By Chad A. Safran
Published in the December 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
As the facility management (FM) profession evolves, so does the technology that is very much a part of the everyday lives of facility managers (fms). Each moment, some new product or innovation comes along that can make an impact on how fms do their jobs. This past year was no different, and some of the trends are certainly destined to make a major impact in the future. That’s why it’s time to take a look back and see what outside forces shaped the profession in 2008.
With HVAC equipment demand expected to reach $16.8 billion per year by 2011 (according to a study from The Freedonia Group), fms need a new way to help reduce the impact those systems have on their buildings. One strategy is known as demand control ventilation (DCV). Its main purpose is to limit ventilation rates to match the real time needs of the occupants.
However, a ventilation rate needs to be determined, and that can be done using Section 6 of ASHRAE 62-1-2004, also known as Ventilation Rate Procedure (VRP). Occupancy rates can also help set ventilation needs. Since DCV relies on current occupancy levels, other measuring tools may be used, with the most accurate being CO2 as measured by specialized detectors.
Another future trend in HVAC is net-zero-energy and carbon neutral buildings. ASHRAE has made this a goal for 2030. The idea behind these facilities is designing and operating them to use 50% to 70% less energy than traditional buildings, and then get the remaining power from renewable sources. Fms can get a head start on this goal by joining building designers and informing them on how different systems, such as lighting, water heating, and HVAC technologies work together.
Roofs do more than cover the heads of fms and their occupants, and some roofing innovations are helping facilities become more energy efficient. One development is a cool roof surface, such as a reflective roof, which can help lower summer temperatures on a building by as much as 40% (in addition to reducing energy use by nearly the same amount).
With a great deal of effort being devoted to alternative energy sources, fms can take a look at photovoltaic (PV) cells, which convert solar power into electricity, for their roofs. Some companies are working on combining PV systems with membranes.
Others are looking into finding a way to laminate the cells to roofing systems or create PV coatings. The latest development is the installation of building integrated photovoltaics.
Another trend is the increasing popularity of green roofs, which can help reduce the urban heat island effect, increase stormwater retention, and save energy. One such project involves the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Using a combination of intensive and extensive plantings, the roof retained almost 75% of its rainwater in one year. The roof also had temperatures as much as 32?F cooler than a traditional tar roof.
But what about the cost of green roofs? While they may be more expensive, green roofs are being attached to property tax credits and other incentives].
Getting Some Assistance
Since 1990, the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) has had an impact on how fms operate their facilities. That law and its subsequent ADA Guidelines are still being implemented into FM practices. The new guidelines were intended to improve the ADA’s original language and integrate trends in accessibility.
Several federal offices have been brought up to 2008 standards, but the private sector has been slower in responding. When making adaptations, fms can put themselves into simulations of the disabled in order to gain a better understanding of what that group goes through daily. Setting up folding chairs or wearing a blindfold are some basic exercises that can simulate being disabled.
Fms must also take a look at ADA when considering purchases. The difficulty becomes knowing what is—and is not—compliant with the legislation. Just because a product is labeled ADA certified, does not mean it is.
One trend that is assisting with ADA accessibility is the advancement of information technology. Developments such as screen readers that voice text, as well as telephony, which allows users to use American Sign Language interpretation through a remote site, have helped those with limited or no vision.
On September 25, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The new legislation goes into effect on January 1, 2009. Among the law’s revisions is an inclusion adding new provisions and definitions to determine what can be considered disabled with regard to “major life activities” and includes a list of activities that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had previously recognized (along with some not given recognitions).
Light bulb technology is changing faster than the stock market. However, unlike the Dow Jones, this movement is heading in a positive direction. Some patents used in incandescent bulbs are as old as Edison’s invention itself. While the technology remains viable, costs and environmental concerns have come to the forefront of lighting development.
A 1999 study found that 23% of energy consumption was dedicated to lighting, which is why fms have been looking for better ways to illuminate their facilities. Traditional incandescents may be cheapest to purchase, but they are the least efficient. Ceramic halides use a bit less energy; however, they contain mercury and take a while to warm up. Fluorescents can be used in a variety of applications and can be dimmed, but they too contain mercury and give off heat.
Hailed by many as the solution to the environmental and energy issues are LEDs. While not as widely implemented as fms would like (and much more expensive than traditional lamping methods), LEDs are shaping up to be the lighting technology of the future.
The use of white LEDs is a fairly recent development but a vital one to the technology’s implementation. These bulbs can last up to 50,000 hours, are directional (they waste no light), start extremely quickly, can be created in any pattern, and do not contain any mercury, lead, or heavy metals. LED expenses balance out in the form of lower maintenance costs and energy savings.
While the cubicle may not be obsolete and plenty of offices still use them as the primary workspace for their employees, fms are exploring other ways for staff members to work. More and more furniture manufacturers are getting feedback from fms on the best configurations. In response to that, more companies are shipping items to be used collaboratively. An International Facility Management Association (IFMA) report revealed a 17% increase in this style office since 2002.
Collaborative areas may be used for breakout sessions, meetings, or training, and many offer another key element fms are seeking when planning office space—flexibility. Movable pieces or multipurpose furniture help even the smallest office use its resources for a variety of situations and save money at the same time.
Along with the emphasis on team problem solving, the push to be more environmentally friendly has made a mark as well. Since LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council is such a huge part of many fms’ daily lives, the furniture industry has used the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers’ Association (BIFMA) standards to help fms get credit for the LEED for Commercial Interiors rating.
BIFMA has recently put together BIFMA E3-2008 Business and Institutional Sustainability Standard. The new standard (which took two years to develop) takes a holistic view in evaluating product sustainability, considering multiple attributes including materials and natural resource utilization, energy, renewable energy, greenhouse gas impacts, human and eco-system health, material toxicity, and social responsibility.
No matter how innovative the newest furniture idea is, for many fms, choosing pieces for their office spaces comes down to customer service and the accompanying experience. From the actual buying process to any follow-up needs, furniture manufacturers have tried to become more committed to helping out fms in any way possible.
Computers may be an fm’s best friend, but the FM profession did not swiftly pick up on the development of FM software. While architects had computer aided design (CAD) programs, and computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) was readily available, few computer aided facility management (CAFM) programs existed 15 years ago. That has changed, and newer software is helping.
Web-based systems help fms operate without as much help from IT departments and have become extremely convenient to use. In the past, CAFM programs were inefficient, because individual databases from different vendors could not communicate with each other.
A more recent approach involves Building Information Modeling (BIM). While not new, this technique allows for creation of a unified database for any facility—no matter the size—where it builds a “conflict free mockup of the entire building.”
Other options are available for fms. One is Software As A Service (SaaS), which users do not run on their own computers but rather operate through a service provided to customers across the Internet. As great as SaaS sounds, there is a roadblock to using it—the Service Level Agreement (SLA), which is the contractual infrastructure behind the delivery of a software service. This is an issue because of service level commitments set up by the software provider and compensation associated with using the software. However, even with an obstacle, fms have software to make their lives easier.
Blazing A Way Out
Fire cannot be controlled, and any fm who has had to deal with a blaze knows that firsthand. However, fms can help their occupants remain safe, should a fire threaten a building.
One of the issues that effects overall safety is how people respond to trouble indicators. Often, alarms are ignored or just thought of as part of a drill. Fortunately, fms can now install detectors that offer voice notification and better, clearer speakers.
Leaving the facility presents its own form of challenges, especially if the building has many floors. But, no matter the number of stories, fms who opt for photoluminescent pathway marking systems are experiencing improved emergency egress. The technology is particularly useful when there is no power in a facility to help light exit pathways.
Fms must also think about trying to save the facility. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported in its September/October 2008 NFPA Journal that non-residential structure fires accounted for over $3 billion in damages during 2007. The study also reported 1,350 injuries in these fires in that time.
New innovations in sprinkler technology allow fms to select certain sprinkler geometry to assist with certain hazards. There have also been developments in alarm systems to help fire department response times.
Despite all the advancements, fms still need to put together a well implemented fire management plan. They also need to test the plan regularly so all occupants understand what they need to do in case a blaze occurs.
What’s Keeping You Safe?
Increasingly, security has become a day to day part of the lives of fms. While they used to be able to focus on HVAC and roofs, fms need to know much more about the threats inside and outside their facilities.
Threats can be both internal and external, especially as issues arise with workplace violence and high dollar property theft by disgruntled employees. Therefore, fms must take into account a number of different assessments when setting up security, including vulnerability locations, visitor management, perimeter protection, and building protection.
This is where advancements in technology have made a huge impact for fms. No longer does a single photo ID grant access to employees and visitors. The new alternative is the proliferation of contact and contactless cards. The latter incorporates RFID (radio frequency identification). Contact cards have a surface chip that must be placed inside a reader. These chips can hold a great deal of information (and can be encrypted), but the technology in both cards can be embedded into one form of identification to help track activity of a particular card holder as well as hold personal data.
Other innovations have come in the CCTV field, where cameras can turn analog signals into digital data via a digital video recorder. IP-based systems allow fms to add or move cameras to high priority locations. Newer megapixel cameras help pull out the smallest bit of information.
Even security guards have received an upgrade. They often now walk around with PDAs tied into a facility’s communications system, allowing the guards to report on any potential dangers and/or facility problems, such as leaks, while on duty.
Shredding The Rest
Although not as expensive as a digital video system or placing iris readers at every access point, shredders have become an integral part in helping fms keep their facilities secure. Recent legislation regarding personal information has prompted fms, especially those working in the medical and health fields, to ensure a shredder is present.
Shredders vary in quality, safety features, shred size, bin capacity, and noise levels. Yet, they provide a more cost-effective alternative than having a vendor dispose of confidential data.
While shredder technology is moving forward, another office piece, the fax machine, seems to be disappearing. It quietly has become unimportant with the advent of e-mail and digital documentation.
Accompanying the fax machine in its virtual obsoleteness is the standalone copier. The machine is still useful but has seen its role change. Advancements have allowed the copier, fax, printer, and scanner to be integrated into one piece of do it all equipment: the multi-function printer/peripheral/product (MFP). MFPs help fms reduce the need for multiple machines. Now, they have one machine that does many basic office functions and can often run custom software and be networked, saving money and real estate when fms may be running low on both.
It’s Not Easy To Get Green
Normally in a high profile political year, third parties get little attention. With the exception of 2000, (Ralph Nader represented the Green Party and received 2.7% of the national vote), the tally usually never reaches 1%. However, third parties and green received a more notice this past year as fms increasingly made environmental friendly products part of their procurement budgets.
Yet, what is considered green and what is actually green may not go hand in hand. This is where third party certification plays a critical part in assisting fms with their purchases.
Numerous organizations exist to help independently certify products as environmentally friendly and help fms avoid greenwashing. (This phenomenon happens when a manufacturer provides false or misleading information about the environmental benefits of a product or service as means of jumping on the green marketing bandwagon.)
Third party certification can be a timely process. In addition to preliminary applications, audits (announced and unannounced) of the manufacturer’s data and lab testing verification are often part of the system. While many try, not all products pass the test, but those that do help fms can avoid greenwashing.
Staying Connected No Matter How Far Away
Fms and their employees no longer spend all day behind a desk. They are moving from one part of the building to another, and keeping in constant communication is a key. It can be a quick phone call, text message, or e-mail, and the data is often passed wirelessly.
However, poor reception can make getting in touch with someone a difficult task. One solution is to move closer to the exterior or use a wired connection. Fms can also set up a distributed antenna system (DAS) to assist wireless needs and help eliminate dead spots.
Each DAS is a custom project with costs running from 20¢ to 50¢ per square foot (depending on the size of the facility). Other factors, such as time constraints, security requirements, materials, amount of coverage, and number of frequencies/carriers also weigh into the system creation. However, with the growth of newer digital services (3G and 4G), DAS may be an increasing requirement due to the fact that those signals weaken quicker than GSM or CDMA.
DAS is a trend that will certainly become more prominent in the future, and fms will need to decide if it is right for them. But what will be the deciding factor? One dropped call may be the difference.
With 2008 slowly fading into the past, fms will have plenty to confront in 2009, especially when it comes to the trends affecting their jobs. A host of new advancements and innovations will be introduced. Which ones will fms select to help them do their jobs better? That’s all a part of what life as an fm is about.
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