A day in the life of a public sector facilities manager
What’s different about being in the public sector? Is there more to it than just fixing things that go wrong in buildings owned by the government? Steve Tyler, a City of Sydney portfolio manager, takes the Property Council of Australia’s Property Council Academy through a typical day in the life of a facilities manager in the public sector.
Apart from the concept of public sector meaning the community – sometimes en masse and sometimes demanding individuals – it also means a range of challenges arise when you have to deal with risk and public accountability, for instance, as what happens when a situation ends up on the front page of a tabloid.
Sitting in the City of Sydney offices on Kent Street looking at a large 3D model of the Sydney CBD, Steve Tyler, a City of Sydney portfolio manager, clarifies the range of roles within the property team and points to the various buildings the City of Sydney owns and those he manages on a day-to-day basis. These range from aquatic centres to town halls. He explains that the facilities manager is part of the whole property team.
The City of Sydney owns and manages over 200 buildings, ranging from historic specific-purpose icons, such as Customs House, which houses a range of uses from a library to a restaurant, to investment properties that are acquired for strategic purposes and community centres in the Rocks. Being a facilities manager in the public sector is a diverse role requiring a wide range of skills for different situations and for different customers.
The complexity of the role means the modern-day facilities manager has a project and relationship management role. “The public sector context puts a risk and accountability overlay over everything we do,” Tyler notes. “We have to ensure the best outcome for the city and its customers in the longer term as well as today. So, we focus on the more strategic issues and, instead of fixing tiles and taps, we manage the performance of others who do that on a day-to-day basis.” These service providers are invariably private sector companies. This adds a layer of reporting and administration.
BALANCING COMPLIANCE, EQUITY AND HERITAGE
One of Tyler’s major responsibilities is the Sydney Town Hall. The building was recently closed for 18 months to undergo a $35 million refurbishment of building services, including fire, electrical, HVAC, lifts and the construction of a new level below the building.
A group of seniors arrive for a guided tour of the building. Tyler takes them to the Council Chamber and answers questions about the way council works. The next stop is the Lord Mayor’s Reception Room and here he is confronted with a question about disabled access.
Tyler explains the City of Sydney’s previous and proposed initiatives and the delicate balance between compliance, equity and heritage. He also explains the legislative emphasis on access for the disabled and the city’s desire to be inclusive, and outlines how the city is investigating options to create an accessible, equitable entry so that people with disabilities can enter Sydney Town Hall as easily as their able-bodied friends.
Commenting on the fact that this must be a challenging project, Tyler notes, “The public sector often sets the standards in key compliance and safety areas and requires us to think about the life circumstances of every person – the comfort, the risk and the essential right to an experience which most of us take for granted.”
JUGGLING COMMERCIAL EVENTS
We move into one of the venues where staff are unpacking chairs for another citizenship ceremony – they are held several times a year. “We have up to 200 people for each ceremony, including their friends and relatives, and we want to make sure this is a special event,” Tyler states.
“There is a lot of preparation and support for these events and we have a very competent team managing the bump in and out. It’s especially busy when we have a major commercial event at the same time, but the team manages this like clockwork.”
Commercial events range from conferences to an array of concerts – from Lady Gaga to symphonies – city talks and school events. “The demands of these events are diverse and we have an overlying responsibility to ensure that Sydney Town Hall – which is ‘owned’ by the public – is protected and not compromised in any way while providing an enjoyable experience,” Tyler notes.
MAINTAINING PEAK PERFORMANCE
Sydney Town Hall is used by thousands of people each day, and requires constant care and risk monitoring. Tyler bids us farewell as he leaves to complete the variety of other tasks and reports a facilities manager is required to do on a regular basis. “Technology has made a huge difference to the reporting role of facilities managers, but still needs to be tailored,” he comments.
On the way out, he looks in on Centennial Hall and sees a group of 200 high school students taking the stage to prepare for a concert. “At the end of the day, our job is to keep Sydney Town Hall at peak performance so that future generations enjoy it as much as we do,” Tyler concludes.