Trends That Affect Facility Management

HOUSTON - For mechanical contractors and other facility management professionals, issues such as emergency and disaster preparedness and sustainability must be recognized and prepared for. The International Facility Management Association’s (IFMA) forecasting workshop, held in Houston earlier this year, took a peek into the future.

According to IFMA, eight trends will continue to shape building design and facility operations throughout the 21st century. The trends (identified by panelists representing corporate real estate, government policy, energy, security, and technology) are:

• Linking facility management to strategy.

• Emergency preparedness.

• Change management.

• Sustainability.

• Emerging technology.

• Globalization.

• Broadening diversity in the workforce.

• Aging buildings.

These trends may not be completely new, but the association pointed out that the role they play has become more prominent.

“It’s important that industry leaders get together to identify trends and look at where the profession is headed over the next several years and beyond,” said David J. Brady, IFMA president and CEO.

“This strategic exercise puts us in a better position to prepare members for the challenges that lie ahead, and equip them with the skill sets and resources they need to be effective stewards of organizational assets.”


Linking the operation of a facility to the occupants’ overall business objectives is a trend that is gaining strength. For facility managers, it highlights the importance of developing a clear understanding of the organization’s long-term business strategy, instead of focusing on short-term problem solving.

“Managing the facility in terms of day-to-day operations is only one aspect of facility management,” said workshop participant Valerie Short, CFM, Jacobs Advance Planning Group. “Facility managers need to be proactive in showing the facility’s contribution to the business.”

Emergency preparedness has become more prominent in recent years. Disaster planning and recovery have come to the forefront, in part due to emergency situations such as Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina. Today’s emergency preparedness covers much more than emergency planning, the association said; facilities managers need to develop concrete plans that minimize the disruption of business and expedite the recovery process.

Sustainability, a trend that continues to grow in importance, now has a broader scope. It now includes aspects of energy management, IAQ, and high-performance systems.

“IFMA began tracking green building issues with its 1994 research report, ‘Environmental Issues in the Workplace,’” said Shari Epstein, the association’s associate director of research. “The move from early green building practices toward sustainability has certainly increased throughout the years. It’s doubtful that sustainability will disappear from the facility management or business radar any time soon.”

Some trends share common characteristics and feed into each other. Understanding and respecting cultural norms and differences, for example, can help facility managers deal with change, globalization, and diversity in the workforce.

“Addressing the trends outlined in this forecasting report requires tactical ability as well as strategic thinking and action,” said workshop participant Barbara Armstrong of Kahler Slater. “One of the most overwhelming jobs in any company is to be able to switch gears from the mundane, everyday pile of ‘to do’ list items to a more reflective, strategic way of thinking.”

For more information, visit

Sidebar: Top Trends

According to the International Facility Managers Association, the top trends facing facility managers today are:

• Linking facility management to strategy.

• Emergency preparedness.

• Change management.

• Sustainability.

• Emerging technology.

• Globalization.

• Broadening diversity in the workforce.

• Aging buildings.

Publication Date: 09/24/2007

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