What does a facilities manager do?

Updated April 17, 2017

Facilities management is a complex field that focuses on the daily management of large commercial and public sector buildings ranging from suburban shopping malls to the world's tallest skyscrapers. A facilities manager is required to supervise the maintenance of the plumbing and lighting, electrical power, air conditioning and heating. The manager also is responsible for security, office cleaning and landscaping.

The Past

For many years, the facilities manager was the building superintendent charged with ensuring the building operated in an efficient manner. The manager responded to repair requests, hire maintenance personnel and scheduled routine maintenance, ranging from how a cleaning crew performed tasks and changing light bulbs to lobby security.


The field in the past two decades has grown highly specialised as local, state and federal governments, corporations and national organisations invest heavily in the buildings they own or lease. Building owners now usually outsource facilities management. Managers are no longer simply gatekeepers of a building, but now must be knowledgeable in employee litigation, environmental regulatory guidelines, communications technology and even violence in the workplace.

Fiscal Responsibility

Building owners demand a maximum return on their investment and expect facilities managers to keep operating costs at a minimum. This requires anticipating problems in the building, such as understanding the complexities of an automated air-conditioning system and how the exterior environment impacts the interior of the building.

Types of Buildings

The operation of a hotel differs vastly from a business office due to the high degree of public traffic and the interaction between the staff, the structure and the public. Large shopping malls, sports arenas and convention centres accommodate tens of thousands of people and require nuanced decision-making to ensure the public is served by a well-functioning environment.

Cost-Cutting Construction

The construction budget and the anticipated needs of a building determine the job of the facilities manager. Building owners on a tight budget and construction schedule may not anticipate, or in some cases ignore, the future needs of a building. Inadequate air-conditioning and heating systems are common challenges. Owners today often devote no more than 20 per cent of the budget to the lifetime needs of the structure.

Unexpected Growth

The global economic downturn in 2008 to 2009 has had an unexpected impact on the facilities manager. Fewer commercial buildings are being constructed, but the number of completed buildings ready for occupancy has increased. The biggest growth in outsourced management is in the Middle East. Contracts in the Persian Gulf region were expected to reach £6 billion by 2012, creating hundreds of new manager jobs (see Resources). Nearly 100 facilities management companies alone are operating in the United Arab Emirates.

Energy efficiency

Government energy mandates have made the job of a manager complex. Selection of an automation system has an impact on the manager to ensure energy efficiency. The manager must supervise the automated systems controlling how lighting is turned on or off. The manager also must be particularly sensitive to the operation of air handlers that mix interior air with the exterior to minimise the use of cooled or heated water and to ensure the interior air remains healthy.

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About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.