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Renovate or Rebuild? How Facility Managers Should Decide

Renovate of Rebuild? How Facility Managers Should Decide

As buildings age and technology advances, facility managers and owners get hit with an important question: How can they bring these buildings up-to-date? It's not always easy to answer. Is it better to renovate an existing building, or demolish it and rebuild? Which is more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable? Before making a decision, facility managers should evaluate aging buildings based on several criteria. These include:

1. The building itself.

It's important to evaluate the building itself before anything else. How well has it aged? How well does the building envelope deal with drafts, pests, and moisture? Does the building suffer from major structural issues, or would any improvements be largely cosmetic? If a building has a sound foundation, good bones, and no major issues, renovating may be a better choice than rebuilding.

1. Expense.

Sometimes, renovating an old building is more expensive than demolishing it and starting a new build. This can be especially true if the old building requires extensive pest, mold, rot remediation. This isn't the only expense that needs to be considered, though. Buildings create a lot of ongoing costs -- while the initial expense is one consideration, it's just as important to acknowledge how much it will cost to maintain. If it's less expensive to start from scratch than it is to renovate, rebuilding may be the better choice.

2. Neighborhood and zoning.

The choice to renovate or rebuild may not be entirely up to the facility manager. Zoning laws may impact what can and can't be done with a property. It's also important to remember that, as buildings age, the streets and neighborhoods around them grow and change too. What may have been a natural, easy traffic flow when a building was new may no longer be so decades later. If the parking and surrounding traffic are impeding the building's function, these need to be factored into the decision to renovate or rebuild. Another factor to consider is exactly how old the building is. Very old buildings in a historic district may be considered "contributing resources." This means that the building has been found to add to either the architectural value or structural integrity of the historic area. In that case, renovation may be the only option. If the building is not part of a historic district or is considered a "noncontributing resource," rebuilding may still be allowed.

3. Sustainability.

The most environmentally-friendly buildings are the ones that are already built, even if they aren't using the most cutting-edge green technology. So, if a renovation isn't an option, every effort should be made to repurpose building materials, preserve natural features, and fit into the surrounding landscape with minimal environmental disruption.

4. Occupation and internal traffic flow.

If the building is currently in use, what will happen to the tenants during the renovating or rebuilding process? Will they be able to stay? How will construction impact their use of the building? This can impact how you plan and go about renovating or expanding. Rebuilding is only feasible if there are no tenants, or the tenants can be temporarily relocated without much of an issue.

5. Projected growth.

How well is the building's current footprint working out? Will it need to expand? If so, by how much? Minor expansions call for renovation, but, if those renovations are going to end up doubling the building's size, it may be better to rebuild. Large expansions often end up being just as expensive -- if not more so -- than tearing down and rebuilding. Rebuilding will also ensure that the finished product is aesthetically and structurally consistent.

6. The property size.

In major metropolitan areas, properties often have little horizontal space. If any expansion is going to happen, it has to be upward, not outward. As long as these buildings are structurally sound and have good foundations, a renovation will be more cost-effective and preferable to rebuilding.

The Pros and Cons of Rebuilding

Rebuilding is often a good investment, especially if an existing building is worth less than others in the surrounding area. It's also often far cheaper than repairing damage from pest infestations, fires, mold, or wood rot. Rebuilding also gives facility owners and managers more control over its appearance, which can help with branding. On the other hand, rebuilding is time-consuming. Even if it may be cheaper than renovation in some situations, it's still expensive. It's also only possible when the property can be emptied for the duration of the construction.

The Pros and Cons of Renovating

It's generally cheaper and more environmentally sustainable to renovate than it is to rebuild. Renovating also helps preserve a building's character, and is far less disruptive to occupants. Depending on the extent of the renovation, it may not have much of an impact on the building's day-to-day function at all. Conversely, renovating a building often uncovers problems that may have gone unnoticed for years. It's not uncommon for cosmetic enhancements to turn up leaking plumbing, aging gas fixtures, rotten wood, or faulty wiring. For this reason, it's important to budget extra time and money to cover unforeseen issues. No building is immune to aging. All construction needs some attention as it gets older. After a certain point, rebuilding may look more desirable than renovation. Before making a choice, facility managers should carefully evaluate their building and specific circumstances.

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Intelligent Building Automation and Facility Management

Intelligent Building Automation and Facility Management

The Internet of Things (IoT) and intelligent automation are having a moment. While conversations about internet connectivity and automation's role in facility management have been going on for years, the pandemic has given them a new urgency.

Intelligent Automation in Use Today

While traditional automation helps save labor, improve efficiency, improve sustainability, and increase health and safety, intelligent automation takes devices beyond the baseline expectations of automated systems. Intelligent building solutions are able to interact with data collection, analytics, and innovative wireless technology, providing insight that goes deeper than traditional automation ever could. As an example, a traditional HVAC system can be connected to a room occupancy sensor, automating it to turn on when the room is occupied, and off when it's empty. Intelligent automation could also allow these devices to provide data on filter efficiency, wear and tear, airflow, and space use. Rather than simply saving energy and cutting costs, intelligent automation can also help with predictive maintenance, occupant health, and optimizing traffic flow and room use.

Implementing Intelligent Building Automation

While the IoT and automation can be labor-saving, there's more to implementing them than purchasing the latest internet-enabled device. An "automation mindset" serves as a starting point. At its most basic, automation is simple -- if something happens, it triggers an effect. If the indoor temperature drops below 68°F, the thermostat triggers the heating system to turn on. Keeping this in mind allows facility managers to spot opportunities for automating their processes. At that point, two questions arise: Which devices need to communicate to make this happen, and can they do it?

Using the example of a public restroom, automated soap dispensers can send a signal when they need to be refilled. They can communicate with a digital inventory system and send an alert when liquid soap supplies run low. The inventory system may then be able to submit a purchase order for more soap, ensuring that inventory never runs out and the restrooms are always supplied. After that comes setting up and testing the automated devices. Each facility has unique needs, and not all internet-enabled devices are going to fit the bill. Some sensors are more sensitive than others and may send out false positives or negatives. Calibration can take a while, and any automated solutions should be set up and tested on a small scale before large-scale deployment.

Avoiding Pitfalls

The more complicated the solution, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong. While IoT and intelligent automation are a boon to building security, they present their own cybersecurity challenges. Anything that can connect can be connected to in turn, and hackers will exploit this. Implementation of this tech needs to come alongside a robust cybersecurity plan. It's also possible to choose the wrong technology, and connectivity can make or break automation. Some connectivity technology is more appropriate for some applications than others -- for example, 5G-enabled devices for consumer use, or low-power wide-area technology for IoT devices. Choosing the wrong connectivity tech can end up costing more and offering poorer performance at first, and creating complications as more devices are added to the automation ecosystem.

Intelligent Building Automation in a Post-COVID World

The biggest benefit to building automation is the lack of human involvement. It's faster, less expensive, and more effective for an automated sensor to do what a human otherwise would. As it turns out, it's also much safer. Rather than having security personnel manually take the temperature of every visitor and enforce social distancing, automated security can take care of everything. Centralized digital access controls allow managers to set who can access an area of a building or campus. When this is coupled with contactless facial recognition and infrared cameras to verify a guest's temperature, a basic security setup can also protect employee health by reducing the risk of transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Post-COVID, many facilities also found themselves struggling to balance recommendations for increased ventilation with climate control. More airflow reduces the spread of respiratory viruses, but the cost of heating and cooling all of that fresh outdoor air can become prohibitive. HVAC systems outfitted with sensors and microchips, connected to digital access controls, allow heating and cooling systems to make adjustments on the fly while monitoring the status of filters, ducts, and airflow. It reduces the need for maintenance, cuts energy costs, and ensures that indoor air is as healthy and comfortable as possible.

The Future of Automation and the IoT

Some experts predict that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is here to stay, and we must adjust accordingly. While security and connectivity post challenges for implementing intelligent building automation and IoT devices, these are becoming less of an issue as automation becomes more common. As a result, more and more owners and managers are seeing how leveraging intelligent automation can save them money, improve occupant health and satisfaction, and provide a high return on investment. Intelligent automation is here to stay and would make a wise investment for anyone willing to set up, test, and deploy it in their facility.

Traditional automation has been viewed as a labor-saving measure, but intelligent automation goes much further. In addition to reducing the need for human input, intelligent building solutions make buildings safer, healthier, and more sustainable, while providing valuable analytics to owners and facility managers.

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Augmented Reality: The Future of Facilities Management

Augmented Reality: The Future of Facilities Management

Augmented reality (AR) got its start in the gaming industry, but some of its most ardent supporters today are facility managers. At the moment, about one in five facilities use this technology. Experts predict that that number could nearly quadruple within the next few years. When it comes to keeping buildings safe, clean, and pleasant to be in, augmented reality offers tools that no other technology can. What is it, and how can facility managers take advantage of it?

What is augmented reality?

AR is pretty much "reality plus." It uses the real world as a kind of backdrop -- showing the room or landscape that's in front of you -- with a computer-generated overlay. One of the most popular examples is the game Pokemon Go, which used AR to allow users to capture the animated pocket monsters in their immediate surroundings. Unfortunately for its creators, augmented reality suffered quite a bit from its own hype. After marketers played up its potential, many end-users felt disillusioned once they finally experienced the tech itself. This low point pushed innovators and investors to examine use cases and explore other applications for AR. Right now, AR adoption is growing as it becomes more widely implemented. Industries from medicine, to facility management, to furniture sales and marketing, have all found their own uses for it.

How is it applied to facility management?

There's a pretty big jump to go from catching pokemon to managing a facility. As automation, the Internet of Things, and machine learning become more ubiquitous, the lines between the physical and digital worlds grow increasingly blurred. When you add in complicating factors like the pandemic, and the need for an innovative visualization technology becomes all the more apparent. Since AR gives the user the power to see real-world surroundings -- and see how they could potentially alter those surroundings -- all without any human contact, it's an invaluable tool for social distancing. At the moment, the most common use for AR overall is for marketing, virtual tours, and demos. In facilities management, it's primarily used for automated maintenance, followed closely by maintenance prevention, then training.

What's the future of this technology?

While AR has been part of the gaming industry for a while, its use in other areas is still relatively new. As a result, its cost may be prohibitively high. About 40% of facility managers consider the cost as a bar to entry. AR also doesn't have a lot of customization options just yet. Despite these blocks, the technology is growing by leaps and bounds within the facility management industry. Like anything else, the more popular it becomes, the less expensive and more customizable it will be. Experts already predict that over 70% of facility managers will have adopted it in the next few years, so there are likely to be a lot of exciting, facilities-focused developments in augmented reality within as little as two to three years.

Information technology research firm Gartner says there's more to mainstream adoption than the number of people using AR, however. Instead, they consider a technology to be mainstream when it feels intuitive and "frictionless" to an end-user -- picture how little concentration it takes to pick up a cell phone and send a text message, for example. While AR may have fallen victim to too much hype in the beginning, the discovery of applications outside of gaming has positioned it to go mainstream. As cell phone cameras, virtual reality headsets, and other opticals continue to improve, they, too, will help augmented reality become simple, smooth, and intuitive.

How can facility managers start using it now?

Fortunately, augmented reality is generally unobtrusive -- it can be adopted without having to add any new infrastructure to the facility itself. Headsets allow wearers to access information and instructions in real-time, reducing human errors and increasing efficiency. DAQRI, a company focused on augmented reality industrial and maintenance uses, created a headset that provides 4D images above facility assets, instructions, and a map of the asset's functionality. Facilities that rely heavily on Internet of Things-enabled sensors, HVAC systems, security, doors, or lighting can use AR to create a single virtual interface to streamline and simplify their controls. It all comes down to analyzing where an innovative visualization method like AR can help.

For managers undertaking remodeling or renovation projects, it can provide a way to see how well room fixtures will work in a given space and help preserve an efficient flow. For those struggling to keep their IoT-enabled devices playing nicely with each other, it can make a more usable interface. For those onboarding new employees, it can offer an immersive, effective training experience, and cut down on errors by providing a heads-up display of maintenance instructions. Augmented reality was hyped up by the gaming industry, and didn't live up to expectations. Now that investors and innovators have re-evaluated its potential applications, the tech has found a new home in facility management that experts predict will continue to grow.

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7 Top Facility Management Conferences To Attend In 2021

7 Top Facility Management Conferences To Attend In 2021

In-person events might be a no-go for many people, but that doesn't mean that you need to miss out on 2021's best facility management conferences. From socially distant expos to virtual conferences, here are the events that you won't want to miss:

1. International Facility Management Association's Facility Fusion

April 21-22, 2021 | Online
This year's IFMA's Facility Fusion event is completely online. Attendees can take advantage of the education sessions and technology and product expo from anywhere in the world, and access on-demand content all the way to May 21. It also offers the opportunity for live networking with other facility managers from around the world, all in a safe, convenient, socially distant online platform.

2. International Facility Management Association World Workplace

Dates to be announced | Online
The IFMA World Workplace, held in a different city each year, is one of the world's biggest and most anticipated conferences. In addition to keynote speakers, roundtable discussions, and an expo, attendees can receive continuing education units and recertification activity credits. This year's expo covers everything from acoustics to security, to health and safety, to furniture. Even though the pandemic has pushed a lot of conferences to change dates, limit attendees, or cancel entirely, it hasn't stopped the IFMA. In 2020, the IFMA World Workplace went entirely virtual, so it should progress as planned in 2021. Dates are yet to be confirmed.

3. National Facilities Management and Technologies Conference and Expo

March 23-25, 2021 (Cancelled) | Baltimore, MD
One of the most-anticipated facilities management events in the northeastern US, the NFMT Conference and Expo, boasts education sessions and a sizeable expo hall packed with the latest technologies and products. Last year, it was sadly rescheduled and eventually canceled. It came back this year, tentatively scheduled for March 23-25. Unfortunately, as the pandemic continues to pose challenges for large-scale in-person events, the Conference and Expo have been pushed back to March 28, 2022.

4. Northeast Buildings and Facility Management Trade Show and Conference

June 22-23, 2021 |Worcester, MA
The 15th annual NEBFM Trade Show and Conference is on, featuring 200 exhibitors, loads of products and services, and a series of one-hour education sessions. Attendees can attend the show, scope out the latest new technologies, then visit the concurrent educational conference. The conference has a full 24 hours of one-hour talks covering topics from LEED certification and sustainability, to facility maintenance, to construction and renovation planning. It's free to attend for all qualified professionals, and continuing education units are available for all of the event's conference talks.

5. Mid-Atlantic Buildings and Facilities Management Trade Show and Conference

August 11, 2021 | Edison, NJ
Unable to attend the NEBFM Trade Show and Conference? No worries -- the MABFM Trade Show and Conference has you covered. Located in Edison, NJ, it's still very reachable for facility managers in the northeast, and it still has all of the advantages of the NEBFM show -- including lots of one-hour talks covering the same topics as the NEBFM conference, and continuing education units. See the latest products and technology on the market, make lasting connections with other industry professionals, and learn from the top minds in the field. Visit the website for more details and to register to attend.

6. CONNEX2021

July 6-8, 2021 | National Harbor, MD
This year's CONNEX conference offers multiple education tracks at three different levels -- Fundamentals, Beyond Basics, and Executive Edge. Attendees can customize their conference experience by choosing their specialization and level to get the most out of the 30 different education sessions presented. The conference also boasts a large expo floor with lots of exhibitors. CONNEX is committed to monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation, so the conference details are subject to change. Visit their website to keep up to date on any alterations to dates, location, exhibitors, or other details.

7. ProcureCon

February 23-25, 2021 | Online ProcureCon is a peer-led procurement conference, designed to arm facility managers with the skills to reduce costs and save money. It offers 20 hours of roundtable groups, discussions, and both structured and unstructured networking activities each day, and the opportunity to see what game-changing new technologies and products are out there. The 2020 pandemic demonstrated just how crucial it is to have a robust and flexible supply chain, and ProcureCon is tailor-made for anyone involved in purchasing, sourcing, or supply chain. This year's ProcureCon events will be entirely online. Visit their website for their event schedule, sponsors, and other details. Conferences and expos give facility managers the ability to scope out new technology, network, learn what is and isn't working for other facility professionals, and get continuing education units. You don't have to miss out on these opportunities because of the pandemic -- there are still plenty of events out there to help keep you at your best.

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Proper Elevator Cleaning & Disinfecting To Prevent The Spread of COVID-19

Proper Elevator Cleaning & Disinfecting To Prevent The Spread of COVID-19

It's now common knowledge that avoiding poorly-ventilated, enclosed spaces is vital for preventing the transmission of COVID. Unfortunately, that isn't possible for everyone. People who live or work in high rise buildings and wheelchair users need to use elevators, which puts them at risk. Facility managers can help cut this risk with proper cleaning and disinfection procedures. Here's how:

1. Understand the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they don't really mean the same thing. Cleaning removes stains and surface debris. Some cleaning agents can help remove viruses and bacteria from surfaces, but they don't actively kill them. Disinfecting may not remove dirt and stains, but uses chemicals to kill or inactivate pathogens. Sanitizing involves lowering the number of pathogens to acceptable levels, and may or may not use chemicals to do so. Regular soap and water can clean, disinfectant products like quaternary ammonium disinfect, and steam cleaners, UV-C lighting, and sanitizing compounds sanitize. They are all complimentary, but one can't take the place of another.

2. Get into the small spaces.

Elevators might look like a simple metal box, but they have a lot of nooks and crannies where debris and pathogens can collect. When cleaning, make sure to hit the tracks between entryways, door treads, between the door split, and the light fixtures. Use a disinfectant on elevator buttons, but be careful not to spray them directly -- this can make liquid seep in, damaging the electronics underneath. It's important to clean surfaces before disinfecting them. Removing surface debris will help remove some bacteria and viruses, and make thorough disinfection easier. Avoid using sponges to clean, since they provide a lot of interior surface area for bacteria to grow. It's also important to avoid using strong-smelling cleaners on the elevator's interior since it will take a long time for the scent to dissipate and can cause headaches and nausea until it does. While bleach is a good disinfectant, it has strong fumes and can damage some plastic-based fixtures.

3. Find the right disinfection schedule.

"Often enough" is pretty variable. If a building has a lot of traffic and multiple elevators, the elevators may need to be disinfected once a day. For a smaller building with one elevator, every three days to a week may be fine. This, of course, depends on the type of facility -- an office building that screens people before entering will not need to be disinfected as often as, say, a hospital or apartment that may house sick people.

4. Use the right cleaning and disinfection products.

By now, most facilities probably have effective disinfection products in their cleaning rotation. If not, it's vital to consult the EPA's list of products effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. When it comes to elevators, not just any disinfectants will do. Many of these products use harsh chemicals, which may damage elevator interiors. This is more than just a cosmetic consideration. If polycarbonate-based fixtures are scratched or otherwise damaged this can create tiny crevices that can harbor viruses and bacteria. To maintain the integrity of metal and plastic surfaces, always use non-abrasive cleaners and disinfectants designed to work on those materials.

5. Embrace new sanitizing technology.

Disinfecting almost always involves using chemicals, but sanitizing is a bit more expansive. While it might not kill all viruses and bacteria, it can reduce them to the point where infection is very unlikely. UV-C fixtures use special wavelengths of ultraviolet light to inactivate airborne pathogens, while fans help keep air circulating. Innovative air purifiers, like the CASPR 200c, use photocatalysts and UV lighting to convert natural humidity in the air to create oxidizing compounds. These are harmless to humans but can cover the interior of the elevator shaft to reduce pathogens.

6. Enforce social distancing.

It might not technically be cleaning, disinfecting, or sanitizing, but the importance of maintaining distance can't be overstated. The virus hangs in the air, and airborne transmission appears to be a much bigger vector than surface transmission. Unfortunately, elevators generally don't allow for 6-plus feet of distancing, so facilities may need to figure out ways around this. Reducing elevator occupancy, offering freight elevators for general use, and offering added incentives for taking the stairs can help. It's also important to make sure elevators are properly maintained to avoid any extra downtime. Elevators are small, usually crowded, and not exposed to fresh outdoor air -- all things the CDC and WHO have warned against when it comes to avoiding COVID. While using elevators may be non-negotiable for many people, there are ways to help make them as safe as possible. By thoroughly cleaning before disinfecting, using the proper products, disinfecting often enough, using new sanitizing technology, and reducing elevator occupancy, facility managers can keep their elevators clean and visitors healthy.

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What Facility Managers Need To Know About OSHA Standards In 2021

What Facility Manager Need To Know About OSHA Standards In 2021

Keeping abreast of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations is just one of the many responsibilities of a facility manager, but it's an important one. This is especially true post-COVID  the agency has updated its inspection policy, issued guidance relating to inspections, and adjusted its civil penalties for infractions. 2021 has just begun, so there's no time like the present to catch up with all of the new information. These changes include:

1. OSHA's annual adjustment to civil penalties.

OSHA periodically changes their penalties to account for cost-of-living increases. This helps with compliance since it ensures that penalties continue to act as a deterrent as the economic landscape changes. The maximum penalty for serious or other-than-serious violations will be $13,653, up from $13,494. The maximum penalty for repeated or willful violations will be $136,532, up from $134,937. These will apply to any infractions discovered after January 15th, 2021. For more information on the increases, please visit OSHA's page on Penalty Payment.

2. New guidance on COVID-19 inspections.

COVID-related inspections have their own particular emphasis, and it's not uncommon for employers to receive citations for infractions they may not have even noticed before. To help employers avoid penalties and keep employees safe, OSHA has issued special guidance (and a one-page overview) outlining the most common COVID-related citations. Some of the regulations employers fail at most frequently include:

  • Performing appropriate fit tests for employees using respirators.
  • Providing medical evaluations before fit tests or respirator use.
  • Establishing, implementing, and updating a written respiratory protection policy, including protective measures specific to each worksite.
  • Properly storing personal protective equipment.
  • Properly maintaining records of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, including reporting fatalities that happen within 30 days of a work-related incident.

3. Updated site-specific targeting policy.

OSHA recently developed a new category for employers with consistent increases in their rates of injury and illness, as assessed over a three-year period. The agency also created special inspection procedures to help avoid employers who erroneously end up included in the category due to incorrect data. Under this new policy, OSHA will create lists of workplaces with high rates of Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred (DART), and sites whose numbers have steadily increased over 2017-2019. After being placed on a list, businesses will be sorted into one of four sub-categories. These include:

  • Workplaces with injury and illness numbers higher than their industry's average.
  • Workplaces with above-average numbers in 2017, which have continued to trend upward.
  • Workplaces with below-average numbers in 2019, to assess the efficacy of OSHA's reporting mechanism.
  • Workplaces that failed to report data.

If a compliance safety and health officer determines that a workplace was included in error, they may conduct a records-only inspection. During this inspection, the officer must conduct a walkthrough of a relevant worksite, and interview employees to assess the workplace's actual history of illness and injury. For more information, please read OSHA's overview of recording work-related injuries and illnesses.

4. Potential changes coming with the new Presidential administration.

After his inauguration, President-elect Biden may choose to create a new emergency standard for COVID-19 using OSHA. While OSHA currently has the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, which addresses Hepatitis B vaccines, it doesn't yet have one in place for COVID vaccines. If this new standard addresses COVID, employers may be required to provide vaccines to their employees. The hepatitis B standard largely protects healthcare workers. The novel coronavirus is much more easily transmissible, and any public-facing position or work in close quarters puts employees at risk of contracting the disease. If OSHA chooses to create a COVID standard based on the Bloodborne Pathogen standard, it may mean that employers must:

  • Offer COVID vaccines to at-risk workers, at no cost, shortly after training.
  • Train employees on the vaccine's efficacy, safety, and benefits.
  • Obtain a written recommendation from a healthcare provider on whether or not an employee is fit to receive the vaccine.
  • Require employees who decline the vaccine to sign a form acknowledging their decision.

It should be emphasized that this vaccine policy is still speculation based on the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, and has not yet been codified or put into action. Even so, employers should anticipate some form of COVID standard shortly after President-elect Biden's inauguration. It may be wise to look to the existing hepatitis B vaccine policy to inform their decisions and prepare for any upcoming changes. The novel coronavirus has altered many of the ways that employers treat workplace safety, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is working to follow suit. While keeping up with policy changes may be confusing, OSHA has provided several resources to outline and explain these changes on the agency's website.

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Facility Management Trends & Challenges For 2021

Facility Management Trends & Challenges For 2021

2020 caused a lot of problems for the facility management industry, many of which managers had never had to confront before. The pandemic has shaped everything from cleaning procedures to emerging tech, to interior decorating trends, and brought a heightened awareness to the role that buildings play in public health. As we get ready to head into 2021, here are some of the new -- and continuing -- trends and challenges facility managers are going to see:

1. Remote monitoring.

Millions of people were pushed to work from home if they weren't furloughed or laid off entirely. This resulted in three things: a scramble to create more robust systems to handle so many people working remotely, a push for heightened cybersecurity, and the realization that remote technology can have beneficial impacts on sustainability and costs, as well as health. Even as people begin to return to work next year, the ability to keep an eye on things from a distance has hundreds of applications in facility management. Sensors help with inventory, security, equipment monitoring, as well as functions as simple as lighting and ventilation. It's likely that remote monitoring and Internet of Things tech is going to continue to occupy a significant niche in facility management.

2. Artificial intelligence-led maintenance.

Preventative maintenance can save facility managers major headaches and expenses down the line, but it's easy to see why it so often gets pushed to the side. Proper preventative maintenance pulls employees off of other tasks, takes time and labor, and means throwing parts away before they've completely worn out, all of which can seem really wasteful for something that isn't an emergency. AI-based predictive maintenance helps cut down on this waste by collecting data from sensors and accurately determining when parts really need to be replaced. Some algorithms can even analyze behavior over an asset's working life, and send alerts when it needs to be maintained or repaired.

3. Sustainable (yet breathable) buildings.

This is both a trend and a challenge in one. For years, new builds emphasized their energy efficiency -- which generally meant being heavily insulated and sealed up tight to avoid wasting heating and cooling power. Now that there's a push for better ventilation, there has to be a compromise between bringing outdoor air in and keeping it from sending the electric bill through the roof. While builders will be responsible for facing this challenge in new construction, facility managers will have to bear the brunt of it in older buildings. This is another area where remote monitoring technology can help, by using sensors to optimally balance temperature, humidity, and fresh air, as well as guiding maintenance for ventilation systems.

4. Shifting from software to platform.

Facility management software helps managers keep tabs on virtually every aspect of their operations, from work orders to inventory, to to-do lists, and more. As the IoT, AI, and remote sensors gain a larger presence, facility management software is shifting from a tool to a comprehensive, user-friendly platform. Soon, managers may be able to handle everything from within a single seamless digital interface. This is especially true as the older generations of facility managers near retirement. Younger generations are more accustomed to technology and have high standards for the software they use. Expect to see facility management platforms adapt to provide more intuitive, attractive user interfaces that are able to operate across devices -- from computers to tablets and cell phones.

5. Security, security, security.

COVID-19 created some unique security challenges. Now, not only did facility managers have to worry about unauthorized people getting access to buildings or other assets, they had to worry about keeping people out if they failed a health screening. With more employees working and monitoring things remotely, there were more opportunities for cyberattacks. As technology becomes more advanced, interconnected, and ubiquitous, the need for strong cybersecurity just becomes greater. Attackers are getting more sophisticated, and facilities need to keep pace to keep buildings, people, data, and other assets safe.

6. Cost.

As was hinted above, some of these trends are going to come with added costs. Remote monitoring and IoT devices cost money to buy, implement, and learn. Greener, healthier buildings mean initial costs for upgraded HVAC systems and insulation and ongoing costs for electricity. AI-led preventative maintenance is still going to cost money to implement, even if it saves in the long run. Facility managers have always had to balance expenses with efficiency, operations, and comfort, and that isn't going away any time soon. If anything, the new emphasis on ventilation and healthier buildings will only add to the challenge. 2020's pandemic had a big impact on facility management, but it isn't the only factor guiding things going forward. A continued push for sustainability, advancing tech, sophisticated cybersecurity threats, a generation nearing retirement, and the desire for greener buildings are all guiding trends and challenges for the industry. As the IoT and AI become more abundant and integrated, facility managers are likely to see more and more of the center of their job on software. Fortunately, builders and software developers alike are forging ahead to help managers handle these shifts smoothly.

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6 Facility Management Blogs Every FM Should Be Reading

 6 Facility Management Blogs FMs Should Be Reading

The field of facility management is ever-evolving, so it's important to stay current. That's where blogs come in -- since they're updated regularly, they can be a veritable treasure trove of innovation and information. This has never been more true than right now, as governments and businesses alike hurry to develop strategies for safely operating in a post-COVID world. Keeping on top of all things COVID-related is a daunting task, even for a dedicated facility manager. Fortunately, tons of blogs out there are working hard to collect, distill, and provide the latest research in an accessible, easy-to-navigate format. The International Facility Management Association's Long Island chapter has a great blog that you should definitely follow, but it's always a good idea to have as many resources at your disposal as possible. To that end, here are the six sites that facility managers definitely want to have on their blogroll:

1. Facility Executive's Facility Blog

Facility Blog covers all industry-relevant breaking news. With a three-times-a-day posting frequency, you're sure to find something new and fascinating pretty much every time you check. Lately, many of their posts have covered news on the COVID front, including emerging technology, new partnerships, tools, and other resources facility managers can use to help keep their buildings safe and limit the spread. Don't miss their piece on Matrix Medical's COVID-19 certification program.

2. i-FM

This UK-based blog offers facility managers the world over a wealth of news and information. Operating for over twenty years, this site had constantly evolved to make sure they bring their best to the field, and this year is no different. With news, comments, and features on topics ranging from sustainability to industry news, to effective cleaning, to tracking post-COVID office usage, i-FM has a lot to offer facility managers looking for information about any facet of the industry -- including how to limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

3. FMLink

FMLink is maintained by a full staff of publishing, computer, and facilities pros, and offers a combination of their in-house professionals and contacts with facility management associations -- if they don't already have a blog post for you, they can get you the answer you need. If they can't, one doesn't exist. The site is also very navigable. Resources are organized by topic and type, so, if you need a white paper on sustainability or a case study on health and safety, you can find it. Their front page also has a hard-to-miss section of today's top facility management news, which is great for managers trying to keep on top of HVAC innovations, studies on the effectiveness of UV-C disinfection, or other COVID-related info.

4. Buildings.com

Buildings might not update quite as often as some of the other guys, but their posts are always high-quality. They span everything from the latest decorating trends (don't miss their piece on how to use Graham & Brown's 2021 color of the year) to ways buildings can improve mental and physical health. They even have a specific section of COVID-19 coverage, which saves a lot of work for managers specifically looking for pandemic-related information. They also offer a section of podcasts, for facility managers that prefer to get their information in an audible format, and even have a series of webinars.

5. Facilities Manager Magazine

Formatted as an online magazine rather than a traditional blog, Facilities Manager Magazine regularly brings in experts to post on the most relevant topics of the day. They're produced by the Association of Physical Plant Administrators, whose mission has been to support "educational excellence with quality leadership and professional management through education, research, and recognition" for over 100 years. The organization is for facility managers who want to refine their craft, and their blog reflects this -- every post is backed by some serious research. Don't miss their recent post on best management practices for face-to-face operations in the midst of COVID.

6. Service Futures

Service Futures is primarily geared toward workplace and people management, outsourcing, and integrated facility services. They put out high-quality posts every few days, which is helpful for facility managers who don't necessarily have the time to pore through multiple posts a day. Recent articles include coverage of post-COVID reopening strategies, the benefits of outsourcing hygiene and disinfection services, and the three traits of successful facility managers. It can be hard to keep up with industry-related posts, especially now. However, as new research emerges and old information gets cast aside, staying on top of the latest news is more important than ever. If you're a facility manager looking for tools and resources to keep your employees, guests, and buildings safe in a post-pandemic world, you can't afford to miss out on the gold mine of information offered by these blogs.

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How FM Software Can Ready Your Facility For Winter

How FM Software Can Ready Your Facility For Winter

Prepping a facility for winter can be challenging. There's a lot to remember and consider, and it's very easy to overlook minor problems that can turn into major issues once cold weather strikes. Fortunately, today's facility managers don't have to shoulder this burden alone. Facility management software takes a lot of stress out of the whole winterization process. Here's are just a few of the ways it can help:

1. Providing a contractor directory.

When a frozen pipe turns into a major flood, it doesn't leave a lot of time for shopping around for the best plumbing or flood remediation contractor to repair the damage. If an uninsured, uncertified contractor does a poor job, that can also turn a simple repair into a huge legal headache. Good facility management software includes a contractor directory, which puts a list of licensed, insured, experienced contractors right at a manager's fingertips. These lists include extensive profiles of each expert, with their insurance status, licensure, reviews, specialties, years of experience, and more.

2. Creating checklists.

One of the toughest parts of getting ready for winter is making sure that nothing gets missed. Have the HVAC units been inspected and maintained? Has water been shut off to unheated areas of the building? Are the pipes properly insulated? Facility management software can help managers create and manage checklists, streamlining the winterizing process, and ensuring that everything gets done.

3. Planning preventative maintenance and manage work orders.

A major component of winterization checklists is scheduling preventative maintenance. HVAC units need servicing, landscaping needs to be maintained, and minor repairs need to be taken care of before the winter weather hits. A solid maintenance plan helps managers stay in control of expenses and downtime, and facility management software makes that a lot easier. Facility managers can create a preventative maintenance plan, make maintenance calls, and stay on top of work orders, all in one convenient program.

4. Keeping on top of budgets.

Winter usually means higher bills, especially for facilities in areas that experience very cold weather. This can make it more challenging to keep on top of spending without sacrificing facility maintenance. Facility management software offers some sophisticated business analytics. This doesn't just help facility managers stay on budget during winter, it can make it easier to detect patterns and anticipate expenses for years to come.

5. Creating an emergency plan.

If severe weather strikes, an emergency plan is crucial. Every facility should have established equipment shutdown procedures, power outage backup plans, and bad weather policies. Facility management software makes it easy to keep all of this information in a central, easy-to-update place that can be accessed from anywhere.

6. Standardizing.

Standardization helps boost efficiency and cut costs. Facility management software makes it easier to keep track of exactly what bulbs, fuses, hoses, filters, and other consumables are needed, and where. Using standard consumables simplifies ordering and inventory, two things that can save a lot of time and money if supply lines get delayed because of winter weather.

7. Saving manuals.

There's nothing worse than trying to troubleshoot or maintain a piece of equipment without a current, easy-to-read manual. Paper manuals can fade, tear, get stained, be lost, or just fall apart. Facility management software can help by saving manuals where employees can access them whenever they need to. When HVAC, plumbing, irrigation, and other equipment maintenance and tune-ups are such an important part of winter readiness, it's better not to take a chance on hard copy manuals.

8. Staying connected.

From severe weather to COVID-19 related business shutdowns, a lot of things can keep facility managers out of the office. Web-based management software is secure and easy to access from anywhere with an internet connection, even with a tablet or cell phone. This means that facility managers can make sure that things are running smoothly, enact emergency plans, and facilitate a safe, thorough business shutdown if need be. All the contacts, work orders, manuals, and other information they might need are right at their fingertips. Winter can turn minor maintenance and inventory concerns into emergencies, and the best way to avoid that is to be proactive. Facility management software takes a lot of stress out of planning for winterization, from making checklists, to creating emergency plans, to managing inventory and lists of contractors. If you're starting the process of readying your facility for winter, make your job easier. Let facility management software handle the organization and analytics for you.

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Reduce the Spread of COVID-19 with Better Indoor Ventilation

Reduce the Spread of COVID-19 with Better Indoor Ventilation

It's no secret that poorly ventilated spaces are often unhealthy, but medical researchers have found that indoor air can hold onto higher concentrations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus for a lot longer than outdoor air. There's a saying that "the secret to pollution is dilution," and the same holds true for COVID-19. Better indoor ventilation is one of the simplest, most effective ways to reduce the spread, but how can facility managers balance the need for more fresh air and cold winter temperatures?

1. Prepare to accept some higher energy bills.

Unfortunately, the social distancing strategies that work outside don't work indoors. When a space is poorly ventilated, the virus can freely mix and disperse throughout the room and people are no safer at 100 feet apart than they are at one. There's really only one way to dilute indoor air, and that's by opening the windows and letting the outdoors in. After years of working to make buildings as energy-efficient as possible, it's probably really disheartening to hear that the nice, heavily insulated, well-sealed windows that keep energy bills low are pretty much the enemy when it comes to mitigating the risk of COVID-19. It's true, though -- with better ventilation comes higher energy bills. Winter air is cold, and inviting it in means expending more energy to keep it heated and comfortable.

2. Increase humidity.

Temperature and dilution are only part of the whole ventilation picture when it comes to keeping indoor air quality safe, but they're often what gets the most attention. Winter air is dry, heat dries it out even more, and dry air means drier respiratory tracts that increase the risk of catching the novel coronavirus. Adjusting HVAC systems or using supplemental humidifiers to keep the air between 40-60% humidity can help limit the risk.

3. Limit the number of people indoors.

While having everyone stay six feet away from each other won't help, you can increase the effective ventilation per occupant by reducing a facility's number of occupants. More people means a greater need for more ventilation. Limiting the number of people decreases that need. Encourage remote working whenever possible, and limit building and room occupancy. If it's an option, have occupants use rooms with higher ceilings. The added air space means there's a little more clean air to dilute any that's potentially infected.

4. Skip the tents.

Many restaurants, bars, and other hangouts are turning to enclosed tents as the temperatures start to drop. The idea is that these can help guests stay more comfortable, while still being safer than eating indoors. There's only one problem: It's not true. Enclosed tents still don't offer enough ventilation, especially when compared to sitting outdoors. If tents are a necessity, keep two opposite flaps open to allow for a cross breeze. This still isn't the same as having no tent at all, but is safer than a fully enclosed space.

5. Increase air filtration.

HVAC units have to compromise between the energy needed to heat and cool air, and the energy needed to pull it through a fine, efficient filter. The better a filter is at filtering, the harder the unit needs to work. As a result, most places don't use the most efficient filters they can. Swapping old filters for new, higher efficiency ones can help keep the virus from circulating via air ducts. It's also a good idea to invest in some air purifiers with HEPA filters. HEPA filters are very efficient, to the point that few HVAC systems are even equipped to use them. A separate air purifier allows a building to benefit from good air filtration without overtaxing the HVAC system.

6. Adjust fans to pull up, rather than blow down.

Ceiling fans typically have two settings: up and down. One is intended to blow air down to keep occupants cool, the other is intended to pull cold air up and drive lighter, warmer air toward the floor. Adjusting fans to pull air up toward the ceiling in winter serves two purposes. First, it can help heating systems work better by moving warm air to where people actually are, instead of allowing it to rise and stay near the ceiling. Second, it can draw potentially-infected air up and away from where occupants are more likely to breathe it in. Winter means a higher risk of illness in general, whether it's from colds, influenza, or the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Diluting indoor air using good ventilation is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 indoors, but winter's chill can make that challenging. With these tips, facility managers can keep their employees and guests comfortable, while also reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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