FM Spotlight

Michael Zwang – BDO

Published on: April 9, 2015

This month’s FM spotlight is Michael Zwang, Managing Director of Corporate Real Estate Services at the fifth largest Accounting Firm – BDO.  Since 1985, Michael has provided utility consulting services to commercial tenants both in New York and throughout North America.

“I have known Michael, both professionally and personally for more than twenty years.  During that time he has consistently demonstrated the highest level of professionalism and integrity.  Clients view Michael as a trusted advisor because his congenial demeanor and practical approach to problem solving.  Michael’s unique blend of utility expertise, business acumen, and financial knowledge is valued by those of us who have the pleasure of working with him, and is sought after by facility managers and corporate real estate professionals throughout the industry.  Michael truly embodies BDO’s core value of being exceptional every day, in every way.” - Mitchell Gartenberg, Senior Managing Director, BDO

What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“I recently celebrated my midlife crisis and bought a motorcycle. Having never been on a bike before, even as a passenger, it stayed parked for more than a month until I took a three-day safety course and got my license. It sure seems like I did this backwards. This spring will begin my third season riding…assuming the weather actually gets warmer.”

How did you get into the electrical consulting and auditing field?
“My career started to take shape when I decided to enlist in the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program. I was trained as an electric plant operator and my primary job was to ensure continuous electrical service was supplied to the reactor, propulsion plant, weapon systems and living spaces aboard the ship. We were also responsible for the maintenance and repairs of all electrical equipment in the mechanical spaces.

After the Navy I became a licensed NYC pressure vessel inspector and then spent the next 10 years at Electrical Auditing, a specialty consulting firm focused primarily on tenant Electric Rent Inclusion (ERIF) charges. Joining BDO almost 20 years ago was a natural transition that allowed me to continue my tenant-focused approach to reviewing all lease related utility charges.”

Tell us about a favorite engagement as it relates to the facilities management area.
“Three engagements come to mind. The first two situations are similar, and although the properties are located in different states, both resulted in six-figure recoveries and million dollar savings over each respective lease term. Both assignments started with a simple lease provision that stated the charge for after-hours HVAC would be based upon the actual costs of providing the service. After detailed reviews of the building systems and tenant demands, we successfully demonstrated the actual cost of providing OT HVAC was far less than the amounts charged. We took into account concurrent OT HVAC use on multiple floors within the same HVAC zone, the actual equipment installed, seasonality and loading, off-peak electric rates and revised depreciation calculations.

The third assignment entailed a complete revamp of an existing sub metering system consisting of more than 35 analog meters located throughout the tenant’s space to a digital system recording totalized demand and time of day usage. The cost of this project was recovered over 18 months through a 20% reduction in coincident demand charges and provided the additional benefit of consolidated, real time information on power consumption.”

Why did you choose to work at BDO?
“Here at BDO we have tremendous resources, depth and experience to get the job done right; our team has been working together for more than 15 years. Our breadth and approach differs from others, and we know the outcomes are better for our clients as a result.

One of the biggest challenges we face is communicating to our prospective customers and business partners that the success of a lease expense review will vary based on the skillset of the service provider. Lease expense reviews are not approached the same way, and therefore do not generate the same results. The BDO philosophy makes perfect sense to me.”

What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“Although many people are credited with some variation of the quote, we can all appreciate those who take more time to write a shorter note. It really does take thought and time to get your message just right and on point. But when you do, it eliminates the need for follow up exchanges in order for the other party to ‘get it’.”

Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary.