Product Selection: Top Facility Managers Reveal Best Practices
When facility managers lead product selection, the result is lower long-term cost, better operations, and happier occupants.
Whether it’s new construction, renovation, retrofit, or replacement, the first day that building occupants get to use a space is likely to be filled with excitement and congratulations. Then the real test begins. Will the carpet hold up to traffic? What about doors and door hardware? Can the new HVAC system be maintained? Are utility costs in line with expectations? Are occupants happy with the restroom? In the best cases, the new or updated building runs smoothly and efficiently, taking whatever occupants dish out. But every facility manager has lived through or at least heard about projects that produced years-long, even decades-long, headaches. And looking back it’s easy to see that choices about which products would be used, decisions made during the design and construction stages, went a long way to determining the long-term success or failure of the project. That’s why many facility managers take a lead role in selecting the products to be used in a building. They have found that the effort pays off in multiple ways, from lower life cycle costs to more satisfied employees, tenants, and patients.
As a result, leadership in product selection has emerged as a best practice for facility managers looking to maximize their value to their organization.
“Building owners should have direct specification responsibility for all building products and materials,” says Bradley Cardoso, principal architect at Hobbs Brook Management, in an email. “As a developer, property owner, and facility manager, Hobbs Brook Management believes that understanding our business requirements and corporate goals, as well as being knowledgeable of the performance and warranties of various products, allows us to make sound decisions as informed consumers.”
Hobbs Brook has a 50-person in-house staff that has developed tight building standards that apply across the firm’s portfolio of nearly six million square feet of office space. The staff conducts due diligence on product performance, relying on professional expertise, research, and experience. “With these guidelines, we are fully involved from the start of each project,” Cardoso says. “We can confidently specify products and build in a way that reduces our operating expenses by considering the cost over the lifecycle of a product.”
In-house specs enable Hobbs Brook to ensure that products used in its buildings meet corporate goals: tenant retention, profitability by reducing operating expenses, and sustainability. “We have years of experience in choosing the right products and knowing the optimal time for replacement,” Cardoso says. “Our product specifications offer us greater control of construction projects and deliver the preferred outcome — systems and products that wear well throughout the life of a tenant lease.”
There aren't 75 types of paint being used. There are four we use for the walls.
— Isaac Larson, Executive Director of Facility Planning and Development, Froedtert Health System
Involvement in product selection pays off on the bottom line. “The up-front product purchase price is only a fraction of the overall cost; it is important to understand a product’s potential maintenance issues as ongoing repairs or premature replacement can far outweigh up-front costs,” Cardoso says. “We evaluate materials to identify ease and frequency of maintenance and replacement. For example, flooring that doesn’t require buffing and carpets that wear well and hide stains require considerably less maintenance. While the products tend to be more expensive initially, the savings in maintenance and replacement costs can be significant and lead to increased tenant satisfaction.”
Another benefit of having detailed product and material standards that apply to all new construction, renovation, and retrofits is that in-house staff knows what’s in the building and can be better prepared for repairs and maintenance, Cardoso points out.
“Additionally, it is important to monitor product performance and track metrics to inform our choices of future specifications,” Cardoso says.