(AP photo by Lynne Sladky, Surfside Florida, USA, June 25, 2021)
It’s safe to say that none of my fellow facility managers - hundreds of thousands of us worldwide - who heard of the collapse of Champlain Towers South, a twelve-story condominium complex of 1970s construction in Florida, USA, has not thought of how this disaster came about, when/where/how we would have intervened if we had been involved, and how likely that the outcome would have been different.
Facility managers are generalists coordinating specialists to optimize performance of the built environment. How well facilities serve people and organizations who have a stake is our constant concern. We come to facility management from a variety of occupations, acquiring competence and earning credentials to be effective in varied and demanding situations. Post-secondary education and training now supply increasing numbers of facility managers in response to growing career opportunities.
We are strategists, communicators, coordinators, analysts, and leaders. Relationships built around needs and issues inform and guide us in working with executives and boards, and among specialists from planning, quality, finance, HR, engineering and technical disciplines and services, cleaning, security and hospitality, supply chain, compliance and legal, community… to align efforts and produce results. Ensuring safety and security is both daily and strategic.
After the collapse, sorrows and injuries are large among people who lost families, friends, and homes. Engineering forensics will eventually illuminate components and provisions that failed and the associated material circumstances. Methods for correction and prevention will ensue. Fingers will point in all directions. Multiple controversies and claims will continue for months and years over proximate causes. Personal and organizational costs will be large and prolonged.
The 2018 consulting engineer report excerpts and now moot intentions of the condominium board to remedy the conditions disclosed hint at what was missed: timely due diligence and an integrated picture of problems, evidence, feasible actions, and priorities. Even among capable, invested, experienced, and responsible but separate parties connected with a facility, adequate efforts to produce timely solutions do not reliably arise spontaneously and ad hoc, but facility management as a practice and profession convenes, coordinates, and can link all participants.
A qualified facility manager, whether an employee typically handling multiple properties snd projects or a consultant, even if arriving as late as 2018, would have, simultaneously
· Initiated or verified a facility condition index and established priorities and budgets
· Studied the report of the consulting engineer and conferred with the author(s), interpreting the language and issues in risk terms to prioritize what to investigate further at once out of urgent concern for the structure and occupants
· Briefed the executive committee promptly and frequently, recommending strategies, initiatives, communications, and outcomes to envision, keeping them informed and involved
What could have ensued? Readiness to act earlier in view of well-defined options and immediate and severe imperatives seems a probable result considering diligence, insight, clarity, communication, and coordination to be expected from a qualified facility manager.
Blogger David Reynolds, CFM, is a facility management consultant in Global Facility Management Alliance, Immediate Past President of the FM Consultants Council of IFMA, and active in the IFMA OM&HS Community, FM Pipeline (creators of the Facilithon), ISO, and AFE.