Implementing sustainable facility management: Challenges and barriers encountered by Scandinavian FM practitioners
Journal article, 2019
The development of sustainable facilities management (FM) practices requires active and integrated engagement of the FM organization. Building on a three-year research project (2015-2018) within Nordic Built that aims to strengthen FM competencies in the Scandinavian countries, this paper aims to list and document the challenges and barriers of implementing sustainability as identified by the Scandinavian FM practitioners who took part in this research.
The paper builds on the understanding gained from using an interpretive sociological approach and uses qualitative mixed methods to collect data from four workshops, group sessions and expert group discussions with a mix of representatives including owners, property managers, facilities managers, consultants, teachers and academics. Four case studies were completed of refurbishment projects implementing sustainable solutions; these encompassed in-depth interviews with the stakeholders, site visits, observations of meetings and gathering project documentation. The data were complemented by a systematic literature review on a selection of topics focusing on articles referring directly to FM, the sustainability of FM, ends-user and stakeholder involvement, energy performance and sustainability. The challenges and barriers identified in practice were compared to those found in the literature.
The concept of sustainability, and its different dimensions and implications, seems to be well understood now by the practitioners who participated in this study, who claimed they were able to provide the required solutions. What seems to be lacking, though, is the possibility of convincing the end-users, who are expected to operate and maintain the facilities, to act according to the standards that these solutions require. It appears to be easier to focus on the technical aspects than on the end-users’ behaviors. The practitioners reported a shortage of social competencies and tools to deal with the situation, and despite an increasing awareness of smart technology, they lacked solutions to engage the end-users in optimizing the facilities. Besides, not all FM companies were well equipped to face the challenges imposed by the sustainable agenda; the small and medium enterprises in particular seemed to be struggling to implement the different dimensions of sustainability.
The limitation of this research rests in the chosen research approach as it focuses on the FM practitioners. The contribution of the end-users’ perspective is not strongly represented or systematically explored, but is identified as a new topic that needs to be investigated further to provide further insight. This study focuses on refurbishment and/or retrofit of existing buildings and the operation of facilities. The authors do not embrace the design phase or the construction phase of new buildings.
The paper underlines the need for frameworks and concrete tools to help FM practitioners to integrate the social and cultural aspects of sustainability. It identifies end-users, both in housing and in offices, as creating a bottleneck to the implementation of sustainable FM. To gain insight into this bottleneck, the authors suggest implementing a sociologically inspired method using an integrative approach. Highlighting such issues will mean that future research will be able to define further solutions for managing and maintaining existing and future built assets and fulfilling sustainability requirements by engaging end-users. This study also emphasizes the need to introduce these topics as part of the curriculum for FM education.
Challenges and barriers
Stakeholders and end user involvement