What is Facilities Management?

Elizabeth West

Facilities management involves overseeing the physical operations of a commercial building. This includes general building maintenance, heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing and energy efficiency. Security and grounds maintenance are also within the scope of this field. Managers employed by a large company or school system might be in charge of several buildings. Training and career opportunities in facilities management are promising.

Maintenance of a commercial building's HVAC system, plumbing and grounds maintenance fall under facilities management.
Maintenance of a commercial building's HVAC system, plumbing and grounds maintenance fall under facilities management.

Management of facilities goes hand-in-hand with safety compliance. Dangerous conditions in a building are not only detrimental to operations but also can be grounds for liability and fines. The facilities manager should be familiar with environmental safety and health regulations and procedures. Healthcare facilities management professionals, especially, will be trained in biohazard safety and disposal.

Facilities managers will supervise custodial and janitorial staff.
Facilities managers will supervise custodial and janitorial staff.

In some companies, facilities management might require oversight of communications systems, such as telephones, computer hardware and network servers. The manager purchases new equipment under the scope of the budget. He or she establishes relationships with telephone services, copy and printer leasing companies and construction companies. If the building needs renovations or retrofitting for new systems, the manager will coordinate them and hire outside firms to complete the work.

The facility manager keeps all building systems in good working order. The job carries a great deal of responsibility. An experienced facilities management professional will have a protocol in place to handle unexpected problems and notify appropriate authorities and executives. He or she will often stay on call over weekends and holidays in case of an emergency such as a fire, flood or security issue.

The manager might perform his or her own repairs or call for service, depending on the nature of the problem. He or she maintains records of all maintenance performed both by outside vendors and his own staff members. The manager might also take care of equipment used by the workers, such as the machines in a manufacturing facility. He or she will correct problems and order parts to ensure the smooth operation of the factory lines.

The facility manager supervises custodial staff members. He or she should know how to handle personnel issues and work schedule planning. The manager will have to communicate with all sorts of workers both inside and outside the company. People skills are a great asset to this position.

Educational requirements for a career in facilities management vary. It's possible to work up to the position, but most companies prefer to hire someone who has a business or construction degree and at least some management experience. Undergraduate and advanced degree programs in facilities management are available. They tend to be broad-based and prepare candidates for work in all types of facilities. Emerging technologies, care of aging buildings and globalization of business likely ensure a bright future in this industry.

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