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Experts emphasise role of facilities management in enhancing green building performance

Human behaviour may be causing green buildings in Qatar to perform far below their potential, according to a team of experts brought together by Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC). Nearly two decades of research has shown that green buildings do not perform as well as their designers expect.

QGBC and Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMU-Q), with funding from Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), have initiated the first scientific study to determine whether the behaviour of the personnel who maintain and operate these buildings -facilities management -is at the heart of this disconnect.

The Director of the Center for Health Systems & Design at Texas A&M University, Dr Mardelle Shepley, is a member of the research team. She brings extensive experience in post-occupancy evaluation to help explain why this divide occurs.

"The way that building performance is evaluated must change," said Dr Shepley, explaining that, traditionally, green building performance is evaluated on its economic benefits and energy consumption, discounting human factors.

In post-occupancy evaluation, buildings are also appraised from the perspective of their end-users, such as students at a school or doctors in a hospital. Dr Shepley asserts that the QGBC/TAMU-Q study is the first to address the role of facilities management on the operations of sustainable buildings.

"Understanding the experience of facility management staff is critical to the effectiveness of sustainable buildings," said Dr Shepley, underlining the pivotal role that maintenance personnel play in evaluating building performance, given their unique position in understanding the building owners, its end-users, and the structure itself. 

Facilities management was the topic of a workshop organised by QGBC on 21 January to examine the challenges that are faced in retrofitting buildings across Doha. The second in a QGBC series, entitled 'Doha's Existing Building Stock and the Road to Sustainability', the workshop featured local and international expertise in building design and construction.

Representatives from Maintenance Management Group Qatar (MMG-Qatar) offered a thought-provoking review of delivering facilities management in Qatar and suggestions on how to further develop the field. Professionals from HOW United Services and Interserve addressed the technical challenges of facilities management and its relationship with improved energy performance.

Dr John Bryant, associated professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University at Qatar and Lead Principle Investigator on the QNRF-funded research project, delved into further detail on the study's comparative approach in a co-presentation with Dr Alex Amato, QGBC's Head of Sustainability.

"Our study will evaluate and compare three archetype buildings in Qatar that represent the commercial, institutional and residential; RasGas Headquarters, Education City Clubhouse and Qatar's first Passivhaus, Baytna," explained Dr Bryant. The team believes the difference in facilities management and operations between these types of buildings will be reflected in their performance.

In a final presentation, Dr Zofia Rybkowski, another member of the research team and TAMU Assistant Professor in the Department of Construction Science, discussed 'lean construction', an international phenomenon in design and construction to reduce cost and improve the value of complex projects.

"QGBC is proud to continue its leadership role in the emerging green building movement in Qatar. We are committed to exposing all aspects of sustainable building design and construction to our members, the public and government, and mobilising the expertise of our members to address the sustainability challenges that Qatar's construction sector faces," said Meshal Al-Shamari, Director of QGBC.

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