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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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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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COVID-19 Is Pushing Evolution of Smart Building Technology

COVID-19 Is Pushing Evolution of Smart Building Technology

From social safety nets to building technology, COVID-19 has forced us to notice a lot of the failings of things we take for granted. Smart building technology needs to expand and improve in order to help keep tenants and residents safe and comfortable in a post-pandemic society. Here are some of the ways that smart technology and tech policies can grow to fill these newly-uncovered needs:

Supply Chains and Cybersecurity

One of the biggest challenges that facility managers faced during the initial wave of COVID-19 was maintaining supply chains. With businesses closing left and right to protect their employees and customers, the need for agile supply lines came to the forefront. Smart building technology helps simplify inventory and ordering, streamlining the supply process. Unfortunately, as much as smart buildings and the Internet of Things has helped in this area, they've shown one glaring weakness: security.

Smart building technology makes buildings more efficient, improves physical security, and helps visitors and tenants socially distance from workers. At the same time, the interconnection that this technology relies on makes it a ripe target for hackers. The benefits outweigh the risks, but the future of smart building technology must include comprehensive cybersecurity strategies.

At-home Risk Management

Teleworking comes with unique cybersecurity challenges, too. Information security is no longer confined to office spaces -- it encompasses everywhere that employees might work. The Internet of Things comes with risks at home, from hackable security systems to internet-enabled refrigerators. This underlines the need for robust cybersecurity, not only from a technology standpoint but also from a policy and training standpoint. In the future, telework is likely to reshape the way people interact with smart building technology. Employees must be prepared to exercise good information security as a matter of course, but also exercise caution when using IoT-enabled objects in their homes, hotels, or airports.

Smart Disinfection

As people begin to return to work, anxieties run high. The more people gather in large numbers, the more likely they are to unwittingly transmit the novel coronavirus to someone. Building scientists are working to develop ways to incorporate disinfection systems into existing technology. Igor, a smart building's innovator, has developed a Power-over-Ethernet method of disinfecting using UV-C light. The PoE connectivity allows this UV-C system to be used in conjunction with other sanitizing methods, including air filters and gas vaporizers. Some sanitizers pose a health risk to humans, but occupancy sensors, motion detectors, and smart locks allow them to be safely automated.

Distributed Energy Systems and Disaster Preparedness

One of the major deficiencies exposed by COVID-19 was the lack of enough hospital beds to treat all of the afflicted patients. Emergency hospitals popped up left and right but were restricted by the availability of a stable power source. Distributed energy systems might provide an answer hereby generating and storing electricity near the locations where it will be used.

In addition to emergency hospitals, rapidly-deployable distributed energy systems could be set up to restore power to essential structures in the wake of hurricanes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters. Under normal conditions, these decentralized, controllable energy systems offer users a more robust, resilient way to get electricity, often without relying on the local energy grid. Areas with aging power infrastructure stand to benefit, too -- distributed systems can help take some of the load off of the grid during peak times, reducing the likelihood of brown or blackouts.

Social Distancing and Emissions

Telework helps reduce automotive and office building emissions by letting people stay home, but this comes with an increase in residential emissions. 74% of financial officers surveyed in March of 2020 stated that they expected a full 5% of their employees to work from home on a permanent basis. As more companies discover the benefits of allowing their employees to telecommute -- including reduced operating expenses -- this pattern may continue even after COVID-19 is no longer a threat. This can create challenges for owners of multi-tenant buildings.

Property technology, including artificial intelligence, can help reduce building operating costs by as much as half. These same technologies can be used to regulate indoor environments, keeping tenants comfortable, and improving their productivity. Sensors can monitor temperature, air quality, and even humidity, then upload these measurements to the cloud. From there, automated building hardware can adjust these attributes for optimal tenant health and productivity. Keeping carbon dioxide levels below 1000ppm, for example, can offset increased CO2 emissions from teleworkers, and help with memory, mood, and overall health.

As society learns to cope with all of the changes that came with COVID-19, building technology is working to keep up. With stronger cybersecurity, comprehensive disinfection strategies, distributed power systems, and improved residential property technology, smart buildings can help keep residents, guests, and employees safe, healthy, and productive.

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How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

Most pathogens that infect humans or animals have a pretty narrow range of tolerance. Change the pH, moisture level, or amount of light in their environment, and they either die or can't reproduce. While there's a limit to how we can exploit this within the human body, disinfecting surfaces and objects is a lot less complicated. For managers looking to keep their facilities clean and sanitary, that's where ultraviolet light comes in.

How UV Light Kills Pathogens

Ultraviolet germicidal radiation kills pathogens using short-wavelength ultraviolet light (UVC). Though viruses aren't technically alive and therefore can't actually be killed, UVC damages their nucleic acids, inactivating them. This method can be used to effectively disinfect water, air, and even hard or soft surfaces.

The Drawbacks of UVC Disinfection

Anything that kills pathogens can also harm human or animal cells, so it's very important to follow certain safety considerations. UVC light should only be used in unoccupied rooms since it can damage eyes and skin. It also doesn't have a residual effect and can take a long time for maximum effectiveness -- sometimes an hour or more depending on the size of the room. This can make using UVC a challenge, but some companies are working on technology to make it faster, safer, and more convenient.

Far-UVC and Upper-room Devices

Since the main problem with UVC is that it can't be used in occupied spaces, researchers at Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research put forth the idea that far-UVC might be a safer option. Since far-UVC theoretically can't penetrate the skin, it should be able to kill or inactivate pathogens without causing harm to multicellular organisms. Several companies are working on prototyping far-UVC sanitizers, but FDA approval of this technology is still pending.

One alternative is upper-room ultraviolet disinfection. This uses UVC lighting placed seven feet above the floor, so it doesn't come in contact with the room's occupants. As the light kills viruses and bacteria in the air above, fans or other ventilation equipment mixes this cleaned air with contaminated air from below. This helps the light decrease the room's pathogen load. Since it still uses conventional UVC lighting, the fixtures must be turned off if anyone has to work near the ceiling in order to prevent cell damage.

Portable UV Devices

For most facilities that don't require clean room-levels of sanitation, there are portable devices on the market for disinfecting everything from cellphones, to rooms. Portable UV wands direct UV lighting down toward a surface, so they can be waved over desks, chairs, phones, anything else without too many nooks and crannies. These devices take a few seconds of exposure in order to be effective, so it's important to move them very slowly for the best results. It's also important for users to avoid looking directly at the light or pointing it at other people.

There are also UV lamps and bulbs that can disinfect entire rooms. Most of these are fixtures that simply need to be set up in a space, plugged in, and left alone. In about forty-five minutes to an hour, the pathogen load of the room will have significantly decreased. UV bulbs work much the same way but can be screwed into any conventional light fixture. Even if the light is unable to reach every corner or shadowed spot in a space, natural air movement will help ensure that the pathogen load is reduced as sanitized air mixes with contaminated air. As with other room-sized UV devices, these should only ever be used in unoccupied areas.

UV sterilizer boxes are similar to portable UV wands but in a container. Small items, like phones, pens, glasses, or other handheld objects can be placed inside and allowed to disinfect, without any potential for harm to anyone in the room. The box completely contains the light, so there's no danger of cellular damage outside.

The LightStrike Robot

Recently, the San Antonio-based robotics company Xenex Disinfection Services managed to prove that their Lightstrike Robot can sterilize a room contaminated with the novel coronavirus. The robot works by using xenon lamps that create bursts of intense light at brief intervals. To test it, researchers placed it in a lab where several surfaces had been contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19. They allowed the robot to run at one, two, and five-minute intervals, testing the remaining amount of the virus after each. The results showed that it took the LightStrike robot about two minutes to inactivate 99.99% of the virus on both hard and soft surfaces. At the moment, the LightStrike robot costs about $100,000 to buy, but the company also provides leasing options.

Ultraviolet lighting can take care of bacteria and viruses -- even the virus that causes COVID-19 -- by damaging their nucleic acids. With a good ultraviolet device and some basic safety considerations, facility managers can take advantage of this to keep their businesses clean and employees and clients safe and happy.

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New Technologies Bring Facility Management Into The Future

New Technologies Bring Facility Management Into The Future

A property's biggest and most important asset is the people who use it. Today, more people are focused on the user experience -- having their needs catered to as quickly, pleasantly, and efficiently as possible. It's also no secret that managing a facility, whether a school, hospital, or apartment complex, has become more difficult. Concerns about carbon emissions, rising energy bills, and the need to stay up-to-date with new advancements make keeping a facility running at optimum efficiency a daunting task. Fortunately, several new technologies promise to make it easier for facility managers to deliver the user experience their clients want, while adequately meeting the new demands placed on them.

The Rise of the User Experience

In the recent past, facility management was treated as a way to maintain and manage a passive asset. Any automation was largely focused on hardware, and centered purely on crisis mitigation and keeping facilities up and running. Now, there's a distinct shift toward creating value for end-users. The average customer expects to have a positive experience, requiring a management style that is more service-oriented than purely maintenance-oriented. To this end, new automation strategies focus on creating unified ways to manage workers, building systems, and users, all while keeping facilities running and meeting sustainability goals.

Avoid Downtime with Smart Devices

Nothing is more frustrating -- or more likely to frustrate clients -- than avoidable downtime. New smart devices, like smart chillers, automatically monitor performance and can send an alert when they begin operating at less than 100% efficiency. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and knowing that things are beginning to go downhill can help save on repair costs, avoid lost productivity, and keep users happy. Best of all, it's no longer necessary to take measurements by hand -- these devices automatically report data, so workers can better use their time where they are really needed.

Learn with Integrated Workplace Management Systems

In the initial stages, automation isn't always all its cracked up to be. In order to successfully use artificial intelligence, it must first be taught the data it needs in order to function. While using AI and machine learning can be a tremendous help when it comes to making informed decisions, this takes time. Integrated Workplace Management Systems help this process go smoothly by monitoring and recording data across a wide variety of metrics. They can feed this data to algorithms, and, in turn, help save valuable time and reduce transcription errors.

Let Computers Handle Design

Renovations and building layouts are one of the most challenging aspects of facility management. Figuring out efficient uses of space, establishing and directing traffic patterns, and getting the most out of a building are all time-consuming tasks, especially with manually drafted polylines. Spacial recognition programs can help save time by letting managers get a fast, accurate view of how space will be utilized by end-users. Software can create different floor layouts that facilitate communication and collaboration between different departments, optimize efficiency, and allow one part of the property to continue as usual while changes occur in another. Making adjustments for all of these factors used to take skilled technicians hours to do by hand -- with computer-generated models, it requires just a fraction of the time.

Try a "Soft" Retrofit

Roughly 80% of a building's costs over its lifetime come after it's already built. While re-fitting an existing building with updated hardware can be helpful from a cost-saving and sustainability perspective, the greenest and least expensive hardware is that which has already been built -- is it less wasteful to keep using an older, still-functioning refrigeration system, or pull it out and install a brand new one? Some owners are understandably reluctant to adopt extensive hardware updates, particularly for systems that still work, but new software can help trim costs and improve sustainability, without the waste and expense incurred by hardware retrofits.

The Downside to New Technology

While these advancements offer immense value in both money and time savings, they do come with one significant caveat: they can't be implemented overnight. Learning how to appropriately integrate and use them takes time and commitment. This is particularly true with new technology that relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence. When it comes to learning algorithms, the end result is only as good as the data fed into it. It's vitally important to have the right infrastructure, willingness, and ability to obtain good, usable data at the outset. Without these, junk data in will yield junk data out.

Keeping on top of new technologies and changes in the facility management industry is challenging, but it's a challenge that yields plenty of rewards. Working toward a positive end-user experience, meeting sustainability goals, and allocating talent where it can best be used all make for happier clients and more profitable real estate portfolios. No matter the type of building, compound, or campus involved, facility managers stand to benefit by incorporating new software and machine learning advancements into their daily operations.

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Ways to Green Your Vending Machines

Ways To Green Your Vending Machines

It's probably pretty difficult to picture an environmentally-friendly vending machine. By their very nature, they vend disposable products and require energy to operate -- in some cases, for 24 hours a day. That doesn't mean that facility managers can't find ways to help lower energy consumption, offering convenience to their customers, reducing their facility's carbon footprint, and helping to save money in the process. There are a couple of ways to go about this: 

1. Look for the Energy Star label.

Appliances that are Energy Star approved either meet or exceed the energy efficiency standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Much like consumer household appliances, this designation can be applied to vending machines as well. In fact, vending machines that are Energy Star approved consume up to 40% less energy than their old-fashioned counterparts -- courtesy of more efficient cooling systems and upgraded lighting, among other energy-saving features. 

If the unit in a facility is not Energy Star rated, upgrading it may be as simple as getting in touch with the vendor representative and asking to make the switch. They'll often happily upgrade at no charge. 

2. Shut them down during slow times of the day.

When it comes to energy efficiency for machines vending non-perishable items, plug load control devices can be a dream come true. These devices use sophisticated sensors to drastically lower power needs after fifteen minutes of inactivity by reducing the compressor activity. In this mode, the contents of the machines will incur only slight increases in temperature -- not enough to harm non-perishable items -- while reducing energy consumption by up to 30%. 

3. Change the lighting.

New, green lighting options offer another way to save energy. In older vending machines, lighting can use up to 150-180 watts to continuously keep things lit -- to the tune of an extra $100 per year. Electronic ballasts and newer, energy-efficient lamps can drastically reduce this consumption. 

It should be noted that lighting is pretty much cosmetic, serving only to highlight products and let customers know the machine is on. So, if energy-efficient lighting systems are not an option, it may be possible to simply turn the lights off entirely during nights, weekends, or even full-time in order to drop energy use by up to 35%. (Just make sure to let customers know that the machine is still in service.) 

4. Pick natural refrigerants.

Hydrofluorocarbons are organofluorine compounds known to be potent greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, many older vending machines still use them in their insulation and cooling mechanisms. Now, there are naturally-produced alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons that work just as well, without the risk of additional contributions to climate change. Many vendors are part of the "Refrigerants Naturally!" program, which encourages the use of these natural refrigerants. Facility managers with older vending machines can upgrade by contacting their vendors and requesting newer models, or even converter options for older ones. 

5. Explore "smart" vending options.

Inventors with Coca-Cola Japan have created a means of improving energy efficiency by not only adjusting energy consumption during off hours but also based on season and the load on the power grid. Smart "Peak Shift" vending machines allow facility managers to remotely monitor and change how the machine's power is allocated. They can alter power use from day to night, cooling beverages at night and keeping them cool during the day, and reduce their energy needs during cold winter months. 

For an increasing percentage of the population, being environmentally-friendly is important. The average customer is aware of their impact on the environment, and many of them make an effort to patronize businesses that exercise environmental responsibility. In most states in the U.S., energy use is still tied strongly to carbon emissions. Facilities that make an effort to go green not only help their bottom line by saving money on their power bill, but they can also control their carbon footprint and make a favorable impression on guests.

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From Smart Buildings Come Smart Cities

The advent of smart buildings continues to transform the modern workplace. As artificial intelligence, automation, and other technological innovations take the place of old and outdated systems, facilities managers now find it simpler and more convenient to manage the buildings they are tasked with overseeing.

From the rise of smart buildings, however, comes the creation of smart cities. Smart cities show all the promise and potential of changing the manner in which people will live their everyday lives. They also could solve many of the dilemmas that arise from a booming global population.

What are Smart Cities?

The concept of smart cities comes directly from the creation and use of smart buildings today. Like a smart building, a smart building will incorporate technological inventions like automation, artificial intelligence, and other aspects of the Internet of Things. The networking of a smart city's technology will allow it to serve its residents and make everyday life within the city safer, more convenient, and more comfortable.

Specifically, a smart city will rely on this network to monitor, control, and adapt to many facets of everyday life. It will be able to predict and accommodate the weather, daylight or darkness, occupancy patterns, and more in order to make the city's environment as positive as possible for residents. This technology will make jobs like facilities management easier because it will effectively be able to control the internal temperature of buildings, adapt and control lighting within individual neighborhoods, and even collect data of buildings' occupancy rates to enhance public safety.

The Role of Smart Cities

What role will smart cities play in tomorrow's world? To start, they will address a number of global environmental concerns that are expected to arise including an aging population, the expansion of the middle class, and more people moving to urban areas throughout the world. Smart cities are being designed to be able to monitor, control, and protect precious resources like food, water, housing, transportation, and even open spaces within communities.

This monitoring and protection of resources will maintain and progressively improve the standard of living for everyone in the city. It also will effectively encourage social interactions among people, which should eliminate what is dubbed as the loneliness of convenience that is found with modern society today. Smart cities will promote the ideal use of public spaces to foster connections among residents and as a result make it a better place to live.

But how will a smart city be able to accomplish this goal? Smart city designers and planners say that it will be able to collect civic data by monitoring the human experience and applying meaning to that data. It will then use the data to determine how the environment of the city should be built or changed.

Ideally, because of the collection and application of civic data to the environment, people who live in the smart city should be able to anticipate the behavior of fellow citizens and react in an appropriate manner. As a result, planners envision smart cities having a 20 percent reduction in crime. In fact, public safety will be promoted through the use of CCTV, visitor management, and access control. These facets will add layers of protection to buildings and individual sites within the city.

Smart Cities in Development

The existence of smart cities could soon be a reality for many parts of the world. In fact, several such cities are already in the works. In Toronto, Sidewalk Labs is creating a smart neighborhood that when finished will combine smart technology and urban design. Specifically, the buildings in this neighborhood are being designed to react to the weather.

Likewise, in Belmont Arizona, Bill Gates is investing millions of dollars for the creation of autonomous vehicles. This smart city is being designed to become a sophisticated hub with public WiFi areas, drone deliveries, and demand management of resources like electricity.

Smart cities could soon change the way that people live their everyday lives. The technology expected to be available in these cities will make life safer, comfortable, and more convenient for people of all ages. They also will address and manage environmental concerns expected to come with a growing worldwide population and a limited amount of resources like food and water.

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Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Facility Management

Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Facility Management

In the architectural, engineering, and construction industries, time can be of the essence when it comes to erecting and maintaining buildings. Because you and your staff may not have time to tour an entire structure to identify and troubleshoot issues, you need a faster way to stay on top of the tasks for which your clients have hired you. You can stay on schedule and save costs when you implement building information modeling in your project today.

What is BIM?

Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is a concept that has existed in these industries for more than 50 years. However, it was not until the 1990s that BIM was brought to the limelight and given more credence by architects and engineers. Even at that, this concept was not truly held in its highest regard until the last decade.

Nonetheless, BIM is an organizational and maintenance system designed to hold all of the pertinent information about a building or facility. These details are housed in a three-dimensional model that serves as a database through which users can visually traverse to gain key facts of the structure.

In many ways, BIM is similar to the architectural concept of modern parametic modeling. Despite its long history in these three industries, it is just now gaining traction in CAD.

Primary Uses for BIM

BIM is used for a variety of purposes in architecture, engineering, and construction today. In particular, it has proven essential in the actual architectural and design processes of new structures and facilities. Design teams can create, change, and adapt these three-dimensional databases until they reach the ideal solution for the building processes for which they were hired.

Additionally, BIM is frequently used for civil and municipal purposes especially for the creation and building of infrastructures like subway tunnels, highways, public roads, energy and utility services placement, and railways. It increasingly is being utilized for urban master-planning and smart city designs.

However, in terms of facilities management BIM proves essential in analyzing and designing systems for a structure that are practical, cost effective, and relatively fast to use without compromising the integrity of the project. When implemented fully from the very first day of the design process, BIM can bring together all of the other steps, sparing the client from unnecessary expense and inconvenience. It also reveals all of the possibilities about which the client may not have been previously aware.

The Benefits of BIM

With this information in mind, you may wonder what exactly BIM can bring to any project for which your services are hired. Why would you implement this technology rather than rely on tried and true if not entirely outdated processes?

To start, BIM allows the design team to coordinate all of their efforts into a single endeavor. The three-dimensional database provides a visual and realistic representation of the facility that you are or will manage. This coordination hastens the team's work and keeps the project on time if not ahead of schedule.

Next, BIM helps your team avoid trade conflicts and also reserves all of the available space for the actual design and construction of the building. Without this visual database, you may have to second guess yourself or your designers and architects. You could risk using more space than what you actually have to work with or failing to use the minimal space required for the project.

Finally, BIM ultimately saves the client money and time, assets that are essential to any company's bottom line. When you are given a tight budget and a tighter deadline, you could easily spare both when you utilize building information modeling during the step-by-step processes involved in bringing the project to a successful conclusion.

BIM has proven its worth in today's AEC industries. This technology has made it easy for facilities managers, designers, and others to gain critical information about a building without actually having to walk through the physical location. It brings together key processes in the design, building, and management efforts while sparing clients unnecessary costs.

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Effective Security Technology Solutions for Facility Managers

 Effective Security Technology Solutions for Facility Managers

One of the most crucial responsibilities of facility managers is to provide and maintain a safe work environment for all employees. Daniel O’Neill, the president of Applied Risk Management, emphasizes that “facility executives should seek a balance of sustainability and security from the beginning of the design process.” The most effective security technology solutions for facility managers involve the company’s building design, alarm systems, video surveillance systems, security personnel team and smart technology integration.

Building Design

The best facility managers know that a building’s design and office layout play a big role in employee productivity and satisfaction, but they may be surprised to learn that these traits are potential solutions to building security issues. The WBDG Secure/Safe Committee believes that “protective measures are generally achieved through principles of structural dynamics, nonlinear material response, and ductile detailing.” Bollards, protective glazing, setbacks and structural hardening are all measures that can be taken to improve upon a building’s structural integrity. Recent new articles around the globe indicate a rising trend of weaponizing automobiles, and a simple solution like bollards can effectively protect employees and property from any vehicle damage.

Alarm Systems

One of the most commonly sought out solutions to security issues is the installation of an access control alarm monitoring system. Ronald Ronacher, an associate principal at ARUP, agrees that alarms are “something most companies will start with because it helps address the basic security principles of deter, detect, delay and deny.” Alarm systems manage entry into entire buildings or certain rooms to ensure that only those with proper authorization can access areas. Basic alarm systems will alert individuals when unauthorized intrusions occur. Alarm systems are versatile and can be integrated with various other technologies such as video surveillance, audio control and other smart technology. IML Security, a diverse security solutions company, specializes in commercial, corporate, industrial and institutional access control systems, master key solutions and other such services.

Video Surveillance

Facility managers should take note that efficient night-time lighting and video surveillance will deter theft and reduce trespassing. In addition, video surveillance ensures OSHA compliance, reduces liability issues and monitors all incoming and outgoing visitors. Video surveillance systems are a huge deterrent, so many suggest placing some cameras within plain view. It isn’t necessary to resort to expensive systems. Current technology allows for cost-effective solutions depending on the needs of your facility. High quality images may not be necessary for all situations, and analog cameras are much less expensive alternative.

Security Personnel

Your employee’s safety is more than a legal obligation. It should be seen by facility managers as a major priority and solution. While hiring security guards is a long-term expense, it can be cost-effective for facilities at risk for criminal attackers, emergencies or handling of high-priority, expensive property. Each facility manager should create a checklist of potential risks when analyzing the benefits that security personnel could offer their company. Robert Sollars of Silvertrac explains that security officers are “the backbone of the security industry…[who] maintain control, provide customer service, and remain constantly observant.”

Smart Technology

Smart technology integrates current security technology with the Internet of Things. Devices such as key systems, video surveillance, audio recording, light switches, drones, A/C Units and much more can all be connected and compartmentalized into a single control center. Adding robots to your security team can be very beneficial. Autonomous data machines can provide benefits like constant coverage, immediate alerts, improved information sharing and much faster response times. An additional benefit to moving your company’s security needs to the cloud is that it is much more cost-effective to have wireless protocols protecting your building than physical ones like security officers, key-locks or proximity cards. This ‘new world’ of security technology provides more effective protection systems, more efficient streamlining, better information sharing and an overall easier ability to manage security issues.

The most effective security technology solutions for facility managers involve the company’s building design, alarm systems, video surveillance systems, security personnel team and smart technology integration. While most systems of the past relied on implementing physical security measures, this new internet-based smart technology is slowly creating a new security paradigm that facility managers need to stay up-to-date on. Integrating the older and newer security models can be cost-effective no matter your company’s size.

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