BIFM Board Award Lifetime Achievement Award

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> Frank Duffy CBE

Frank Duffy says FM is the software that drives the architectural hardware. This may be taken for granted today, but back in the 1960s, his belief ruffled many feathers within the architectural establishment in Europe, particularly the UK. He questioned one of the pillars of the profession: that a building is a single structure, an icon that should remain untouched. “A building was considered timeless, and any changes to it, would be made over the architect’s dead body,” he said.

Dr Duffy’s career has taken him from his home town of Berwick-upon-Tweed to architectural school in London and then to graduate work in America, where he gained a doctorate in space planning at Princeton University. He began working for an architectural firm in New York which understood offices could be adaptable for different uses and need not remain as the architect had originally designed. He also took his cue from new German ideas, that offices were information networks, whereas in the UK they were simply viewed as places in which to make money.

In 1971, Duffy was back in the UK, where he worked on space planning for IBM in London, Helsinki and Milan. Building on that experience, he co-founded the office design consultancy DEGW in 1973. The business world was globalising and Americans wanted flexible office space across Europe. He understood that innovative FM was going to be central to this. He continues to divide his time between DEGW’s offices in London, New York and San Francisco.

Despite the current understanding of the importance of FM to business core activities, Duffy warns against FMs falling into a supply-chain frame of mind. He says innovation in space planning must not be driven out by a procurement department’s wish to maintain preferred suppliers, to keep within contract budgets and simply to save money.

He has been editor-in-chief of Facilities, one of the first dedicated newsletter on the subject, first published in 1982. With Alex Henney, he co-authored The Changing City (1989), which analysed how the geography of the city and its buildings changed in response to international growth and the deregulation of the 1986 “Big Bang”. His other books include The Changing Workplace (1992), which charts global development of workplace design over 25 years and New Environments for Working – The re-design of offices and environmental systems for new ways of working (1998). He has also been a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.