November 2012

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Integrated Building and Facility Management

BMS is increasingly being positioned as a key business enabler that can function across a broad front.
Dr. Hari Gunasingham,
Founder and CEO
Sigma Sustainability Institute

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Building Management Systems are laggards when it comes to technology innovation. The state of affairs has been aptly caricatured by Jim Sinopoli in a September 2011 article that appeared in Automated Buildings: “no building managers have ever stood in line at the doors of BMS manufacturers to get the latest release of a BMS”.

Why is this so? Is it because of the lack of customer demand for innovation?  Which begs the question: Who is the customer? Is it, as Jim implies, the building manager?

In the broader field of Information Technology, where the only constant is change, innovation is driven by both end-customer demand as well as competition for customers by vendors. Witness the rapid decline of Blackberry and the growing use of Android and Apple smart phones and tablets by corporations. IT managers have had to bow- in many cases reluctantly- to the wishes of their corporate end customers allowing them to bring their own devices, despite issues relating to security.

The IT manager – the equivalent of the building manager seeks to align IT systems to end customer’s requirements.  What about building manager?  If building occupants are their end-customers, do building managers also focus on aligning building systems -such as the BMS- to the occupants’ requirements?

There is, however, a major difference: Whereas, building managers would readily accept that their primary role is to deliver cost-effective building services to occupants, the perception is that this is something that can be done in isolation from the “boiler room”. The implicit assumption is that building systems -such as the BMS- need not be aligned to the occupant’s needs.  There are several reasons for this:

  1. BMS systems are designed and implemented at the construction stage, long before occupants come into the picture. As such, they are building-centric, stand-alone systems.
  1. BMS has become synonymous with HVAC and the majority of BMS systems focus mainly on HVAC controls.
  1. In practice, BMS and Facility Management (FM) are two distinct disciplines and management silos with their own set of applications and methodologies.

The third is a huge disconnect given that FM personnel often are the ones that most often interact with the building occupants.

An Organization-Centric View of BMS

Based on the developments over the last few years it would seem that change is coming. Here is the reason why (also see Jim Sinopoli’s August 2012 article on Future Building Management Systems in Automated Buildings).

Increasingly, leading organizations, the occupiers of Grade A properties, are looking to derive greater value from their investments in systems (BMS, FM, Workplace Management) and resources (space, workstations) to better support their business processes to improve both performance and sustainability. The following are a few notable areas:

Organizations are demanding more from the buildings that they occupy. They also require greater visibility, transparency and compliance and the ability to see outcomes for themselves in real–time through performance and sustainability dashboards and reports.  Going hand in hand with this is increasingly stringent legislation, which is bound to become even more stringent. These factors are driving the more widespread use of sophisticated capabilities such as advanced data analytics and fault diagnostics; commissioning and continuous commissioning and demand response management among others.

For organizations, health and safety are important issues that increasingly require system driven processes in which the BMS can play an important role. For example, in hospitals the BMS can be linked to patient management systems to deliver better patient comfort and care. As another example, the BMS can play a pivotal role in emergency response and crisis management.

Another area of critical importance is changing and flexible office workplace practices. This requires activity-based management that is directly linked to occupants’ real-time demand for resources. This will require more intelligent and integrated management of building services.

The BMS Innovation Road Map

The above view of the BMS increasingly positions it as a key business enabler that can function across a broad front rather than an isolated HVAC control system sitting in the boiler room.  And as building occupants start seeing themselves as end customers of the BMS and, equally, BMS vendors start seeing building occupants as their end customers, it will drive innovation and change perception in the building industry.
The diagram in Figure 1 sets out a likely BMS innovation road map. The first stage is the move from stand-alone BMS for HVAC to the idea of an Integrated Building Management System (IBMS). 

Figure 1 The BMS Innovation Road Map
  Figure 1. The BMS Innovation Road Map

Going beyond HVAC control, the IBMS provides a master management system across multiple subsystems and enables subsystem orchestration and integration. IBMS functionality is being increasingly specified in major Greenfield projects across the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. It is also starting to make inroads in the US and Europe. The key driver is improving building systems operations in areas such as energy management and security and incident management.

Despite its obvious benefits, the IBMS is still quite building centric.

Integrated Facility and Building Management

Integrated Facility and Building Management System (IFMBS) is the next logical step.  Quite simply what this proposes is a single, unified platform. This is in contrast with the conventional approach where the FM and BMS applications are two distinct platforms that communicate with each other through point to point connections.

Figure 2 Conventional Model
Figure 2. The conventional model of BMS and Facility Management sees them as two distinct silos.

IFBMS is a cumbersome acronym. However, it’s the first step towards developing a truly customer-centric product. The following are key features that make the IFBMS more than the sum of its two parts:

  1. The FM service provider is brought into a closed loop with the building systems operations.
  1. A single data model simplifies the modelling of integrated processes in areas such as continuous commissioning and predictive operations and maintenance.
  1. A single data model also leads to reduced data entry and errors and simplifies commissioning and handover to FM.
  1. Information flow is no longer point to point but truly integrated leading to greater visibility, transparency and simplicity.
  1. A single integrated view across all systems and processes can be achieved.

The IFBMS enables the development of highly integrated and predictive Operations and Maintenance processes that can be linked to the dynamic requirements of building occupants.

A New Architecture for IFBMS

The IFBMs requires new technology architecture. Rather than being similar to Apple or Google and their model of app stores, the architecture will be more like an – in other words an end-to-end business architecture. This will require the integration of data as well as process. Key elements of the IFBMS architecture include the following.

  1. Single data model
  1. Ability to integrate processes across all applications
  1. Unified communications and mobile access

Figure 3 IFBMS 
Figure 3- The IFBMS implemented at Dubai Festival City is a City-Level management platform that-enables closed-loop performance management integrating people processes and systems across the city.

Towards the Enterprise

Innovation does not stand still. And once the momentum develops it will be inevitable that the IFBMS will further evolve. The future is a truly enterprise class product. For want of a better term this could be called Enterprise BMS.

Enterprise BMS will take the convergence of IBMS, FM and Enterprise Workplace applications to the next level. 

contemporary Conclusion
History has shown that old habits are difficult to break. The author was at the well-attended inaugural IBCON conference in Las Vegas in June 2012. Most notable was the focus on business analytics. However, also notable was the absence of facility management professionals.

While understanding what is happening (the analytics) is critical. It is of no value if it is not converted into action. Automation and integration of building systems, facility management processes and enterprise processes hold the key to this.

Depending on current vendors BMS and FM to bridging the divide between BMS and FM may be too much to expect. In this case, the gap will have to be taken up by next generation technology companies, who we may not as yet heard of!

About the Author

Hari Gunasingham is founder of Sigma Sustainability Institute, headquartered in Singapore, which provides consulting, program management and education services to private sector and government organizations in the area of sustainability and performance management.   He is also CEO of Eutech Cybernetic, the developer of the software platform for smart buildings and workplace management.


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