The high-tech future of FM

Stephen Marney, managing director of PSDI looks at technology in FM

Planning for FM at the development stage can avoid the need for fruitless physical searches.
Planning for FM at the development stage can avoid the need for fruitless physical searches.
Information is displayed in a clear graphic format
Information is displayed in a clear graphic format

Just the other day, when I opened my front door to leave for work, I saw a man with a big stick peering quizzically into an inspection pit (I still call them ‘man-holes’) in my front garden. When I asked him what he was doing, he explained there was a sewage leak. I asked him was it a leak from my house, or the neighbor? “I don’t know sir” he replied, “…it’s a leak”.  “But where exactly?” I asked.  “We don’t know sir, we have to inspect ALL the pits in your community, because we have no monitoring or detection system”. 
I thought it arcane that a very recently, mostly finished, community development should have no automated monitoring system. I felt sorry for the poor contractor – I wonder if he ever found the leak.  I wondered also whether the head of the facilities management company had had any input into the design of the development… and if he had, why he was clearly ignored.

It really is short term thinking, and perhaps just a little greedy ‘cost cutting’ up front, where so-called savings on design, development and construction have the potential to cost many times the initial investment in post occupancy remedial work.

Managing facilities by poking sticks down holes is archaic…    and can cost a fortune.

What many of us in the sustainable development business have been advocating for some time now, is for master and third party developers to include experienced FM managers and/or qualified consultants in the design and concept meetings to put forward a plan for technologically advanced, integrated FM management systems using the very latest monitoring and analytical software.

The use of these new technologies, as a resource and energy reporting and analysis tool, for operations and maintenance is of special importance to sustainable developments. The goal is to design correctly the first time around to avoid unnecessary maintenance and replacement at a later date.

The new technologies are also essential for the continual monitoring of building diagnostics which, depending on specific design criteria, are capable of identifying and isolating potential costly incidents before they happen.

I’m not just talking about the BMS systems on the market today, I’m talking about technological advancements that monitor, analyse and report data which can be extracted from BMS units, minute by minute, creating reports for the FM to make value judgments about the operation of that particular building – or whole community, almost immediately.

The technology is ostensibly very clever software linked to equally clever hardware.  Its design and implementation is dependent upon the bespoke requirements of every building or community. No two are alike. Simply though, the first step of the development of every system can be likened, broadly speaking of course, to some of the methodology used to set base lines for energy modeling standards in Green building design.

Once the usage and occupancy level of a structure is determined, energy and other elements/commodity base-lines can be established – taking into account occupancy around the 24 hour clock, days of the week and seasonal climatic conditions.

This baseline development system is replicated for the use of all elements including sewage, potable water, recycled water, grey water usage, intake of electricity from the grid, on site power generation, waste management – the list is comprehensive.  The technology is also able to monitor, analyse and recommend power redistribution – it can also ‘sense’ power differentials from one light bulb to a power surge through an HVAC system to an elevator overload.

The whole principle is to manage an entire facility through a high tech sort of ‘fly-by-wire’ system with all data analysed at a central hosting facility.

The monitoring read-outs (graphics etc) are made quite simplistic for contractor-operators, such as this PV solar activity report, which shows a diagrammatical picture, we call our ‘widget’, indicating the generation level. These widgets are created as “live” monitoring devices across the whole spectrum of a development – and the system can be installed in existing facilities – not just new construction. 

The design and creation of dynamic gauges, widgets and interfaces, such as this one, will provide information to the FM operator in a unique new way.  The present development and style of entire suites of eco tech products, as I call them, can be customised to suit each client.

These high-tech, software-based solutions will transform the FM operation of the future by the continual development of innovative super smart technologies, presented in a unique and highly flexible fashion.

The ‘suite of products’ is integrated into a central hosting facility that remotely manages client data. While such outsourcing is not a new concept in itself, the overall structure and implementation of this particular system is of a high caliber and reflects the creation of bespoke solutions.

The analysed or processed data is minute by minute and can be disseminated to any computer and even received via an ‘iPHONE’ or ‘Blackberry’ allowing clients to have instant access to FM and other building management data.

If required, the positive energy saving elements of the minute-by-minute energy analysis toolset results, of the building or community facilities, can also be viewed via intranet and large-scale public space monitors, for PR purposes. (If the client wants to promote his energy saving initiatives).

Finally, without the development and implementation of proper technologies for post occupancy FM and asset management, building green buildings is, in my humble opinion, a waste of time. Facilities (primary and support) should be designed using appropriate technology necessary to meet their functional needs.

Measurement and verification tools should by synergized with technologically advanced analytical monitoring and reporting systems to enhance the effectiveness of FMs.

So, no more ‘poking sticks down holes’.

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