, service charge guides and other finance and insurance-related areas. These areas represent the skillsets that are required today in order to achieve success, and the IPFMA regularly adapts its educational platform to reflect this.
As Facilities Manager at the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin during the 1990s you won praise for reducing service charges. How did you do it?
IFSC was a development of high-specification buildings constructed at a time when there was little or no regard for on-going operating costs and maintenance. For example, no consideration was given to atrium and façade glass cleaning; and cradle systems that failed to meet basic insurance requirements were even condemned altogether by insurers! To cite another example, an air-conditioning system was being operated around the clock simply to keep tropical plants that were part of an architectural feature alive. And all of this translated into additional expenses. Over the years I developed innovative systems to overcome these and many other issues and created solutions which didn’t compromise the aesthetics or functionality of the property. Incentives such as water harvesting and energy administration programmes contributed to reducing running costs. And I was also very fortunate in having clients who had a tremendous amount of interest in their property and its occupiers, and were always open to alternative solutions. Awareness of a building’s carbon footprint and an appreciation of the financial benefits associated with energy-efficient premises are all big motivators in reducing service charge costs.