Trends: 2007 Year In Review

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By Jillian Ruffino
Published in the December 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Every facility has a story. This year, the total facility management (FM) saga involved a number of exciting developments. With new technologies related to everything from connecting people in distant countries to developing energy saving solutions, this year’s offerings may help facility managers (fms) reach perennial goals—efficiency and positive stewardship.

TFM is committed to ensuring readers are prepared when it comes time to make important purchasing decisions. The following review of trends affecting FM in the past year may help professionals prepare for 2008.

Looking Back On HVAC

In January 2007, TFM investigated the latest trends in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). [The original article, "Tomorrow's HVAC," can be found online.] there. Some of the most important aspects of HVAC have been insulation, individual controls, and indoor air quality (IAQ).

One strategy for ensuring HVAC success is insulation. When the R-value of insulation is increased, costs and energy consumption may be reduced. With newer installation and measuring methods, fms might want to investigate the latest insulation possibilities.

Individual controls can give occupants more comfort options and cut back on unnecessary waste of resources. (As with most energy efficient upgrades, the initial price tag for these components may be higher. The payback will come in the form of lowered energy bills.)

Also, fms must think of indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns when assessing HVAC. Problems with IAQ can cause irritation and illness among building occupants.

But a bigger concern for managers in high profile buildings is bio-terrorism. Fortunately, the mechanisms used to keep occupants safe from bad IAQ and bioterrorist actions may also cut back on energy consumption. More efficient HVAC is mutually applicable to both goals.

What’s happening next for HVAC? The January 2008 issue of TFM will bring readers the latest trends.

The Weatherproof Roof

Because TFM knows how important roofs are to every facility, February’s issue included the latest information about maintenance, reflectivity options, and more durable membranes.

The extreme weather events of the past few years have convinced many fms to take a closer look at their roofs. With stronger hurricanes, increased wind loads, more rain, and harsher sunlight due to a depleting ozone layer, roofs need to be stronger than ever.

Experts stress the need for stringent maintenance practices. Since many problems are not visible from a superficial perspective, it is a good practice to have regular inspections to uncover problems such as wet insulation.

It is helpful that roofs today are more likely to have some degree of reflectivity, although they might not necessarily need to be white. Reflectivity options are becoming increasingly location and climate specific. Customization is key.

To manage harsher weather conditions, roofs are also being created with more durable membranes, higher insulation R-values, and enhanced attachments. Fms should keep an eye out for new polymers and polymer technologies that have the potential to help create more durable and weather resistant roofs.

Read the article, “Shelter From The Storm,” for the full story.

ADA Update

In 2004, the United States Access Board, an independent federal agency tasked with ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities, finalized a revised version of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibilities Guidelines (ADAAG). In March, TFM helped fms understand the reasons behind these changes, and looked at how facilities should respond. This article, “The New Face Of The ADA,” is online.

The ADAAG needed to be updated to conform to a wider range of heights and weights. When the ADAAG was first written in 1990, it conformed to standards based on a typical 6′ tall, paraplegic man with good upper body strength. While this standard may have been helpful in the initial creation of the law, it has little relevance for the myriad of shapes, sizes, and types of disabilities of the community it affects.

The ADAAG is more necessary than ever before. The Baby Boomer generation is aging and remaining in the workforce far longer than those who came before. With age, the number of movements the physical body can accomplish is reduced. Hearing and sight may also be compromised in a larger number of workers.

Today’s purchasing decisions should be made based on the proposed guidelines, since they are expected to become law. In this quest, fms should be careful to ensure the products they buy are truly ADA compliant, since there is no official endorsement for manufacturers.

Taking heed of the changes to the ADAAG may be smart for a facility for both legal and financial reasons. This action could help businesses maintain positive relationships with employees, customers, the public, and the law.

Lighting Costs

Because TFM knows how expensive lighting can be (according to ENERGY STAR, lighting often represents up to 40% to 50% of a building’s energy costs), the April issue examined the cause of high bills and shared different strategies to help facilities implement more energy efficient lighting.

Energy costs may be escalated because many facilities are using lighting technology that is several decades old. Meanwhile, new lighting technology has evolved that could cut facility utility bills.

Keeping employees happy is another important concern for fms, and lighting can have a big impact on how a person experiences his or her work environment. Individual lighting controls may be helpful in increasing productivity, reducing energy consumption, and cutting costs. When people have the ability to adjust lighting, the facility requires less energy than if it were illuminated uniformly.

Other possible upgrades include: replacing T12 lamps on magnetic ballasts with T8 high efficiency electronic systems; implementing LED technology; and using solar power.

When choosing new lighting components, it is important to remember that cheaper is not necessarily better. Savings are usually seen in the long term. To find out more, read “Brighter Days Ahead.

Flexible Furniture

Furniture must always match the needs of the people working in a space, and the trends of 2007 reflected this necessity. Readers can view the story (“The New World“) of how furniture has changed to accommodate diverse and flexible work styles.

Looking back, there was a time when each employee within an organization had a dedicated work station from which he or she rarely escaped during the workday. This is no longer the case. With wireless technology and an increasing number of people taking advantage of flexible work schedules, the offices of today barely resemble those that existed just 10 years ago.

Flexibility plays such a large role in the modern workplace that it must be reflected in furniture. One solution is to purchase items that are portable and can be reconfigured easily. Architectural walls can help create this sense of mobility.

Ergonomics must also be tailored to the needs of a greater number of people. For example, if multiple people use the same chair throughout the day, that chair must demand fewer manual adjustments.

With more people working at least part of the time from home, the strict line of demarcation between residential and commercial furnishings is beginning to blur. It may be less necessary to have large, static spaces for each employee; perhaps more than one person can occupy a space at different times.

Making practical furniture purchasing decisions, with the aforementioned trends in mind, may help fms save on cost and hassle.

Rethinking Outsourcing

Today’s communication technologies are enabling fms to look outside their organizations for the best sources of labor. When TFM took a closer look at this trend, it found that both outsourcing and offshoring could be valid choices for many facilities, each for very different types of tasks.

According to James A. Hopkins, director, marketing and sales for Greenville, SC-based GreenWood, Inc., the most commonly outsourced services today are janitorial, landscaping, security, and general maintenance and repair. Many businesses are now increasingly choosing to outsource jobs that were once completed by in-house teams. This is happening in part because it enables organizations to shop around for the best provider possible.

When considering outsourcing options, it is important to ensure that the service provider has a clear understanding of the facility’s objectives. Fms must also know enough about the organization’s strengths and weaknesses to ascertain whether an in-house team might be more appropriate for a given mission.

Offshoring, the practice of outsourcing tasks to workers in another country, is another viable option. For example, there are offshoring companies that provide support for computer aided design (CAD), three dimensional modeling, and building information modeling (BIM).

Proponents of offshoring understand common concerns about the loss of American jobs. Arguments in favor of these types of services include: U.S.-based offshoring companies create jobs in this country; overseas workers allow some American workers to move up the economic food chain; and they create more efficiency within American businesses, which then thrive and create more jobs.

The original article, “Help Wanted,” fully explains how outsourcing and offshoring may lead to more efficient facilities, with specialized teams in place for each assignment.

Evacuation Orders

Fms know that there is nothing more important than evacuating building occupants properly during a fire. History illustrates what happens when buildings are not equipped for proper evacuation (the most famous case of this is the tragedy at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory) or when occupants simply don?t know the best route to safety.

In July’s article, “The Necessary Spark,” TFM analyzed the reasons many building occupants fail to exit a facility when a fire occurs and outlined different strategies for more reliable egress. Most fms are strict when it comes to maintaining proper code standards. But what can they do when occupants simply don’t leave?

People do not exit burning buildings for the following reasons: they are unaware a fire is occurring; they cannot properly identify the sound of a fire alarm; or they assume it is a false alarm. They also often take a moment to speak with others, and when they do leave, tend to exit from the same door they used for entry, which can cause dangerous crowding conditions.

Fms may want to consider installing voice alarms, which use a human voice to inform occupants of the emergency and outline recommended evacuation procedures. Because rising smoke can obscure exit signs above doors, installing signage or other guide systems along the floor could prove helpful.

It is also important to review the Life Safety Code, which is revised every four years. (A new edition will be available in 2008.)

Surveillance

With terrorism, school shootings, and other modern day threats, surveillance may be more necessary than ever before. TFM‘s August issue investigated the most up to date video surveillance technology and examined how it could help mitigate these hazards.

The biggest movement in surveillance technology was the process of switching surveillance systems from analog to digital video. Analog systems can trap facilities and security personnel in a dedicated office space and often require the use of coaxial cables. Digital systems could help fms transmit images through a data stream that can be accessed anywhere. Digital technology also allows all cameras to be viewed simultaneously.

Making the change in technology requires careful planning. Networks must be checked for capacity to prevent them from becoming overloaded.

During installation, fms must pay close attention to the placement of cameras. The second step is to tailor the system’s analytics for the facility’s specific needs.

Fms should not rely on information technology (IT) departments to evaluate and implement these systems; it is imperative to obtain the necessary computer skills to operate them without the help of IT.

Digital video surveillance is a trend that will only continue to grow. Recently, Newark, NJ decided to implement citywide surveillance after the execution style shooting of four young people behind a school. Unfortunately, necessity is the foremost trend in surveillance systems.

Last year’s security story, “Keeping Watch,” provides more information.

Conferencing

With flexibility such a priority in office buildings these days, it is no surprise that technology would find a way to connect people who are not in the same physical space. This past year, TFM reported in “Face Time,” that three dimensional telepresence was the newest way organizations were bringing key players together.

With three dimensional telepresence, distant people being communicated with appear to be in the room. It is a departure from traditional flat screens, because it offers a more realistic appearance and provides aligned eye contact.

This technology could be particularly helpful to international companies. While telephone conversations between people of different cultures can be difficult and unproductive, face to face contact may create a smoother exchange.

As the global economy becomes increasingly interdependent, many organizations will need to operate internationally or risk becoming very small fish in the largest pond imaginable. This type of conferencing technology could be a boon for companies that require accurate communication.

Green Choices

Because TFM knows that excessive energy consumption is a major concern for many facilities, the October issue offered a number of suggestions for reducing utility use.

In order for fms to cut back on energy consumption, they must first have an accurate picture of their use. Careful monitoring throughout a facility is recommended. Submeters may be one a solution.

Also, facility professionals should find all relevant energy efficiency standards and ensure facilities comply. It may be wise to consider the age of the facility in determining whether or not everything is being done to match minimum standards.

For more about energy monitoring and energy efficiency standards, read “The Color Of Energy.”

Wireless Without Worry

Recently, TFM explored the common perception that wireless technology is not secure enough for use in facilities. This investigation (“Worry Free Wireless“) revealed the truth about wireless security capabilities.

Problems with early encryption mechanisms left many fms with lingering doubts about wireless networks. Today’s standards, however, offer a much greater level of confidence in this type of technology.

Experts recommend using a layered approach to combating people and organizations hoping to infiltrate an enterprise’s wireless activity. Fms should seek to create a secure infrastructure and monitor air space around the clock to create a secure wireless environment.

2008 And Beyond

The year to come is likely to bring a wave of exciting developments in FM. Perhaps 2008 will be the year more facilities take advantage of cutting edge technologies.

With fresh HVAC, roofing, office technology, and security trends to be discovered, it will be up to fms to write a new story in 2008.

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