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New Green Building Trends For 2021

New Green Building Trends For 2021

The construction industry has had a tough line to walk over the past year. Not only did building trends shift their focus to improving and protecting occupant health, but they also continued to make progress toward greater sustainability, even when those goals were at odds with each other. Now, as more people get used to living in a post-COVID world and the imminent danger of the pandemic subsides, architecture is turning more of its attention back to green building. This has resulted in several emerging trends for 2021, including:

1. The rise of green materials.

Green materials have existed for some time. Some of them, like wood, are traditional. Others, like volatile organic compound(VOC)-free paint, have been available for years as a specialty product. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification promotes the idea of using fewer resources. One of the ways that the construction industry can do so is by using LEED-certified construction equipment and materials. Some new VOC-free paints actually include compounds that can remove additional VOCs from the environment, improving building health. So far, 2021 is seeing an uptick in the use of these sustainable building materials.

2. An upcycling revival.

Back when shabby chic was an interior design trend, "upcycling" became chic. This is the idea of taking an old object and giving it a new purpose -- garden gates became wall decor, and rain boots became planters. Now, the damage done to supply chains by the pandemic is sparking a new interest in DIY. While largely confined to home remodeling, DIY trends and aesthetics are likely to spill over into the construction industry, including the use of repurposed building materials.

3. New ideas in stormwater management.

Building trends have been pushing for water efficiency for a while now. Interior plumbing fixtures come in high-efficiency and low-flow varieties, and some toilet models even re-use hand washing water to fill their tanks. However, one area of water management has consistently been overlooked: stormwater. Stormwater is, as its name implies, water from precipitation. Some projects are expanding the use of rainwater-catching basins for landscape irrigation. Others are incorporating porous pavement and other materials that reduce flooding. One interesting landscaping trend involves rain gardens -- a method of using layers of plants, sand, gravel, and other natural filter media to treat stormwater without chemicals. This helps remove some of the paint, pesticide, moldicides, bird feces, soot, and other pollutants that rainwater can pick up as it runs off of roofs, pavement, and automobiles before the stormwater returns to the environment.

4. A shift toward greener construction equipment.

It's easy to focus entirely on the buildings themselves when it comes to creating more sustainable construction, but the building process is also a source of pollution, noise, and dirt. Large construction equipment needs a lot of power, and that power traditionally comes from diesel-fueled generators. Unfortunately, this machinery dumps nitrogen oxides and particulates into the air, drastically lowering air quality in nearby areas. Now, however, there's an alternative: lithium-ion batteries. Powering construction equipment with electricity instead of diesel has the potential to drop machinery-related carbon emissions by as much as 80% -- from 140 tons per year to just 25.

5. "Living" building materials.

Fungi have gotten a lot of attention lately. Not quite plants and definitely not animals, they've been a source of food and medicine for ages. Now, experts think they may also form the basis for the next generation of building materials. While most of us think of mushrooms when we picture fungi, the mushroom is just a very small, specialized reproductive organ. The bulk of a fungus is its mycelium, a cottony, weblike substance that grows through the fungus' substrate. Mycelium is lightweight and completely biodegradable, but remarkably durable, mold, water, and fire-resistant. One experimental project from 2014 combined crop waste with a mycelium binder to form bricks. The project team used these bricks to construct a 13-meter tower. While this project wasn't intended to build a functioning building, the idea of using fungi as a building material continues to receive more attention.

6. Green energy generation.

Rather than rely on the traditional power grid, more building projects are incorporating renewable energy from the get-go. Architects are looking for ways to either use or create solar, wind, or hydropower, as well as tightening up building energy efficiency overall. Part of the problem with some renewables is their inability to meet the total energy needs of a building, forcing that building to tap into the grid to make up the difference. With energy-efficient construction, coupled with the means for a building to generate its own electricity, the need for extra power from the grid decreases. Some buildings can even pipe their extra electricity back into the power grid, earning income for their owners. Occupant health and sustainability can go hand-in-hand. Many new, green building materials and construction trends reduce environmental pollution both indoors and out, creating sustainable buildings with healthier occupants. With green materials, LEED certification, green energy, battery-powered construction equipment, and better stormwater management, 2021 is shaping up to be a big year for sustainability in architecture.

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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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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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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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Outdoor Office Spaces In the Post-Pandemic World

Outdoor Office Spaces In the Post-Pandemic World

Now that COVID-19 has become part of our reality, building trends are shifting toward outdoor and hybrid outdoor spaces. This is especially true of office buildings, where the increase in ventilation provides a boost to both productivity and employee health. While sneeze guards, temperature checks, and social distancing have their place, more and more facilities are taking to long view and adopting changes that treat pandemics the way that do earthquakes and floods -- as another natural disaster to plan for.

Changes to the Open Plan Office

Open-plan offices have been a controversial topic for a long time. While some experts claim they boost creativity and collaboration, many employees find that they experience more distractions and reduced productivity. The pandemic may signal sweeping changes to open-plan offices as we know them. Some experts point out that rooms with large shared airspaces and few barriers provide the perfect conditions for disease transmission. Others say that the solution is to install intake vents in the ceiling and fresh air vents near the floor. Only one thing is for certain: If office managers plan to maintain an open-plan design, they need to do something to increase ventilation. That's where outdoor and hybrid outdoor workspaces come in.

The Benefits of an Outdoor Space

Even before the pandemic, commercial architecture was moving in a more natural, biophilic direction. Skylights, "living walls," light wells, and other features help bring in more natural light and fresh air while increasing employee exposure to nature. This doesn't just improve air quality, it can also help promote healthy circadian rhythms, lower stress, and keep employees happier, more productive, and more creative. Now, it's a known fact that one of the best ways to reduce potential viral exposure is to bring in as much fresh air as possible. (One study found that the risk of spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus was as much as 20 times greater indoors than outside.) As a result, building developers are working to incorporate more outdoor space into their designs as a matter of course. Within a few years, there may be very few new commercial build-outs that still resemble ones from over a year ago -- patios, terraces, open courtyards, balconies, and hybrid rooms will be de rigueur, compared to the concrete blocks of the past.

Outdoor Working in a Four-Season Climate

While fresh air is great for employee health and happiness, inclement weather is not. In areas that experience cold winters, this can be especially tricky. One solution, already in use in Europe, relies on a window design that incorporates heat exchangers into the frame. Even with the windows open, any incoming air gets heated or cooled as needed before entering the room. The end result is year-round fresh air and a space that brings the outdoors in. Other buildings are pressing rooftop terraces and balconies into service. Overhangs provide protection from rain, while glass half-walls and hedges function as windbreaks. Large conference rooms or auditoriums are ideal for hybrid spaces. In one concept, a large conference room is backed by a glass garage door. Opening this door increases the number of available seats, and effectively turns the area into a space that's half-indoors, half-out. When it comes to heating, the increase in outdoor workspaces is likely to lead to a concurrent boom in climate control technology. Right now, portable outdoor heaters can help provide some comfort, as can wearable temperature regulating devices. With a way to block the rain and wind, flexible conference rooms, and the ability to provide heat in winter, outdoor workspaces can function in all but the most severe weather.

The Challenges of Working Outdoors

Other than the weather, there are two other big challenges faced by outdoor and hybrid spaces: flexibility and functionality. If outdoor air quality is worse than indoors, as happens in areas prone to wildfires or heavy air pollution, employees must be able to adjust their workspace accordingly. There should still be adequately ventilated indoor areas available, and workers should be able to control the windows and doors to their own areas. In the past, landscaped areas and patios were largely conceptualized as decorative -- not a place where people would spend a significant portion of their day. That's changing. Outdoor workspaces need to function the same as indoor workspaces. This means that lighting and shade need to work with screens without causing too much glare. Electrical and network connectivity should be just as seamless outdoors as it is inside. Outdoor furniture needs to be comfortable and ergonomic, not just decorative. Working outdoors is one of the best ways to improve worker health and happiness while also reducing the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus. While this strategy poses a few challenges, particularly for offices located in areas with cold winters, technology and architecture are moving to adapt as swiftly as possible. In the future, outdoor and hybrid outdoor spaces may be viewed as a rule for office buildings, rather than an exception.

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The Pandemic Is Changing How Facility Managers Deal With Floors

The Pandemic Is Changing How Facility Managers Deal With Floors

It's no secret that facilities that see a lot of traffic pose the highest risk of infection, whether you're talking about the common cold, or something as serious as COVID-19. Many sanitizing procedures deal with common contact surfaces, like countertops, door handles, and plumbing fixtures, with the understanding that people are very likely to touch a surface and then accidentally rub their eyes or touch their faces. Floors pose their own dangers, however, as dirt, bacteria, and viruses get tracked in from outside. One study found that pathogens could easily be transmitted from a contaminated floor to adjacent furniture, particularly after people removed their footwear and proceeded to touch objects in the room. Facility managers are responding to this by changing the way they handle everything from floor cleaning to the flooring itself.

Why switch to non-porous floors?

Anyone who has ever had to pull up carpeting can vouch for the fact that it's often deceptively dirty. Even well-maintained carpets can end up with dirt or liquids trapped where regular vacuuming and shampooing can't reach them, only to release particles back into the air. Bacteria also love places with ample surface area to grow on, and carpeting provides plenty of it. For this reason, many facility managers are making the switch to hard, non-porous flooring. With less surface area and fewer tiny spaces to trap grime, they are an easier-to-maintain and more hygienic option. That said, the type of non-porous flooring matters.

Seamless vs. Tiled Floors

Some flooring is seamless, meaning that it consists of one piece. Other flooring types, like tile, has to be pieced together. The difference might seem small, but it can become significant -- while all non-porous flooring is easy to clean and sanitize on the surface, the tiny gaps between pieces can be very difficult to keep clean. Tile flooring is attractive, but it requires grout, which is porous and notorious for trapping grime. Textured tile can also have small gaps or spaces worked into the design of the tile itself, which increases its surface area and creates spaces that trap debris. While all of these options are still less porous and easier to sanitize than carpeting, seamless flooring is less hospitable to germs than pieced-together flooring. Unlike many other types of floors, tile can be applied to walls as well. This can create a less porous surface than wallpaper, fabric, or eggshell paint, but, as mentioned above, still has some areas that are vulnerable to harboring pathogens.

Scrubbing, Disinfection, Wear and Tear

Another thing to consider is the amount of wear and tear a given floor is likely to receive. Under normal conditions, most floors get a regular mopping and an occasional scrub, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that. Now, facility maintenance workers have to clean more often, using disinfectants that prioritize germicidal activity over gentleness. For some floors, particularly vinyl and laminate, that can mean that the flooring ends up worn down faster. The coating can also strip off, leaving a more porous surface behind.

The Case for Epoxy and Urethane

Resinous flooring made of epoxy or urethane creates a seamless, non-porous surface that can even be extended to walls, making an entire room easy to sanitize. It's very easy to maintain, with virtually no small spaces to trap germs or dirt -- even gaps between the floor and the walls can be covered with cove base molding. In addition to liquids, epoxy floors are also resistant to shock and fire. Because of its durability, resinous flooring is very often used in factories, warehouses, garages, and the like. This gives it an industrial connotation that may not be aesthetically desirable in other facilities, though it is possible to change its appearance by mixing in various pigments. Urethane and epoxy can also be slippery unless they are texturized, but adding too much texture creates areas for bacteria to hide.

When to Choose Carpeting

Carpets still have their place, even if they do require some extra care. Soft surfaces help soften the acoustics of a room and give it a warmer, cozier appearance. For this reason, it may benefit hotel rooms, waiting rooms, and other areas where people tend to spend more time. For areas where the pros of soft flooring outweigh the risks, it may be a good idea to switch from wall-to-wall carpeting to a large area rug. Unlike carpets, rugs can be picked up and professionally cleaned, and won't trap grime between the backing and the subfloor. Post-COVID-19, facility managers are looking for options that make things as safe as possible for their tenants, visitors, and employees, and as easy to maintain as possible. Considering how often surfaces needed to be cleaned, flooring that takes hours to thoroughly disinfect isn't a viable option. Switching to non-porous floors of any type provides several advantages over carpeting, though carpeting will always have a home where it's softening, warming, and sound-dampening properties are desired.

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The Impact of COVID-19 on the Long Island Commercial Real Estate Market

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Long Island Commercial Real Estate Market

Business slowing and shutdowns due to COVID-19 are having an impact all the way up the chain, from employees losing their jobs, to business owners closing down permanently, to real estate owners losing rent payments. In one survey, the majority of owners of retail space received rent from less than half of their tenants. On Long Island, this has led to a seller's market -- as businesses abandon high-cost properties elsewhere, many of them are looking to call LI home.

An April Bust

Early in the pandemic, the picture was less rosy. The Association for a Better Long Island and the Long Island Builders Institute surveyed their members and found that all of the respondents in the eastern suburbs of New York City experienced a loss of income in 2020's second quarter, and anticipated more losses for the rest of the year. At the time, more than half of respondents expected to experience losses over 20%, and 12% predicted losses over 50%. The majority anticipated that it would take at least a year for economic recovery, with a third expecting up to a five year recovery period.

Retail property owners, in particular, felt the pinch -- some expected nonpayment rates of as much as 85% -- but nearly half of the industrial property owners were still able to collect close to what they did pre-pandemic. Landlords faced the prospect of either floating non-paying tenants for an unpredictable amount of time or having unused space sitting in their inventory. Unfortunately, many of them didn't expect to have many choices in the matter -- 20% expected up to half of their tenants to go out of business and have to vacate. With the average survey respondent representing 1.57 million square feet of leased space, that's a lot of empty units.

With such a grim outlook in April, what changed? Why is Long Island's real estate market looking up now?

A July Boom

Long before the novel coronavirus hit the U.S., everyone from e-commerce entities to hospitals was buying up commercial real estate across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. With the COVID crisis, this trend has only accelerated.

Part of it is spurred by New York City's experience sheltering in place. Many families -- including some high-profile lifestyle influencers -- chose to leave the city and hunker down elsewhere. Others found that a city apartment was less than ideal for long periods of isolation. Still, others anticipate that working from home will continue far into the future, and, if they can work from home, why not do it in a more spacious area? While these factors are driving the shift from city dwelling to suburban dwelling, that shift is also going to have an impact on commercial real estate. With more people seeking less dense living arrangements, it means that there will need to be more hospitals, grocery stores, and offices in suburban areas to serve them.

The pandemic also highlighted the need for more hospital space, with impromptu care centers popping up in everything from convention centers to parks. George J. Kimmerle, head of the Kimmerle Group design firm, expects the number of suburban outposts for major city hospitals to double in the next few years -- including urgent care centers capable of handling all but the most intensive care cases.

Business owners may also be anticipating the cost of changes to floor plans and office design intended to reduce the spread of disease. As employees return to work, workers and employers alike have concerns about COVID-19 outbreaks and business shutdowns, and managers are scrambling to address them. While new construction would be ideal, retrofitting existing buildings with things like touchless work environments and indoor-outdoor spaces is much cheaper and less time-consuming. Given the amount of empty commercial space available on Long Island, coupled with its lower cost relative to New York City, it just makes sense.

An Uncertain Future

While the picture is overall optimistic for the Long Island commercial real estate market, some experts doubt that this future is guaranteed. Architect Mark Stumer, of Mojo Stumer, expects that, while residential real estate will continue to grow, the commercial market will experience a significant drop-off. The increase in employees working from home means that employers are likely to downsize their space as a cost-cutting measure, and real estate owners are likely to let them do it in order to avoid losing tenants. While some businesses may choose to either leave the city or expand onto Long Island, others may downsize and stay right where they are.

There has been much discussion of the way that the novel coronavirus has revealed issues with the way we live, work, and shop, from a shortage of ICU beds, to a lack of flexible teleworking accommodations for many employees, to the difficulty of effectively social distancing in factories. Real estate is only one of the areas impacted by this, but it's a major one. As hospitals seek to increase their reach, businesses downsize and leave the city, and urban residents look for greener pastures, COVID-19 has produced a major shift in what people want from their residential and commercial real estate.

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ADA Compliance: What All Facility Managers Should Know

ADA Compliance: What All Facility Managers Should Know

The Americans With Disabilities Act is designed to make buildings safe and accessible for everyone, including people with limited mobility. Unfortunately, making a facility accessible for people with disabilities isn't always intuitive. It can be tough to stay up-to-date on what's required and implement these measures. Before undergoing an ADA compliance check, there are a number of things facility managers should know.

Keeping Up-to-Date on ADA Requirements

It's important to realize that ADA regulations are not the same as building codes -- while building codes are for everyone's safety, the ADA is a civil rights law that ensures that people with disabilities have equal access to public spaces. Depending on the location of the facility, different state and federal standards might come into play. The best way to stay on top of current regulations is to know exactly which rules apply to a given location, confirm which plan the city or county has chosen to adhere to, and make an effort to keep abreast of any changes.

How to Audit Facilities for ADA Compliance

Facility managers can self-audit their buildings to spot minor problems. The best way to go about this is to:

  • Become very familiar with ADA regulations. Know exactly what you need to be on the lookout for.
  • Get a copy of the facility's floorplan.
  • Pick out spots that are likely to have issues with compliance. Is there an entrance that isn't wheelchair accessible? Are the doorways and halls wide enough to allow someone with mobility aids to pass through? Are there handrails?
  • Perform a thorough walk-through. Pay particular attention to all of the areas highlighted in the previous step.
  • Make a list of all of the areas that are non-compliant.
  • Prioritize this list. Basic accessibility needs, like the need for handrails, should be at the top of the list.
  • Create a plan of action for tackling this list and bringing these areas into compliance.
  • Follow through. It may not be possible to handle every item on the list right away, but having a prioritized list and working through it will help make a facility more usable for visitors with disabilities, and decrease the likelihood of lawsuits.

Getting and Staying Compliant

When it comes to accessibility, the onus should not be on visitors with disabilities to complain about problems they face using a facility. ADA infractions should not happen, and it's the owners' and managers' responsibility to make sure that they don't. As better information becomes available, ADA regulations change over time. Unfortunately for facility managers, there's no such thing as "grandfathering" -- if a building felt out of compliance when the rules were updated, it must be brought back into compliance or face legal trouble. When it comes to getting in compliance, it's important to adhere strictly to the ADA rules for that location. If a building design requires some customization, like aesthetic modifications to an entry ramp, work closely with a contractor who has experience with ADA regulations to avoid mistakes. It's also a good idea to stay near the middle of required ranges for dimensions like slope or distance -- this will ensure that a minor measuring error doesn't throw the building out of compliance. The best way to stay in compliance is through thorough employee training. A building can be completely within regulations when it's built, but it's up to maintenance crews to keep it that way. The trouble is, it's often difficult for able-bodied employees to intuitively know how to stay ADA compliant -- through no fault of their own, they aren't used to seeing the world through the eyes of someone with a disability. Maintenance staff might unwittingly create problems by hanging coat hooks too high or place objects in the path of wheelchair users. Maintenance personnel needs to thoroughly understand ADA regulations since they'll be the ones cleaning and repairing things impacted by them.

What Happens if Buildings Aren't Up to Code

While ADA compliance might be the last thing on most facility managers' minds, that doesn't make it any less important. Spending some time and money bringing buildings up to code can end up saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in the long run. Since the ADA is a law, not just a building code, not being up to standard opens a facility up to potential liability. Lawsuits can end up costing defendants over $5k per each complaint, and that's if they don't involve personal injury. While it might not be possible for a facility to remove every obstacle to accessibility right away, it should be an ongoing effort. Roughly 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. alone suffer from a disability. Adhering to the ADA should be about more than just liability -- poor accessibility can drive away a significant portion of a facility's potential users. Good accessibility and a welcoming attitude brings in more visitors and can go a long way toward improving a business' image in the community.

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How Technology Will Transform The Construction Industry In 2020

How Technology Will Transform The Construction Industry In 2020

Construction techniques might seem like they haven't evolved much over the past few decades, partly because the industry is slow to adopt new technology. After all, the stakes are very high if things don't work out -- more so than in most other industries. Still, recent advancements promise to change the way we construct buildings, increasing efficiency, safety, and sustainability. Here are a few trends to watch for in 2020:

A boom in modular construction.

Modular building has never been a very popular choice for the commercial sector, but experts argue that that's largely due to the ways its perceived. There's really no reason why modular buildings can't work for commercial applications, and more and more companies are beginning to see that it allows for very fast, efficient construction that is just as safe as traditional methods. Marriott International, for example, announced its intention to build the tallest modular hotel in the world, scheduled to open in New York City later this year. Hilton had another first, opening San Francisco's first modular hotel last summer less than a year after the hotel's components were delivered to the site. Modular construction also doesn't preclude the use of water reclamation systems, solar panels, or other sustainability features. The modular building market is projected to reach $157 billion by 2023.

Wider adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM).

Construction software is earning its place on job sites, especially BIM programs. These allow for 3D and 4D modeling -- adding time as a fourth dimension -- allow users to see not only the spatial characteristics of a project but also get projections of maintenance costs and material lifespan under a variety of conditions. It can even be integrated with augmented or virtual reality to allow planners to get an immersive, real-life feel for the finished project. This allows for the construction of buildings that are as efficient, long-lived, and low-maintenance as possible, reducing their carbon footprints.

More wearable tech.

As technology becomes smaller and more portable, it's not surprising that wearables have grown in popularity. In the construction field, hands-free operation is a serious benefit -- workers need to be able to get into tight spaces and handle potentially dangerous equipment, and there's little room for juggling extra stuff. Visual wearables can present information in heads-up displays that make coordinating tasks more efficient. Some wearable tools also incorporate sensors that can alert workers to potentially unsafe conditions, reducing the risk of accidents. Some workers may also get to benefit from exoskeletons, which monitors the force applied to the worker's body and responds by using hydraulics to increase their strength and prevent knee, shoulder, and back injuries. Exoskeletons also present an interesting compromise between proponents of automation and unions seeking to protect their members' jobs -- the ability to give human workers some of the advantages of robots.

Expanded use of 3D printing.

3D printing comes hand-in-hand with the projected increase in modular construction techniques. Since it can create parts quickly and precisely, 3D printing allows for the fabrication of construction materials either on-site or off and being automated means that production can continue completely independently of worker's shifts. This is one way in which the advancement of automation doesn't have to threaten jobs for human workers -- 3D printing can allow construction projects to progress more efficiently, but just as many field workers are needed to complete them.

More robots.

The construction industry has been notably reticent to take advantage of advancements in robotics, but that may be changing. Drones can now nail down roofing tile, and robots can even lay bricks and pave roads. This has allowed for faster builds with fewer human errors. Boston Dynamics' robot "dog," Spot, is in the early stages of learning to take progress photos on job sites, a job that previously had to be performed by workers who already had higher priority tasks. Interestingly enough, it isn't the actual building process where robotics has had the biggest impact -- it's demolition. Robots are generally slower than humans when it comes to taking a structure down, but also cheaper and far safer to use. Though construction has generally been slower to adopt new tech than other industries, it's catching up. 2020 looks like it's going to be a big year for the expansion of modular building, BIM, 3D printing, wearables, and robotics, which should ultimately result in projects that go up faster, last longer, have lower maintenance needs and smaller carbon footprints, and result in fewer on-the-job injuries.

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