New classes and changing structure are on the schedule for FM students this fall. Some schools are focusing more on accommodating working professionals with more flexible degree programs, while others have opted to broaden course offerings.
Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, which offers Master of Science degrees in building construction and facility management, recently added a class entitled Sustainability and Health with the goal to expand it into two courses once funding is available. The class covers operational impacts of sustainability initiatives, LEED, internal green policies, regulatory requirements for healthcare settings, and other concerns.
“Lots of information has been focused on sustainable design and construction issues, but not so much operational,” says Kathy Roper, associate professor and chair of integrated facility management at Georgia Tech.
Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, which offers Master of Science degrees in Facilities Management, recently added a wide spectrum of FM classes – Sustainability, Building Information Modeling (BIM), and International FM. The sustainability class qualifies students to pass USGBC exams for LEED-GA (Green Associate) and LEED AP for EB-O&M. “We established a major partnership with other departments,” says Carol Reznikoff, adjunct associate professor. “The combination of interior design and facility management is an amazing combination because you understand better how a building works when you have that background.”
Both utility and fixed expenses decreased between 2009 and 2010 for U.S. private-sector office buildings, with a 5.5% decrease in utility expenses (higher than the 4.3% average for all office buildings) and a 9.2% decrease in fixed expenses, according to BOMA’s 2011 experience exchange report.
This suggests that property managers and owners are closely managing assets and monitoring expenses. Many property professionals employ low- and no-cost energy reduction strategies to cut utility expenses, helping offset energy cost increases.
Conestoga College in Kitchener, ON, is “status quo as far as FM is concerned,” says James Bechard, professor of facility management. Conestoga is still working toward obtaining recognition from industry, property management, and real estate for its APFM program. The Rochester Institute of Technology in New York opted not to introduce new classes, focusing instead on making the program structure more amenable to working professionals. RIT remains the only Master of Science program in FM that can be completed entirely online.
“Last year was really the first time we began to go out and market the program in the FM community,” says Jeffrey Rogers, assistant professor in RIT’s facility management program. “Starting in August 2013, we’re converting from a quarter system to a semester system. You’ll go through fewer courses, but you’re able to go into them in more depth. We’ll also be looking at different entrance and exit strategies.”
Many students, especially current FMs looking to expand their knowledge, are interested in earning professional credentials, Rogers adds. Expanding educational opportunities in this area could make it easier for facilities managers to gain valuable knowledge about operating 21st century buildings.
“We really need to formalize the career path for facilities managers, from high school to community college, bachelor’s, master’s, and the Ph.D. level,” Rogers says. “We’ve got to work on finding a way to standardize facilities management as a profession. I think that type of formal mechanism would keep students within FM.”