Rob Pearlman's Facility Management Team at International Finance Corp. Relies on Data
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: Increasing Density Helps Manage SpacePt. 3: How IFC Tracks Energy Usage and EfficiencyPt. 4: Video: A LEED-EBOM Case Study
Since 2003, the International Finance Corp. (IFC), one of five members of the World Bank Group, has added 845 seats to its original capacity of 1,655 in its 1.1 million-square-foot headquarters facility in Washington, D.C. This represents a growth of more than 50 percent in the building's total population, which now stands at 2,500 seats.
"At this point," says Rob Pearlman, IFC's senior facilities and administration officer, "we're full, and by normal standards, we have been for several years."
However, it wasn't until he did an analysis showing $65 million in avoided real estate costs over the past eight years that Pearlman finally got management's attention. Instead of leasing expensive space to accommodate the massive growth over the years, Pearlman has quietly compressed workstation standards and reconfigured spaces in the building's open office plan areas. But it took showing senior management a number amounting to a small fortune calculated from hard data to finally get them to perk up their ears and make policy changes.
When your occupants and upper managers alike are bankers, finance gurus and investment officers, they respond to data and logic because the work they do is data-driven, Pearlman says. So data-driven strategies are how Pearlman must ply his trade — not just for space planning, but also for occupant satisfaction, energy efficiency, and other sustainable initiatives, including a LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) Platinum certification for the company's headquarters building.
It's easy to collect data. It's much harder to collect meaningful data. Pearlman says the most important question he always asks himself and his team is, "How do you extract meaning from data that allows you to take the next step toward a specific goal?"
"You should always be gathering data for a particular objective or for specific results," he says. "It's easy to get obsessed with collecting data for the sake of collecting data. But it really should be a tool to sell ideas or make investments."
As Pearlman and his team have honed their ability to collect and analyze data, they've also gotten better at using it as a communication tool. Showing $65 million in avoided costs to upper managers is one thing — that gets you some pretty significant backslapping. But explaining to a banker or a financial lawyer why he or she suddenly has a much smaller workstation is quite another. The "we're all in this together" angle only goes so far when it comes to crunching people's space. But with the clout Pearlman's gained with upper managers and what he's learned about how IFC occupants respond to data-based strategies, he says explaining everything from the increasingly tight space constraints to IFC's continued sustainability efforts has gotten easier.
"We take the attitude that business decisions based on fact make it easier for decision-makers and occupants to understand costs and benefits," says Pearlman. "We have the data and use it when there are questions from occupants or management."