Jason Happy

One of FMANZ’s founders, Jason describes himself as “perhaps rather unusually, a deliberate facilities manager”.  He holds a Master of Architecture degree specialising in Facilities Management from Bartlett College in the UK, as well as an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Auckland University.

 

Before moving into FM 18 years ago, Jason practised as a professional engineer both here and overseas. He believes mechanical engineering was a valuable lead into facilities management, as generally engineers and facilities managers “like to see buildings running really well”.

 

In his role as National Facilities Manager for Kiwi Income Property Trust, Jason is responsible for ensuring the company’s existing properties and new developments are market-leading performers in operational efficiency and effectiveness.  He also manages Kiwi Property’s health and safety and environmental programmes.

Q: You have been involved in FMANZ from the very beginning. What was your vision for the Association?

It was three-pronged – we wanted to give facilities management an identity in New Zealand, provide a vehicle for collective development through networking and the sharing of knowledge and skills, and ultimately, we hoped to give facilities management a voice at a national level.

 

Q: Do you think that vision has been achieved?

Yes, in part. We have given facilities management in New Zealand a real identity. The collective development is a work in progress, although already we have delivered a means to recognise professional competency and have identified a clear need for FM education given the number of “accidental Facilities Managers”. To address the latter we are in the final phases of setting up an educational structure through which we can all develop our knowledge. Developing a national voice has yet to be explored but that can only really come once we have delivered a credible education offer thereby providing a clear development pathway. In short, we’re well advanced in two out of the three areas and the third will come as we build our credibility.

 

Q: What are the key roles and responsibilities of facilities managers as you see them?

Our key role is ensuring facilities are effective – that is, they do the job they need to do; and efficient – that is, they use the minimum amount of resources to do that job.  Something like 90% of our lives is spent indoors, so effective facilities have huge benefits both at a societal and individual level.  A lot of organisations have facilities managers without realising it.  For instance is the property manager or caretaker at a large secondary school, age care facility or factory a facilities manager? Absolutely, and they share a common set of needs in terms of skill sets!

 

Q: What do you think we do well in New Zealand in terms of facilities management?

There’s a huge scale difference between New Zealand and countries with much larger populations, such as the UK. For example, British Telecom built four buildings around London, each 20,000m2, when I was working in the UK. That’s 80,000m2 for one organisation in one city! The largest building in New Zealand is around 40,000m2.  As a result, facilities managers in the UK usually have a great depth of knowledge in a particular area.   Having said that, because we manage smaller-scale facilities in New Zealand, our facilities managers often have a broader skill set and can adapt very quickly to change.  To use the old figure of speech, we tend to be a jack of all trades rather than a master of one.

 

 

Q: Where do you think we fall short?

We can sometimes lack the depth of knowledge when compared to our overseas counterparts. As a result, our practices can sometimes be a bit thin.  Facilities managers in larger countries can have a deeper understanding in one area in which they specialise, although the downside is they can be slower-moving and slower to adapt.

 

Q: What do you think we as an industry can learn from overseas?

Standards, professional practices and tremendous expertise can be drawn from overseas. Learning from other countries, we can improve our practices and set standards. I believe FMANZ is an excellent vehicle for doing this.

 

Q: What have some of the big challenges and issues been for facilities managers in recent times?

The Global Financial Crisis has put a lot of pressure on costs – it’s not unheard of for facilities managers to be in their third year of operational expenditure cuts. It’s hard to have facilities humming under those kinds of constraints. We’ve also lived the last 4-5 years under an ever- tightening ‘compliance regime’. The governmental response to the Christchurch earthquakes, Pike River and so on has seen higher compliance standards to such things as health and safety, fire safety etc. Seeing a way through all of these changes has been challenging.

 

Q: What are some of the challenges the industry is facing going forward?

The depth and breadth of understanding we need isn’t always there. We need to try to move from a purely cost management equation to being regarded as adding to an organisation’s momentum, output and value. We need to help organisations extract better outcomes by changing the way we use facilities. For example, in shopping malls the rise of online shopping has meant a shift to malls as entertainment centres and social hubs.   Facilities and management of facilities have had to adapt to support this change i.e. longer hours of trade, cleanliness and security in more permeable malls, ambience delivery etc. It’s simply not solely about shopping any more.

 

Q: What is it that FM as an industry should be aiming for?

As an industry, we need to find the ‘value lever’ to turn conversations around FM away from the negative cost control to the positive and over-quoted ‘value add’.  Currently we know we’re doing well when there’s radio silence from management, whereas we need the powers-that-be to more continuously measure and acknowledge the worth of FM.

 

Q: How far along that road do you think we are?

Not far; it’s a work in progress. With the GFC we have all been operating in a very cost-focused environment which has elevated FM but in a relatively negative sense. Ironically, the current compliance focus could be seen as an opportunity. One way to demonstrate value is risk-mitigation and increased compliance affords us an opportunity to present a value case in risk mitigation. Long- term, we need to find a better value lever than this, although, in the short-term this isn’t a bad route to Rome.  Hopefully to the Senate and not to the Colosseum as lion bait!


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