Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Change the building not the behaviour

Today I was at the Building Centre and in the ladies' toilets (which each have their own washbasins in them) there was a sign above the loo paper saying 'Please don't use the toilet paper to dry your hands as it will run out. Please use the hand dryers. These toilets are not serviced regularly.'
What could the facilities team have learnt? They could have put more loo paper in the loos since it was obviously needed. Even better, they could have provided paper towels as they were what people wanted. I can't believe that this was a purely environmental decision, since the debate about paper towels vs hand dryers is a finely balanced one. I think it was just a matter of someone deciding how things should be and then trying to make people comply.
A good facilities manager - like a good architect designing a building - should try to work out what people want and try to give it to them, not issue instructions to make them change their behaviour. Of course sometimes you need people to change their behaviour (usually to conserve energy) but the most successful systems are designed in ways that people want to behave, or at least can be encouraged to behave, rather than going against their instincts. That is usually the cause of many of the buildings that perform so much more poorly than was predicted at the design stage.

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