IFMA and its role in the development of urban FM

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By Nancy Sanquist

Edition 4 – September 2014 Pages 30-32

Tags: urbanisation • facilities management

IFMA is very interested in Urban FM.There have been special sessions on FM and the City at Facility Fusion and World Workplace over the past two years; the IFMA Chapters and Councils with members who reside in cities around the world are awakening to the more macro environment in which their buildings are located; the Knowledge Management Task Force is examining the right mix of content for the IFMA knowledge base; the IFMA Research work is looking at future trends and cannot ignore the importance of this new viewpoint; and finally the IFMA Foundation is focusing its largest ever initiative on enabling FM workforce development worldwide and engaging the various levels of government, businesses,economic developers,education institutions and other foundations in cities around the world.

This year’s Workplace Summit had a lively panel on FM and the City where we discussed this macro view as seen in new GIS and FM applications,along with moderator Erik Jaspers, and FM and the City experts Andrew Laing and Frank Duffy.

The concept of Urban FM first emerged in the UK beginning in 1993 with researchwork by Kretzmann and McKnight,who identified the value of an inventory of community assets,and this was followed five years later by Ngowi and Mselle’s work on community participation in FM. Roberts picked the ideas up in 2004 where he defined “Urban FM” as a logical extension of the need to reinvest in community facilities and systems while “putting people first.” Keith Alexander then added sustainability to urban FM but defined it in the same context.

The latest work on Urban FM that has captured interest is an editorial for the Journal of Facilities Management in 2013 by a South African professor,Kathy Michell. She writes how FM is a key component for the growing demand from both private and public sectors for the creation and management of sustainable cities with a need to understand urban facilities management. To do this,she noted that we need to take our research from the micro (space and building level) scale to a macro scale of the urban environment,which includes “an improved understanding of the relationship between buildings,people and the urban precinct.”

FM in the urban context is a new focus for IFMA as illustrated in the following network of the organization’s activities for the next year:

  1. The iFMA Chapters

These Chapters are organized around cities and include all the types of workplaces one would find in the urban

environment,with the membership drawn from professionals living and/or working in each location. Each region of the world presents its own distinctchallenges and opportunities, but they can collaborate on new ideas and solutions when we start to think about the value of Urban FM in that area.

Each understands their own urban environment better than anyone and have input into how perhaps a new Urban Workplace Strategist role can emerge andwork to integrate FM on the building scale and in the urban environment.Working with the IFMA Foundation on the Global Workplace Workforce Initiative will also bring the Chapters into this discussion.

2. iFMA Councils

These are extremely important to the work in this new area of FM. 14 of the Councils refer to all the building types that are in an urban environment including: academia, healthcare, airports,banks/ nancialinstitutions,city/countryclubs, corporate facilities, manufacturing/ industrial/logistics, food service/restaurants, legal, museum/cultural, public sector (city, region, state, federal), religious, research/development, and utilities.

While these Councils remain mostly silos, we believe that Urban FM,by its nature, can bring them together to have a dialogue on the interconnectedness (network) and collaboration with themselves, the community, the government and the economic development agencies as representing all the varied building types in an urban environment. Urban FM alsoviews the Real Estate,Technology and Corporate Facilities Councils,along with the Sustainability, Workplace and BIM Communities,critical to the work of FM in this area.

3. The iFMA Foundation Global Workplace Workforce initiative (WWi)

IFMA Foundation can play a supporting role in discovering and encouraging practices to leverage opportunities provided in urban environments as the various stakeholders come together to collaborate on creating a better urban experience for all who work,live and play in the city.The Foundation also is the linkage to the education community with the ADP program.

The market is strong for graduating FM’s from these programs,but there are still not enough qualified graduates to fill workforce positions. In addition,businesses have come to the IFMA Foundation to determine how they can help connect graduates and businesses in specific geographies.Therefore,a new program was created called the great “Global Workplace Workforce Initiative.”

This Initiative will bring together IFMA, the Foundation, educational institutions, businesses, government FM vendors and economic development organizations together in
a particular geographic region to create a think
tank that enables a dialog about the future of
the FM workforce:

  • Determine the requirements for FM from the largest of the local businesses and if they match the curriculum being taught at the educational institutions (including high schools and community colleges) with the FM roles required to replace the aging existing workforce and to match increased growth;
  • Utilize the economic development resources to understand where the growth of the region is going and how facility management can play a more substantial role for future businesses;
  • Include representatives from local/county/state government in the dialogue;
  • Include FM vendors and other service providers,as well as other corporations who contribute to the Foundation to be part of this dialogue.
  1. The IFMA Competencies

The competencies define capabilities of successful FM professionals.We will suggest in this paper additional competencies that will be worthwhile to consider as the field evolves.

A revision of the 11 Competencies is scheduled for 2015. We would hope some of these new Urban FM skills will be considered by the Task Force that examines the workforce of today and the one required in the future.

These areas of new competencies are shown in the diagram on the next page W&P

Nancy Johnson Sanquist

Nancy Johnson Sanquist is vice President Marketing and Communications at Manhattan Software, an IFMA Fellow and IFMA Foundation Board Trustee.
Email: [email protected]


  1. Michell, Kathy, “Urban facilities manage- ment: a means to the attainment of sustainable cities?” Journal of Facilities Management, vol.11 (2013).

Editor’s footnote: The world’s growing urbanisation is not only throwing great challenges at us, it is also opening new vistas and new opportunities as Nancy makes clear in this feature.


…in 1900 there were only 200 million people living in urban locations (1/8th of the world population) but in 2014 the numbers have increased to 3.5 billion and will grow to 6.5 billion by 2050…


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