Public real estate comprises a wide range of types of buildings with various uses and users. The common denominator is that it serves a social policy goal. Public organisations also fulfil a role model in using sustainable buildings, with positive impacts on nature and biodiversity. There is a direct link between the quality of workplaces and the services provided from them. It is therefore not about achieving financial returns with real estate.
Achieve social returns
Costs and benefits must of course be in balance, but the primary goal is to achieve social returns with this special property. The public real estate environment has a major impact on how citizens and civil servants experience public services, and how staff engage with their workplace.
Of all sustainability themes (Social Development Goals), the main focus is on energy; on labels, CO2, solar panels or gasless. Not on limiting energy consumption. Steering towards the policy goals for climate and circularity is also still in its infancy. In terms of health and well-being, attention is paid to air quality, noise and temperature, but not to the movement of people. The main focus is on the physical buildings and not on the location and use of the buildings. For example, there are various social policy goals that are not or hardly translated into accommodation and space requirements.
Up-to-date and reliable data are essential building blocks for the development and underpinning of policy and strategy. We usually do not manage and decide on the basis of assumptions. While emotional matters clearly play a role, facts need to be a solid foundation. All the more so because public real estate is linked to by far most policy areas of a government or institution.
Critical success factors for strategic management
Public real estate management is more than just technical and operational building management. Strategic management of public real estate is possible by translating policy goals into concrete action plans and steering accordingly. Real Estate, Facility, Information Technology and Human Resources Management can thus be seen as strategic disciplines with an operational focus, enabling the goals and objectives of organisations. These disciplines have a long-term objective and have continuity responsibility. They can translate social policy goals into a wide range of best practices and influence individual behaviour.
Our motto is ‘measuring is knowing, because guessing is missing’. Start by explicitly naming strategic policy goals and communicating them clearly and SMARTI (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Relevant, Time-bound, Inspiring) to all stakeholders. Keeps a finger on the pulse by measuring the effectiveness, efficiency and progress with the strategically derived Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and thus monitoring the strategic policy objectives.
From costs to benefits
Accommodation is not only a cost item but also contributes to the policy of the public organisation/institution. The Property Strategy should therefore be aligned with the key missions like making the public estate smaller, better, sustainable, and able to support the transformation of places and services for delivering professional excellence. Maximising the effectiveness and efficiency of workplaces, and public sector facilities. Plus the engagement and well-being of the people in these spaces. Improving public real estate will support better services for the citizens.
It is essential that the strategic approach and standards which will govern what good looks like and the quality of service which should be aspired are clearly defined and manageable. For operational management, it must be possible to monitor the property portfolio, occupancy rate, performance and associated financial resources. Some relevant questions are:
- How can the adopted policy be translated into relevant quality measurement criteria for public real estate, resulting in reliable (basic) management information?
- How can the strategic portfolio of public real estate be determined?
- How to change within the strategic portfolio?
- Is the technical, operational, legal and financial building management organised in such a way that it can be managed ‘evidence based’?
- How are occupant management and contact with the actual users of the property organised?
- Have processes and procedures been described and linked to the respective policy goals so that it is transparent to what they should contribute?
Regularly measuring the main public built environment performance helps to better coordinate the use of space with the actual space requirement. As a result of which cost savings become visible and overcomplete buildings can be disposed of. The properties eligible for disposal must then be disposed of against the medium to long-term accommodation policy in order to prevent the ‘crown jewels’ from being sold.
Make sure that the relevant control data remains up to date in a simple and cost-effective way. Real estate is not a goal but a means to facilitate socially desirable goals. This makes better decision-making possible and thus provides the right social return.
Business administration quick scan public real estate
(Video is in Dutch)