On the Shelf, Online
Bernard Williams is a cryptic- crossword lover. This penchant for solving difficult problems has spilt over into his professional life, particularly since he started up his specialist building economics consultancy - Bernard Williams Associates (BWA) - in 1970. The practice was founded on construction cost management where, very early on developing, his ground-breaking 'Journal' system became the template for all modern building cost management systems.
During the early years of BWA, Williams retrained in other related areas of surveying such as development appraisal and property management. His work in cost management of building interior fit-outs with Frank Duffy and John Worthington of DEGW brought him much closer to the building is use than most of his contemporaries and eventually became the catalyst for his deeper involvement in facilities economics.
Soon after the practice got going, he found himself being asked to do development appraisals - not only for commercial developers but also for building users looking at the options thrown up by DEGW's space planning studies. So, sitting by the fireside one cold winter's evening, instead of tackling 'The Times' cryptic puzzle, he did some algebra to make these financial appraisals a lot simpler: the result was a working manual which, under the title 'Property Development Feasibility Tables', became his first publication. To put this into effect he set up Building Economics Bureau (BEB) a publishing and research company which he ran alongside his practice up to and beyond his retirement from the BWA partnership in 2002.
BEB soon became the outlet for Williams' craving for solving those difficult problems. Working with industry experts he developed 'flow chart' solutions - mainly in the form of enormous wall charts - to brain-teasing legislation such as the Community Land Act, Development Land Tax, Business Tenancies, Health & Safety in the Office, Employment Law and VAT on construction and property development.
In 1986 Frank Duffy commissioned Williams to write 'Premises Audits' for his Bulstrode Press. This was successful but, as he got more and more involved with FM, Williams realised that the 'soft' services like cleaning, reprographics, archiving, stationery and document distribution were just as important - and expensive - as the hard costs like maintenance, energy and security that his firm was now benchmarking for the large conglomerates.
This holistic view of FM eventually was soon reflected in his book 'Facilities Economics', published in 1994 by BEB and now in its third UK edition of 850 pages. Working with Brian Purdey, it has been re-written for the Australian market and, more recently, Williams has been working with his old colleague from DEGW John Francis (now a USA resident) to put the final touches to the USA version.
Williams wanted to make it easier for people to access this mine of information available on 850 pages crammed with facts, figures and information on everything he knows about facilities economics - from the value of development land to the cost-effectiveness of coffee machines! The answer is an electronic publishing system wherein the Facilities Economics books and others he has written like 'An Introduction to Benchmarking' and 'Whole-Life Economics of Building Services' are now available on CD-ROMs. This format provides readers with access to the vast amount of detail instantly on their lap-tops or PC's by clicking on an extensive Contents list. They can also call up the excellent full colour diagrams to the full screen by clicking on the thumbnail in the text.
A further feature has been the introduction of 'printable' versions of the CD's where users can print off parts of the text/figures to study at their leisure away from the screen. This is particularly valued by those studying degree courses in FM, whom, if they follow the College of Estate Management distance learning course, receive the CD as part of the core material for the course.
Williams stayed on as a consultant to BWA when he retired from the partnership in 2002. He felt he still had a few unfinished puzzles to solve. Other authors brought their ideas to his publishing company, now renamed at International Facilities and Property Information Ltd (IFPI), reflecting the increase in scope and geographical spread of the products. Among these are 'Town Planning at Your Fingertips', a CD created by Barry Redding and Geoff Parsons to help practitioners through the jungle of changing legislation in this field; and Derek Paxman's nuts and bolts description of 'Facilities Management in Practice', soon to be published as a book and CD-ROM courtesy of IFPI.
Williams is doing less writing and more systems analysis these days, but he has still time to work with value management expert Gill Smyth to write 'Facilities Value Management'. This work, part of which shows how to develop a value managed Facilities Policy directly linked to the corporate plan, is scheduled for publication this spring.
In addition, and working with BWA's massive database of facilities services costs and performance, Williams has created a DIY benchmarking and cost prediction tool - Facilities Cost Monitor. Developed in a JV with FSI (FM Solutions) Ltd, Facilities Cost Monitor (FCM) has modules for Cleaning, Maintenance, Security, Distribution, Energy, Reprographics, Stationery and Archiving. Williams personally identified all the cost ranges of all the 'scope' items in each cost centre and their cost drivers. He then modelled each scope item and created a set of key questions (with a detailed Helptext) the answers to which direct the costs of each service to the best performance target with uncanny accuracy.
Although FCM was originally developed for one-off building benchmarks, it has now been greatly extended to enable assessment of costs right across even the largest estates. One very happy user has the FCM EstatesMaster version, looking after FM service costs in over one million sq. m of every type of building use imaginable, not just in the UK but in North America and continental Europe as well.
These are busy times for Bernard Williams, but he certainly is not flagging. A new product 'Servicecycle' for instant calculation of whole-life services costs and CO2 emissions that he has developed with services engineer Malcolm Lay is well under way and on schedule to hit the bookshops in March.