Spotlight on FM in KSA Education Sector

Michael Moore explores how the Kingdom’s drive for high standards of education & facilities is directly reflected in the desire for high standards of FM
Michael Moore | KSA | Facilities Management

The market

Here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the last decade has seen a much greater emphasis placed upon education and as a result, this is one of the largest growth sectors for construction and subsequent Facilities Management (FM). 

Like many countries, educational services are provided by the state and also by a growing number of educational service providers who recognise KSA as an ‘emerging market’.  To meet these needs, the state has launched an aggressive expansion programme by developing a large number of education facilities from Kindergarten to world-class Universities. These are being maintained through forms of PPP/PFI mechanisms which are gaining popularity here in the Kingdom.

For example, the organization where I work, Al Bawani Group, has secured and is delivering a contract to develop and operate 40 schools across the Western region on behalf of TBC.

The government's drive for high standards of education and educational facilities is reflected in their desire for high standards of FM.  It can clearly be seen that the government and educational service providers have taken a significant move away from the traditional O&M break/fix approach to an FM-centred strategy that recognizes the long-term value of the asset to be maintained.

For schools and universities, the current FM market size is estimated at more than SR18.6B per year expected to grow to more than SR26.6B by 2025

The challenges

In common with all market sectors, the provision of FM to the educational sector faces challenges, some of which are set out below;

Funding and pressure on budgets – whilst the government and private sector are both investing huge amounts to develop new educational facilities and infrastructure the pressure on the FM service provider ‘to do more with less’ remains a very difficult challenge.  Funding mechanisms are stringent and this has a domino effect all the way down the line.

Lack of talent in the marketplace – the FM industry faces a double whammy;

  • Post-pandemic hangover, the little talent available in the market.
  • Supply and demand resulting in spiraling labour costs

This in conjunction with the earlier point is a major concern and roadblock to the improvement of standards and evolution of the industry.

Optimal delivery models – Given earlier points it can be seen that to achieve high service standards at minimal rates, the FM service provider needs to be smart, optimizing the efficiency of the teams. The widely adopted zonal approach to campus maintenance appears to have fallen out of favour with most FM service providers reverting to the more traditional ‘two teams’ approach – reactive and planned maintenance across the whole facility/campus.

Increasing reliance on technology-based teaching -  whilst the need for space has ‘bounced back’ post-pandemic what we are seeing is an increased reliance on technology-rich educational delivery methods.  This in turn requires a more ‘tech savvy’ FM service provider which again adds to the talent/budget challenge.

Increasing recognition of CAFM/CMMS – even today, many property owners across KSA adopt a ‘break/fix’ approach to their assets.  Thankfully, FM, particularly FM supported by CAFM or CMMS technology is gaining momentum.  Whilst this is welcomed, the current ‘transitional phase’ is leading to a great imbalance in the industry which reflects in pricing and competitiveness.

The future

Set out below are some of the trends that I expect to see over the next few years;

Need for flexibility – buildings tend to be inflexible in overall size and to some degree, internal layout yet given lessons learned from COVID, educational providers will demand more flexibility from their space coupled with enriched technology-based solutions to allow ‘Business as usual’ during future outbreaks.  Similarly, housekeeping and even aspects of MEP maintenance (such as filter cleaning/changing) need to be able to flex to meet increased demands in the event of a future pandemic.

Greater environmental awareness – the government is working hard to raise awareness of this subject and is actively promoting the reduction of carbon footprint, recycling, and energy-saving initiatives. Inevitably, a great deal of these targets will be pushed onto the FM service provider who will be required to develop, deploy and monitor the effectiveness of such programmes.

Much greater focus on PPM and CAFM/CMMS technologies – this is pretty much a self-explanatory point. However, it is definitely long overdue and we do aim to see more assets in the field focus on PPM and CAFM/CMMS technologies.

(About the author: Michael Moore is a dedicated FM professional with over 40 years of experience. He is currently the VP of FM, Bawani International D&FM)