Getting Smarter about Building Performance Management

By Karl Redmond, Fellow of Leeds Sustainability Institute, UK 

Since September 2016, when we commenced our ‘proof of concept’, Enable by Design (EBD) have been busy, with partners, refining the Smart Asset Management (SAM) project. The SAM project supported by the Internet of Things (IoT) and preceded by EBD’s understanding of BIM (Building Information Modelling) and NEC3, aims to provide a solid foundation for greater certainty regarding capital and operational expenditure as well as ongoing asset measurement, performance refinements and component evaluation - all of which are seen as tangible outputs for clients with identifiable cost savings and continuous quality improvements.

It also has the added benefit of being wrapped up and packaged in a transparent, easy to access and useable process that will help with procurement times, inventory management and many more key issues facing the many sectors dealing with estates and facilities management.

All new build and refurbishment programmes should be developed with the end in mind – meaning, the built asset must deliver on a range of fronts and not just from a physical performance perspective, which is still vitally important. One of the many reasons for ‘starting with the end in mind’ when dealing with physical infrastructure programmes is cost. There are many reports, both commercial and academic, which highlight the total life cost ratio for any asset, estimated at 1:10:100 where 1=design cost; 10=build cost; and 100=operational cost. Others show the total cost of ownership (TCO) as weighted up to 80% in favour of operational costs. It is therefore prudent to consider how best to design and build an asset with a focus on the end use, including management, efficiency, effectiveness, adaptability and sustainability of the asset, amongst other requirements.

The SAM information gateway is built on an existing and deeply embedded process utilised by facilities management groups from many sectors, including the NHS. The SAM system has the relevant analytical programmes that will draw out data from the client’s requirements request. The SAM system provides the perfect two-way information flow from product manufacturer through to the client and more importantly back the other way. This two-way process develops a granular understanding of the asset and individual components in the chosen environment in which it is operating. The data flowing from SAM, utilising the unlimited potential of the IoT, is growing and unearthing new valuable opportunities for the client to save key resources and clearly demonstrates cost savings to Financial Directors and CEOs alike.

The current projects are going from strength to strength, and more interest is being generated by manufacturers, contractors, digital experts, technology groups and more. Although the most significant increase in interest is coming from clients – we are finally seeing a ‘pull’ for the offering, based on the combined professional expertise EBD and others have harnessed, mobilised and driven forward.

IoT is removing barriers between IT and OT

However, it has not all been plain sailing. The biggest barrier is still inertia and culture change. EBD are advancing, with partners, and tackling the cultural blockers head-on, which is not always comfortable or easy, but the aim, ultimately, is to include them with us on the journey and not to exclude them. We appreciate that what we are developing can cause difficulties and could be viewed as a threat, but we feel what we are developing is the exact opposite. We are attempting to create positive, highly disruptive, efficient, end-to-end and joined up operations with on-going physical asset measurement and refinement initiatives, all of which are essential in an increasingly competitive market with diminishing resources and funding squeezes. All estate teams require sustainable transformational plans coupled with operational and performance understanding and improvements, while simultaneously factoring in greater accountability regarding strengthening financial performance.

EBD and its partners have continued to push on with the SAM project, and offering thought leadership based on the positive feedback from the client (the ‘pull’) and utilising existing data sets and new ones developed with the skill, care and attention of our partners and coupled with the deep understanding of clients. EBD have taken the on-going project developed in association with a willing client and looked at including additional critical beneficial factors – energy.

The feeling from my perspective is that the BIM methodology can, and will, introduce a greater degree of transparency, cost certainty and on-going use for clients when dealing with both capital and operational requirements (the IoT SAM offering is focused on the operational elements regarding the built asset). Although, this must be incorporated at a very early stage with a constant eye on the end-user and operator requirements – ‘starting with the end in mind’. This must therefore be accompanied by a much greater level of ‘holistic thinking’ and understanding from those ‘controlling’ or ‘project managing’ the process, along with vastly improved communication protocols.

BIM from the outset allows project teams to collaborate. This has been seen to take hold particularly in the design stage of the project, and is increasingly capable of supporting and driving collaboration in construction and through to operation. This is achieved through the deployment of technologies and integrated methodologies, to allow parties within a contract to be better able to determine what needs to be done, when, and how. True digital or virtual prototyping allows teams to build once in the model and once on site – with zero defects and no reworking. This is not to say that change does not occur - which it always will on projects - but here again, BIM allows the design to be better understood by the project stakeholders and then validated and verified by the design and delivery team.

When engaging in the BIM process there will be the need to create Employers Information Requirements (EIRs), but these require a degree of context when examining how to maximise a specific asset refurbishment or new build project. Supporting the EIRs should be questions relating to Asset Information Requirements (AIRs) and Organisational Information Requirements (OIRs) for the project (amongst other essential information), or phrased another way: What information do I know and want? What positive whole life outcomes do I want? What should this look like? How should this be presented? And many more. All these are matters and questions that should be developed with the end in mind, including important operational costs.

The information can be refined by EBD and partners to produce a ‘prioritisation programme’ based on specific client operational needs/demands through the IoT offering and the foundation provided by the BIM methodology, along with holistic thinking. The SAM project pulls all the data together on flexible and adaptable platforms that can grow with the needs of the client. These useable and shareable data-rich platforms can enable easier articulation of the benefits to the client. The important point to note with the IoT offering is that it has no boundaries or limits regarding the data it can consume. Therefore, it can help with many outputs. The SAM project has no boundaries, which means that we can deal with infrastructure projects initially and then move swiftly and seamlessly into facilities management, inventory, clinical, medical equipment and much more.

The obvious starting point will be low lying quick wins e.g. lighting air handling units and bringing them to life as part the creation of a differentiating service and solutions for clients. It is seen as a modular, joined-up service and a solution underpinned by SAM, demonstrating tangible business outcomes via IoT, mobile devices, Big-Data, BIM and NEC3 methodologies and articulated with the use of Augmented Reality to help deliver the message.

The opportunities surrounding air handling (AH) units for the IoT SAM offering is substantial for clients as well as manufacturers. Following consultation and engagement with industry professionals and highly experienced facilities managers it was noted that AH units are key components in all environments. The ability of the SAM offering to recognise, with ‘real-time’ and ‘independent’ data outputs, the increased loads applied to AH motors leading to increased time and energy usage is of significant benefit to facilities management teams, as well as finance directors and all those interested in reducing costs, improving environmental credentials and introducing smarter working practices to all estates programmes.

The above is in addition to the initial outputs, which include a reduction in down- time, improvements in inventory management, cost savings and equally important, greater collaboration, understanding and communication between decision makers, financial directors, CEOs, estates and facilities groups. Other benefits as we see it will include the following; Maintainer/FM productivity and informed decision making; Visibility and control of asset total cost of ownership – important for C-Suite, particularly Head of FM, Purchasing & Finance, and improved longevity and running efficiency of assets. All of these are important and collectively powerful cost saving programmes.

EBD and its partners aim to create a platform to democratise this innovative process, which will be accessible internally and available to external communities including distribution companies, suppliers, manufacturers, partners, contractors, professionals and clients. These can provide communities access to create new Apps or migrate existing ones with simple access to IoT, Big-Data and growing relevant data sets, enabling scalable, visible, governed, timely and cost-effective innovation for all to share.

The Head of Estates at one NHS Trust said: “EBD and partners continue to provide and articulate opportunities the IoT SAM project is creating. As an innovative NHS Trust, we are continuously looking to promote efficiencies the Estates team can deliver to support the clinical output and contribute to greater patient satisfaction. The IoT SAM project is a robust and expandable project; we are excited to learn about further developments”.

The combination of data, technologies and cultural integration is a big challenge, but it is not insurmountable. EBD, with its partners, are making great strides alongside our clients to radically disrupt the market and the approach it takes to long term Capital and Operational (Facilities Management) clients and all those interested in identifying and sharing in the benefits created by the IoT SAM offering.

Karl Redmond will speak on Monday, 11th September 2017, at the Vision Session of the Building Healthcare Conference on the topic: ‘Evaluating building performance and requirements against healthcare flow’.