Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
As a facility manager imagine having a complete virtual model of your building with every important detail included for all the facilities in your portfolio. Imagine a model that you can walk through and simulate operations as well as having valuable information about the equipment installed in the facility. Imagine knowing who manufactured the piece of equipment, who installed it, when its warranty period ends, what preventive maintenance has been performed, and when the next maintenance is required. This would be invaluable. Imagine having information about what space people occupy, who might need special assistance in an emergency, what everyone’s phone number is, what kind of phone they had and whether it was operational, and what furniture is assigned to the space including color and fabric. Imagine when preparing to remodel knowing what and where things such as conduits, water piping, and communications cables are in the walls and the floor. Imagine having accurate connectivity information for all the computers and voice over IP phone connections. Imagine having status information about the video teleconferencing sites for all your facilities. Imagine having security information at your fingertips including video feeds from cameras located throughout your site. It is all possible today, with preparation and planning and less effort than you are now expending. When this vision was presented at a recent conference one follow-on speaker said she felt as if she had just seen an episode of Star Wars. This is now becoming a real picture of what we should expect with a few mind set changes.
While self contained intelligent buildings are found more often these days, you can certainly remember when those new concepts were coming about and how much resistance there was. Times have changed since the early days of automation in buildings. The internet is the most significant factor that can make the vision above a reality. Every piece of information exists today electronically. We have simply not yet figured out how to collect it all in a usable form. The reality of this vision is not technology. In order to develop the environment described above there are some simple mind set changes required. These mindset changes are very firmly set in the corporate culture and seem to be huge steps for the average facility related professional to take. The primary principle is to ensure that you collect and store data once when it is generated and then re-use it throughout the lifecycle of the facility. The second principle is to use the model as the single base from which to do all work. In other words go to the model as the authoritative source for the facility information, pull out the part you are working on, make the changes and put it back in the model before you close the work order. In this way the model is accurately maintained without additional effort being expended because both data collection and data maintenance are simply part of the process. The advantages to you are significant, especially the ability to not have to re-collect information at multiple stages for every project throughout the facility life. In addition, having to re-collect data is often more difficult than collecting it initially and storing it for re-use. Having information in multiple unlinked places is a problem that needs to be resolved as changes to one place are not reflected in another. A simple case in point is the personnel database is not linked to the telephone database, it should be the same. The problem is you need a tool to do this and the leadership, culture change and level of security to ensure it happens.
With the desire to cut energy usage coupled with high energy costs, the need to cut carbon emissions and material waste confronting one at every turn it only makes sense to focus even more attention on facilities since they use 40% of the energy in the United States. We are now doing energy designs using LEED, but are not validating that those designs are attaining their goals or sustaining those goals. The problem is that we are still looking at life in segments and not as a complete lifecycle, or actually many intertwined lifecycles. There is no current strong link between design, construction and operations other than the building itself, therefore we look to that as the information carrier.
Business Process Change
The current business processes for the real property industry are very fragmented and funding ends up being split annually based on budget cycles. Couple this with annually changing the authoritative source as contractors change initially from design to construction to operations, and then as operating contractors change or are re-bid or re-evaluated. There appears to be no incentive to make the necessary changes to accommodate this new approach based on this current dysfunctional scenario. While not a problem historically, it has now become a significant problem as we find maintenance budgets dwindling and management requirements increasing. This lack of a holistic lifecycle view is a problem that must be resolved in order to ensure sustainability and lower energy usage while ensuring environmental stewardship all occur at the same time. This new view while a rather simple process change is difficult for each to enact, because it is “just not the way we have always done business.” However, this is the answer to the information integration issues that we have.
The business process change is to look at a lifecycle view of your facility. It could start with a lifecycle cost model in the form of a reserve study. The reserve study identifies how much money should be set aside annually over the life of the facility. It can start during design and continue throughout the life of the facility. It should probably be revisited every five years as some maintenance may be deferred if products are still functioning properly. You can also use the cost model to evaluate the impact of deferring maintenance. Maintaining this model can be the first step toward BIM as it starts changing the thinking to the lifecycle.
While it is accepted that there will be savings, the question is just how significant? Folks that are managing facilities in the field are struggling with antiquated systems that are very resource intensive and using them does not provide a good return on their investment of time. We are working against improvement of the currently dismal situation due to our aversion to change and inability to look at the lifecycle costs which prevent us from making necessary investments. If we do want to improve then the first step in identifying benefits is to take a snapshot of the current process. One thing that does happen is that as soon as you make improvements, people quickly forget just how bad things really were previously. Case in point is that although things are considered bad now, it was not too long ago that we were managing space on 3x5 cards which was truly abysmal. While moving to an automated system was an improvement of possibly 50% we are looking for the 1000% improvement now. I say that because we will be improving multiple capabilities and laying the groundwork for many additional savings to come in the future once we achieve our initial goals. Return on investment models can most easily be built by identifying those activities and sub-activities we now do and pricing out what resources are required and how long it takes. Once we have that “as-is” model developed we can look at the “to-be” model. However, we don’t want to simply look at the same activities and sub-activities, but first look at how the business process could change based on having accurate real time information. We need to look at how the information maintenance process changes. With the new processes new business opportunities arise that expand the scope of capabilities. One can add those new capabilities into the model as long as they are looked at as additional benefits beyond the original capability because they may also require additional resources. In an industry that is identified as potentially expending $3 trillion annually with as much as 30% waste, this exercise is certainly worth the effort.
The benefits are accrued over a broad spectrum, the broader the scope the bigger the benefit. In fact the savings are going to be exponential. If you remain inside one phase of the lifecycle you will not be coming anywhere near your savings potential. The significant savings at this point are to be found by providing design and construction information to the facility manager and operator. These savings while based on improved interoperability will be focused on what the facility manager and operators are able to do with the information provided to them. If they don’t have the business process changes in place to take advantage of the information provided during the design and construction phases then only the designers and planners will benefit. On the other hand if the facility manager and operator have information usage and sustainment processes in place not only will the information re-collection phase be taken out of every project initiated in that facility over its lifecycle, the information will be available for rapid and accurate decision making. A decision that has taken months to come to in the past may be able to be made in a matter of minutes. If those benefits in productivity improvement in the people or process that occupy the facility are just 3.8% over a 30 year period then you have paid for the entire facility including design, construction and operations and maintenance.
The transition we are moving toward is spatially enabled tools. These are primarily geospatial information systems (GIS) and building information modeling (BIM) systems. If you are only using or requesting computer aided design (CAD) deliverables you are behind the times and probably wasting your money. CAD is void of information and really transmits comparatively little information to the owner, operator and facility manager. Another important lifecycle principle is to use tools that are open standards based. Believing you can stay with a proprietary product for the 100+ year lifecycle is just not rational as obviously it is all about the data and its sustainability. There are quite a few tools that support open standards at this point so the choice remains broad. In the GIS world the open standards organization is Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and in the BIM world it is the National BIM Standard (NBIMS) which incorporates the international alliance for interoperability (IAI) standard industry foundation classes (IFC’s) and related products to describe and organize objects and information exchanges as well as views of the model for varying needs. No mention of vendors is required as that selection is the easy decision. The more difficult decision is what requirements do you have, how have you changed your business process to sustain the information gathered and which vendors will not only support those requirements but also your longer term strategic plan, assuming you have one. If not, make one now as the future of your company depends on it.
The solution is a threefold process. The first part is to look at the lifecycle of the facility and develop a lifecycle cost model for the facilities in your portfolio, both existing and planned. The second step is to determine how you need to change your business processes to support sustaining the information. The third is to require that all new projects contain GIS and BIM information instead of CAD.
First get educated. There are continuing education programs in the works that will support the buildingSMART Alliance™ principles. Get involved with the sweeping changes that are underway and even if you need to start small, start today by making the commitment to embrace the new capabilities that are out there to make your job significantly easier and your building smarter. Use GIS and BIM tools to their maximum. Much of the information is now available because of the Internet and electronic tools. There are also plenty of people who have significant success under their belts and are more than willing to create a success for you for a lot less cost than developing it for yourself. Decide today not to perpetuate only half intelligent facilities. Move to buildingSMART® and make your building truly brilliant.
 Dr. Volker Hartkopf, Director of the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics and the Advanced Building Systems Integration Consortium, Carnegie Mellon University
About the Author: Mr. Dana K. “Deke” Smith, AIA has been encouraging the move to a lifecycle view of facilities since 1979 and is the father of the National CAD Standard and the National BIM Standard with the help of a lot of other really smart people. He is now working with the National Institute of Building Sciences as Executive Director of the buildingSMART Alliance™.
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