Andrew Mcgonigle - Manager, Construction Projects, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Dec. 3, 2001
A Day in the Life of a Facility Manager - Part 9 of 9

Andrew McGonigle is a man of great enthusiasm and commitment - to his family, his work, good wine, and education. Strike up a conversation with him and you are quickly pulled into a dialogue filled with knowledge, experience, and great wit.

McGonigle studied architecture at Manchester University in England - receiving his Honors degree in Architecture and a diploma in Architecture (equivalent to a U.S. Master's degree) and has spent the past 28 years cultivating a skill that has afforded him a life in which he is both established and recognized. Though he freely admits that new things, new angles, and new twists within the facilities management industry always surprise him, he remains steadfast in his love of the classics, both in architecture and in life.

"Facilities management is very different from architecture. My greatest challenge is in working with contractors and other individuals to resolve conflicts. It's different from the normal role of an architect who just resolves the issue as it appears to him," he explains. "When the architect and the contractor have left and gone away and the building is complete, and two years later something doesn't work - whether it's a detail or a piece of equipment - we, as a unit, are still answerable to those issues. We are in a constant review of past projects to ensure that future projects do not have those same problems. Architects tend to build and then walk away from the problems. It's adding another layer of complexity to the design process to know how a unit or an item will be maintained - how its longevity will play a part in it. Very few designers think about their buildings in 10 years' time."

The high point in McGonigle's career came when he secured his first job in an architectural office. " I was fortunate enough with my second job to work in the Lake District in England - a wonderful opportunity to do wonderful architecture," he recalls.

"I went from there to doing commercial developments in London. I did the bulk of the construction documents of the renovation of the Millennium Theatre in Cardiff, Wales, the home of the Welsh National Opera. It combined my love of architecture with my love of opera."

McGonigle, who had once been advised by a career counselor to pursue a career in cartography (map drawing), offers novice and expert facilities professionals these sound words of advice: "Make yourself as knowledgeable as you possibly can on all aspects of design, not just a pretty building. Look at three-dimensional design, graphic design, interior design, and landscape architecture. Look for the professions that support architecture and incorporate those into your learnings.

"In terms of facilities management, you don't have to be the world's greatest designer, but you do need to know how things go together, why they go together, how they're built, and how to maximize the benefit to the building owner," he says. McGonigle suggests that perhaps the most difficult and critical job of any facilities professional is unlearning the role of architect or designer - leaving your pencil at home, but retaining all of the knowledge that enables you to use the pencil.

Up Close and Personal

Andrew, how do you spend your time outside of work?
The time spent at home is spent with my young children. I got two A's last year on my school projects and I was very proud. I also enjoy drinking, reading, and relating to French wine.

What is your favorite form of entertainment?
I adore the opera and classic theatre. My favorite opera is Turandot. It engages all of your senses through instruments, singing, acting, and wonderful design.

What is your most important tool?
I use the telephone and e-mail most. The telephone has a more personal connection to it, and it's easier to resolve issues on it.

What is your personal motto?
I give the best that I can to the people I work with - be the best that I can.

If you could do anything else for a living, what would you do?
I'd be a landscape architect - the ability to take a design element, think it through, and then construct it on a much grander and sculptural scale. With landscape architecture, you can mold and shape and continually improve. The connection between man and earth is primeval.

What is your least favorite buzzword or catch phrase?
You want it when?

Who would you like to meet?
Turn of the century architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. He did most of his work in the city where my father was born. Thomas Jefferson, whose knowledge and appreciation of wine was phenomenal, as well as his knowledge of architecture - specifically academic architecture - would be interesting.

Clara M.W. Vangen (clara.vangen@ is technologies editor at Buildings magazine.

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