June 2013

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Integrated Collaborative Facilities Management Systems (ICFM)

A collaboration platform where people can work together to improve operational and energy efficiencies in buildings.
Rick Rolston
Rick Rolston
CEO and Founder
BuiltSpace Technologies Corporation

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The FM Sweet Spot – Merging BMS, FM and Collaboration

Source: EuroFM.org

In 1982, David Armstrong described facilities management as the integration of People, Process and Place.   It is the integration of these three worlds, where operational efficiencies can be found.  Today, many FM processes, including building automation, fall outside of this integration sweet spot. 

In The Future Building Management System, (August 2012) Jim Sinopoli described his vision of integration capabilities of a future building management system: “The integration capabilities of the FBMS must be extensive. It has to go beyond the typical fire, HVAC, access control and elevator integration domain, and progressively integrate any building system, facility management systems (work orders, preventive maintenance, inventory, etc.), business systems, the smart grid and external data such as weather and energy markets.”  

Jim sees BMS functionality (currently within the intersection of Process and Place), shifting toward this sweet spot.   With the progressive integration envisioned by Jim, each progression will enlarge the audience of users within the system, and increase the need for these stakeholders to collaborate.  

Current FM systems such as CAFM and CMMS computerize traditional FM accounting and recordkeeping processes, but lack the building-centric object orientation and end-points that will allows users to navigate through the virtual building in a manner similar to  the world.  In other words they lack any connection to the physical world.

Many FM activities, including many occupant interactions and casual O&M processes, occur in the physical world (at the Place-People intersection), without formal process to document these activities. 

Integrated, Collaborative Facilities Management creates a simple building information model that provides the framework to manage building information from multiple sources in an object oriented web-based model, with the potential to integrate building automation, energy management, and facilities management processes within the physical building, and across building stakeholders.

Integrated Collaborative FM

The idea of collaborative facilities management is not new.  In 2006, authors Jason Morris and Stephen Ballesty described their vision of a future facilities management system, at the world famous Sydney Opera House (SOH).  These authors noted some best practices already in place at SOH, and described an integrated, collaborative approach to facilities management that they felt could lead to improved processes at this unique facility.  Read An Integrated Collaborative Approach for FM – Sydney Opera House FM Exemplar Seven years ago, the technology required to implement their vision really didn’t exist.  Today it does.

Collaborative FM Let’s start with collaboration.  Business processes touch a large number of people in buildings from occupants and operators to service contractors and corporate stakeholders providing governance oversight to an entire portfolio.   Traditional FM excludes external (to the facility management organization), stakeholders, and deals with them by manual data entry.   Collaborative FM includes all stakeholders within the system, integrating work processes to capture and document activity within the system, tying them to a specific asset or location within the building.     Collaborative FM internalizes communications between stakeholders, capturing building issues, actions and events like inspections, audits, operations and service events as part of the business process. 

Each building is unique, and each individual building engages a unique stakeholder community.    Collaborative FM should be building centric, allowing individuals to participate in any or all the buildings with access to information based on their role in each.    Participation, like a social network, is based on invitation. 

Building-centric information management, already common in BMS systems, is a new concept in facilities management software.  

Building-centric information management Integration in the built environment can mean many things.   Jim Sinopoli has identified many of the potential business process integration targets which, like building systems integration, will be unique to each individual building.  An ICFM system must provide the underlying architecture and building information model to create endpoints for integration.   For example, energy data integrated into the platform needs to relate to specific energy meters, which may be sub-meters monitoring consumption of specific equipment, spaces or the entire building.

Integration and interoperability across stakeholder systems are dependent on unique identification of buildings, assets, spaces, and stakeholders.  Systems and people will interact with the system based on these identifiers, through direct query or machine readable barcodes which directly connect people and systems to the real world buildings they represent.

The path to integrated, collaborative FM

Changing processes can be challenging, but following are five easy actions you can take now to start to see the benefits of ICFM, without disrupting your current FM processes.   

1)    Create a portfolio of virtual buildings
Virtual buildings are simple information models which provide structure for building information you want to maintain about your real world buildings.   Within each virtual building you can identify the major spaces, assets, and occupants, then add service history, energy, tasks and documentation relating to the real world buildings they represent. 

2)    Connect the virtual and the real world building with QID tags
Connect the real world buildings to your information system using machine readable QR codes called QID (or Quick ID).  Assets and Spaces can be tagged as needed and related to the information system simply by scanning the unassigned code, and selected the asset from a drop down list.

These unique identifiers allow stakeholders to manage and share information, while referring to specific building locations.  The Sydney Opera House found that labeling each piece of the building allowed tracking of work done across multiple systems.  QR codes take this one step further, allowing access and interaction on-site, using any Smart Phone.

If you have a BIM for your building, ensure that the BIM asset and space ID becomes the core identifier for your FM system.

contemporary 3)    Begin to store all your building information in one place
Gather paper plans, specifications, user manuals and other key documents, send them to your local reprographics shop and have them upload them to the appropriate virtual building.  Once uploaded, documents can be associated with specific assets or space, available in the field by scanning the asset or space identifier.

Service histories, inspections, audits and other forms can be converted to electronic forms, and launched from scanning posted barcodes.  

4)    Share your virtual buildings with your stakeholders
Invite building stakeholders to the buildings that they service.   Give them permissions appropriate to their role in the building.  This can include building occupants, tenants, facilities staff, service contractors, architects, engineers, consultants and corporate management.

Collaboration around a building is common practice during the design and construction of buildings.  Now the same functionality is available to facilities management.

5)    Integrate information, people and the physical building into your processes with mobile technology
Create inspection, audit, service request, maintenance logging, and work order forms and processes which use the QID barcode to interact with your FM system and other stakeholders, on-site and in real time.

About the Author

Rick Rolston is CEO and Founder of BuiltSpace Technologies Corporation, Vancouver BC, Canada.  He has over 20 years of experience in building information management, and in 1998 launched one of the first successful building related Software-as-a-Service applications on the internet.  Find him on LinkedIN at  http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/rick-rolston/4/29/26a

BuiltSpace provides building information management, integration and related services to the facilities and construction industry.   The company launched the industry’s first integrated, collaboration FM platform in 2012.  For more information please visit our web site at http://www.builtspace.com or blog at http://blog.builtspace.com.


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