Facilities management: Structuring a body of knowledge for continuing and tertiary education in South Africa

  • A. C. Hauptfleisch Departement Bourekenkunde en Konstruksiebestuur, Universiteit van die Vrystaat, Bloemfontein
Keywords: bouomgewing, fasiliteitebestuur, kennisraamwerk, tersiêre onderwys, voortgesette onderwys


Globally the development of property and infrastructure, being part of the creation of  fixed investment and wealth, is taking place unabated. In support of this process is a multitude of highly skilled built environment professionals such as engineers, architects, quantity surveyors, construction managers, town and regional planners, land surveyors, etc. The absence of a universally acknowledged profession of the same standing, designated to manage and optimise the utilisation of the ever-compounding  fixed investments in the products of the collective built environment (buildings, engineering structures and infrastructure), is observed. In practice it manifests itself in the attempts, by the previously mentioned professionals and others, to cast themselves into the role of facilities managers. Of concern is the resultant diverse group of “facilities management” practitioners, sometimes without basic built environment education, often lacking any noteworthy specialised education or experience. For obvious reasons, the more developed a country, the more evident it becomes that a specific facilities management profession is taking root and is practised at various managerial levels. The term “facilities management” reportedly came into use in the United States of America during the 1970’s when a Facility Management Institute was founded in the USA and the first known formal symposium was held in Washington DC in 1989. Although perhaps lacking some of the prestige associated with other professions, there are reasons to believe that facilities management is in the process of becoming a driving force, not only in the scientific management and optimisation of fixed assets, but as a knowledge-based initiator of development in the built environment. The lack of a highly developed facilities management profession manifests itself in the alarming rate at which infrastructure and buildings are deteriorating in South Africa. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that very little is being done at the level of continuing education and formal tertiary education in South Africa. The limited attempts in this regard are furthermore taking place in isolation, with practically no dialogue between the limited facilities management industry and the providers of the limited education that is available.

Although the study that was undertaken did not have the objective to create comprehensive interaction between the existing role-players, the stated problems were addressed by involving the industry, participants in continuing education programmes and other role-players in the condensed research problem as stated below.

The problem at hand is firstly to extract, from the present practice of facilities management, a knowledge framework and secondly to formulate the results in terms of suitable continuing and tertiary education programmes to address the shortcomings in South Africa. Research was therefore undertaken to address the structuring of educational programmes. The methodology applied comprised a comprehensive literature survey and three quantified and qualified data surveys, the latter conducted amongst facilities management practitioners, primarily the perceived beneficiaries of such programmes. These surveys provided information that led to the resultant educational activities stated below. The most important aspects that were determined were the following:

  • It was possible to create and test amongst facilities management practitioners a diagrammatic presentation that contextualised facilities management.
  • The literature survey, including international and South African sources, contributed towards compiling a primary knowledge framework for facilities management.
  • The perceived value of the contents of a continuing education programme that had been attended by numerous groups of delegates over a number of years was established.
  • A proposed tertiary education programme was presented to practitioners, resulting in quantified guidance regarding the perceived knowledge framework that could partially address the stated problems.

The knowledge that was gained by presenting a five-day continuing education programme over a period of years and the acceptance and support it enjoyed provided guidance for the introduction of a three-year academic programme in facilities management. Further confirmation of the proposed route to follow was obtained through the literature survey, quantitative data obtained from practitioners and academics, as well as from the quantified questionnaire data. The foregoing provided a beneficial basis to support the relative “new” but most important discipline of facilities management.

The results of this research found application in the enhancement of an existing continuing education programme and the introduction of a three-year tertiary education programme at the University of the Free State.

Original Research