A generation ago, a typical building project meeting would include a crew of managers, interior designers, architects, and contractors. But as buildings grew increasingly sophisticated, those meetings started welcoming new faces. “Today, half of those people are either IT or tech-related,” says Suzanne Kennedy, chair of the Management and Facilities department. That’s the crux of the thinking behind the department’s new Master of Science in Facility Management—the buildings have gotten more sophisticated; the people who manage them need to get more sophisticated, too. We talked to Kennedy about those changes, the new degree, and the ever-shifting role of the modern facility manager. —DAN MORRELL
Q: A recent CareerBuilder.com survey found that facility management salaries had moved up more than 4 percent—from about $89,000 to $95,000—ranking 11th among the fastest-growing salaries in the country. Why the jump?
A: Some of it has to do with the economy. People in the decision-making roles have realized what an impact a facility manager has on the bottom line. And the facility infrastructure—including IT—is now the second largest expense that a company has besides salaries.
Q: How has the industry changed to make graduate-level education relevant?
A: There’s a need now for the middle-level facilities manager to be able to go beyond their current knowledge—especially in finance and real estate. They need to be able to work closely with the upper-level managers, the CEOs, the vice presidents and talk to them on more of a business level and push forward the building facility agenda in a way that they will understand. And those business and communication strategies are topics we cover in the new program.
Q: There’s also a sustainability component to the program—how has the green building movement affected the field?
A: This new focus on sustainability and saving energy for facility managers—it’s not something you can just intuitively do. You need to be able to understand how energy is delivered, how companies can buy and sell energy and get energy credits. Again, it’s about ways to save money in economically challenging times. But there’s also a focus on just doing the right thing for the environment.