Jo Harris: Why competency will be at core of Guide M update

With strict new rules governing building safety, facility managers will need to ensure they are competent to fulfil key new roles. Jo Harris previews the newly updated ‘maintenance bible’ Guide M

Building safety manager will have to prove their competence

A major new update to Guide M: Maintenance engineering and management will be one of the most important publications of 2022. Known as the ‘maintenance bible’, the revision will include key topics that have evolved since the last large update in 2014, including building safety, health and comfort, and training.

Jo Harris

Jo Harris, hard FM ambassador at Sodexo, was lead author of the 2014 update, and is leading the project workstream for Guide M from within the CIBSE Facilities Management Group, chaired by Geoff Prudence. She also co-authored KS21 Competency and competency management systems in facilities management.

Here, Harris summarises the main areas addressed by the new Guide M and says it will be a key document for ensuring that buildings are safe and optimised for energy performance and occupant comfort.

Why is Guide M being updated now?

There have been many areas of change since the current guide was released in 2014. As well as legislation, there is greater interest in the workplace and the building services that support that environment.

There is a section on lessons learned from the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly the need for flexibility in the face of dramatically changing occupancy rates and the importance of good ventilation management. Meanwhile, the drive towards net zero carbon in the UK and increased energy prices have resulted in the energy efficiency and maintenance chapter being overhauled completely.

The explosion in demand for smart buildings, plus the Internet of Things, is reflected in the rewriting of the controls chapter by the CIBSE Controls Group, with significant input from the Building Controls Industry Association.

The Hackitt report, written in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, is having a significant impact on the management and maintenance of buildings, including the introduction of the new role of building safety manager, which the industry needs to embrace. To ensure the proposed ‘golden thread’ is maintained from design to operation of the building, a new facilities managers’ guide to handover focuses on what should be provided by the project team to enable efficient and effective operation of the building that aligns with the design.

How will the building safety manager’s role affect facility management (FM)?

The appointment of a building safety manager for a higher-risk building is done by the ‘accountable person’, which is more likely to be an entity than an individual. The accountable person may appoint a property or FM company, or property or managing agent, to act as the building safety manager on their behalf for the day-to-day management of the building.

The building safety manager will record, assess, report, monitor and control events and matters relating to building safety that involve other roles and parties.

It is essential that the accountable person and, where applicable, the organisation’s building safety manager are able to show that the individual appointee has the required competence. The competences are aimed at the individual building safety manager or nominated individual working within an organisation.

How do you ensure building safety managers are competent?

The PAS 8673, from the BSI, gives guidance on the assessment of building safety managers in each of the following competence areas: governance; leadership and teamwork; building systems and safety; building operations; risk management; and change management.

Within these competence areas, a building safety manager should possess the following core competences: behaviour; fire safety, structural safety and public safety; managing building safety; knowledge management and communication; and buildings as systems, building systems and construction products.

Who should be reading it?

Guide M has always been aimed at owners, operators and maintainers, and facilities managers as a whole, and with specific interest for designers and project teams.

When will it be available?

Subject to the CIBSE review process, the plan is to have the completed version issued in the first half of 2022. There will be a launch event and roadshows, and training sessions to follow during the year.

  • Read more on the CIBSE Facilities Management Group including details of upcoming events at