World FM Day: climate risk and FM
12 May 2022
The Sustainability SIG is contributing to World FM Day 2022 by publishing an article a day during the week. Sunil Shah from the SFMI and SIG committee member discusses the role FM can take to optimise workplace performance and organisational risk.
Climate risk is a subject not often spoken about by FMs, but it will become a major consideration for how properties are managed, and for the level of capital projects undertaken to enable buildings to continue in operation.
Over the past few months, the IPCC (an intergovernmental body of the United Nations responsible for advancing knowledge on human-induced climate change) has been producing a number of reports related to the latest research on climate change. The focus for much of the work is to better understand the implications on society and how we can utilise this knowledge to adapt and enable policies to reduce the impacts.
Climate risk is a major factor affecting most properties, whether residential or commercial. Regulations to reduce overheating of housing stock is in place and the requirements to understand forward risks to commercial properties is now mandated for larger organisations. Whilst we are on a trajectory of increasing impacts, what does this mean for FM?
Firstly, a bit of background. Climatic variances are increasing, evidenced by more common extreme events taking place around the world – whether that be flooding in Sydney, heatwaves in California, snowstorms in Texas or multiple storms in the UK. These variances will continue and become more extreme and by the 2030’s, to become progressively normal. In the UK, wetter winters and storm events will increase risk of damage to buildings and surface flooding; instances of temperatures exceeding 32C will increase almost 10-fold impacting the ability of buildings to deliver comfortable workspaces.
How will this affect FM? The timelines we are looking at stretch between 8 and 15 years into the future – well within the timeframe for any capital investment in heating or cooling equipment and within timelines for a number of leases. Buildings that are unviable for occupancy during summer months will be difficult to lease or even to ensure staff operate within them. Forward planning to understand changes to management, maintenance and five-year capital spend is a role that FM can provide and speaks to the enterprise risk impacts for an organisation – often viewed through the board and finance director.
Additional factors including travel to and from site will also influence behaviours and utilisation of space – who would like to spend time on a crowded train in high temperatures, or even in crowded below ground transport hubs approaching 50C? Flexible working may again be driven by external factors.
The starting point for any organisation is about understanding the portfolio and the current operational management regime in place which will take place alongside a view of how forward climatic conditions will affect the properties. Opportunities will also arise, with the ability to extend the lifetime of properties, improve workplace conditions and retain the asset valuation of the real estate.
FM is well placed to guide organisations through this maze, but action is required soon to benefit from the opportunities.