I read recently that BMW is building a new facility where the space is designed from the standpoint of promoting facility maintenance best practices. Instead of worrying about aesthetics to the exclusion of everything else, the architects and designers will actually be taking into account how easy the facility will be to clean and maintain.
Strategies like the one BMW is employing just might be the best way to answer what I think is a critical question: What happens when you build a plant with facilities management in mind? Think about it: companies spend tens of millions—even hundreds of millions—of dollars designing and building top-of-the-line facilities. What good does that do if they discover years down the road that their investment is excessively (perhaps even prohibitively) expensive to maintain. I think there is enormous value in investing time and energy up-front in designing spaces and places that are not only attractive, but also durable, accessible, functional and easy (not to mention cost-effective) to maintain.
The first step is to make sure that your architects aren’t designing in a vacuum – solicit feedback and input from facilities management and maintenance experts. Make sure that you design with performance in mind; prioritizing the needs of the people who will be using and maintaining the facility every day. In particular, healthcare organizations would likely benefit from asking themselves tough questions about the degree to which their facilities can meet the rigorous demands of a busy healthcare environment; not just today, but for decades to come.
Organizations should have a design standards manual with contributions by the end user, and architects and building managers both need a say in the design process. Whether it’s small details like full-door hinges or sturdier cabinets to withstand a hospital’s wear and tear, or big-picture stuff like the logistics and dimensions of entryways and pedestrian corridors, a practical facilities-management approach to design can help to keep building working and costs down. And, at a time when shrinking Maintenance, Repair and Operations budgets are the rule, rather than the exception, that priority is more important than ever.