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What is a Facilities Manager?

Did you know what you were going to be when you grew up? How many times did you change your mind about your future occupation? Imagine knowing that you wanted to be an architect at this age:

And actually becoming that person almost twenty years later.

If you were to ask an architect, many might say that they knew early on that they wanted to be an architect for many different reasons (an obsession with Legos, an interest in art, one too many episodes of watching Mr. Ed). But it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized there was an additional path I was meant to follow.

While pursuing my degree in Architecture, an advisor mentioned Facilities Management to me. You may not know what a Facilities Manager is – at the time, I didn’t – and that’s what I’m here to talk to you about today.

Facilities management is the day to day operations of a building. The jobs of a facility manager are varied, but run the gamut of identifying a paint chip on the wall to the overseeing of an expansion of a building – and everything in between. A facilities manager coordinates people, processes, and technology to ensure the longevity of a building.

As a homeowner, you can think of yourself as a facilities manager. If your HVAC is not working properly, you might not know how to fix it yourself, but you do know who to call. You’re the one who identifies the problem, coordinates with a professional, and confirms when it’s fixed. A facilities manager does just that – only his “home” can be a football stadium, museum, or even a theme park.

Not all buildings have a facilities manager – there can be building maintenance managers, certainly. He or she is the person you call when there is a problem at your office, store, classroom, etc. (they usually have a set of keys to the entire building). A building manager, however, is a reactionary person. They fix the problems. A facilities manager, in comparison, is proactive – their main focus is preventative maintenance.

So how does a facilities management degree work with architecture?

As an architect, you coordinate how a building is put together with a multitude of consultants (civil, structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, etc). Who better to call than the architect of a building when someone big goes wrong? They are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of it.

But an architect can be like a general practitioner; they understand the whole body and can make diagnoses. A facilities manager is like a specialist – it only works on that one building day in and day out. They are intimately knowledgeable about the building.

So, for me, it was only natural to combine the two academic paths. Having an architectural background gives me a better understanding of the problems a facilities manager can come across – you know the how’s and the whys. And having a facilities management education helps me design a building with the intention of it being sustainable.

I like to say that a facilities manager works in the background; you only see them when a problem arises. But I think understanding everything a facilities manager does give us a better appreciation for the things we – the users – don’t have to think about. They make our interactions with the places we visit an enjoyable experience.

By Friday I will be a graduate of Florida A & M University and will have completed my educational path. I can only hope I am able to take what I have learned and best serve my community and you.

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