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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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Top Facility & Property Management Trade Shows and Expos in 2020

Top Facility & Property Management Trade Shows and Expos in 2020

Trade shows give industry professionals the chance to learn about emerging technologies in their field, network, and test out new products before buying. For facility and property managers, the 2020 trade show season looks particularly promising. Don't miss:

IFMA's Facility Fusion

April 14-16, 2020 | Hilton San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

IFMA's Facility Fusion combines local, global, individual, and industry-wide facility management solutions into the trade expo of the year. Roughly 800 companies from 46 states and 20 countries attend, bringing with them their expertise in improving efficiency, increasing productivity, and industry trends. Attendees will get to take part in tours that offer a practical look at new building upgrades and cutting-edge energy-efficient technology. You'll save hours upon hours in independent research, and return to your facility armed with new solutions and ready to take on any issues that come your way. To find more information or register to attend, please the IFMA website.

Cincinnati Facilities Maintenance Expo

February 13, 2020 | Oasis Conference Center, Cincinnati, OH

This expo brings in professionals ranging from facility and property managers, owners, and plant engineers, to maintenance workers, buyers, and more. Exhibitors get the benefit of a large near-captive audience to display their products to; attendees get to learn about the latest developments in cleaning equipment, concrete and roofing restoration, waste disposal products, lift equipment, HVAC, and energy-saving. Can't make it to Cincinnati? Be sure to attend the Indianapolis Facilities Maintenance Expo on March 12, 2020, at the 502 East Event Center, in Carmel, IN.

Connex

April 20-22, 2020 | Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Orlando, FL

Connex doesn't just give buyers and industry professionals the chance to network, it also allows attendees to attend education and power sessions, hear keynote speeches from top names in facility and property management, and win prizes. Exhibitors cover everything from roofing and pavement maintenance, to security, to snow management, to fire suppression and safety. Located at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, it's one expo that you'll regret missing. Visit their website to find more details, a list of exhibitors, and registration information.

PM Grow Summit 2020

May 27-29, 2020 | AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center, Austin, TX

Like its name implies, PM Grow is dedicated to fostering growth and improvement in property management. It brings the most forward-thinking property managers and other industry professionals together to share new technology and best practices, and develop new solutions to the biggest challenges facing facilities today. You'll be able to get actionable suggestions from world-class thought leaders to help expand your portfolio, generate leads, and build a devoted customer base. Talk to the industry's leading professionals today, and learn where it's heading tomorrow. Visit the PM Grow Summit 2020 website to learn more, or to take advantage of their early bird registration.

The National Facilities Management and Technology Conference and Expo

March 17-19, 2020 | Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD

NFMT is jam-packed with networking events and parties, as well as opportunities to get hands-on experience with the latest technology and services from established names in the industry and emerging brands. With over 125 different educational sessions available to attendees, you are guaranteed to find something that piques your interest and helps you meet your facility's unique challenges. Visit the NFMT website for more exhibitor details and registration information.

Northeast Buildings & Facilities Management Show & Conference

June 12-13, 2020 | Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Boston, MA

NEBFM attracts professionals and exhibitors from a wide range of facility types, including hospitals, schools, municipal buildings, malls, hotels, manufacturing facilities, transit facilities, religious buildings, and more. It features over 2,500 attendees, 250 exhibitors, and an educational conference with 22 talks covering sustainability, maintenance, construction, and renovation. Details are still to be determined, but please visit the ProExpo website for updates and more information.

The Green Industry & Equipment Expo

October 21-23, 2020 | The Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, KY

For property managers who are tasked with handling landscaping duties, the GIE+EXPO is a can't-miss event. It's the industry's largest expo for lawn and garden products, outdoor machinery, and large-scale lighting and landscape equipment used by the nation's top landscaping crews. Attendees will get to enjoy indoor and outdoor exhibits, as well as a free concert, with over 1000 exhibitors on the Kentucky Exposition Center's unique 20-acre facility. Their new products spotlight showcases new developments from turf mowers, to the Titan HydroSeeder, to high-output lights and fluid systems. Attendees are urged to dress comfortably -- there's a lot of ground to cover. Please visit the GIE+EXPO website for more details and registration information. Property and facility managers face new challenges with every change in the seasons, let alone the issues that can arise with implementing new standards and technology. Don't let your business be left in the dust -- attend the country's top trade shows to network with other professionals, learn about emerging tech, and discover how to improve your workplace and expand your client roster.

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Colleges With The Best Facilities Management Programs

Colleges With The Best Facilities Management Programs

Facility managers play a crucial role in the organization, safety, and function of a commercial building. Given their importance, facility managers remain in great demand in numerous industries. People who want to enjoy long facilities management careers can pursue the training they need at any of the top colleges that are known for their facilities management degree programs. 

Career Outlook for Facilities Management

The outlook for facilities management careers is healthy and growing. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the career itself to grow by 10 percent by the year 2026. Moreover, job market experts expect facilities management to be vital to a wide array of industries like:

  • Environmental services
  • Healthcare and social services
  • Technician and scientific services
  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Governmental operations


People who earn a facilities management degree will learn vital skills that will make them invaluable to these and other industries. Some of the skills an FM degree will encompass include:

  • Communication
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Fire safety
  • Financial management
  • Business management
  • Quality assurance
  • Property management
  • Building security
  • Cleaning
  • Building operations


These skills are a few that will be learned during the course of earning a facilities management degree. They give students the foundation needed to work in facilities management careers.

Top Colleges with Facilities Management and Planning Degree Programs

A number of colleges across the U.S. offer degree programs in facilities management. Most of the programs are offered at the undergraduate level and are relatively small. It is not unusual for colleges with this program to graduate anywhere from six to 20 students in it each year.

These are a few of the colleges that offer facilities management programs for students:

Southeast Missouri State University. Southeast Missouri State University is located in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It offers three undergraduate facilities management programs. It graduates on average six students with this degree each year. The average in-state tuition for Southeast Missouri State University is a little over $600 per year. Out-of-state students can expect to pay around $11,000 per year. Books average around $$500 while on-campus room and board cost $8000 on average.

Brigham Young University. Brigham Young University is found in Provo, Utah. It has an undergraduate facilities management program that graduates around 15 students each year. The average tuition cost for in-state and out-of-state students both is around $5000 a year. Books cost around $800 a year while room and board averages around $7000 yearly.

Rochester Institute of Technology. Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York costs both in-state and out-of-state students around $36,000 per year in tuition. It offers both an undergraduate and graduate degree program in facilities management. Books for this program cost around $10,000 a year. Students who want to live on campus can expect to pay on average $11,000 per year.

San Diego State University. San Diego State University is found in San Diego, California. It is a large university with one undergraduate facilities management program for students. Its tuition rate for in-state students is $5000 while out-of-state students can expect to pay upwards of $16,000. Books for the program cost around $1000. Room and board averages around $1500 per year.

Madison Area Technical College. Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin offers a facilities management undergraduate degree. Tuition for the program costs around $4000 for in-state students and $6000 for students who come here from out-of-state. Students also can expect to pay around $1700 a year for books and materials.

Sinclair Community College. Sinclair College is located in Dayton, Ohio. As a community college, students in facilities management do not have the option of living on-campus. However, their tuition will average around $3000 for in-state students and $6000 for out-of-state students. Books will cost them around $1000 a year.

CUNY NY College of Technology. CUNY NY College of Technology is located in Brooklyn, New York. It has a single facilities management program for undergraduate students. Out-of-state students pay $!5,000 a year for tuition while in-state students pay $6000. Books cost around $1300 yearly.

These colleges are a few that offer degree programs in facilities management. They teach the skills students know to become effective and valuable facilities managers in the near future. They prepare people to join the rapidly growing facilities management industry.

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Top Facilites Management Trends for 2019

2019 Facility Management Trends

If you ask the average facilities manager how technology is impacting their field, you're probably going to get a favorable response. In fact, managers surveyed on the subject almost unanimously expressed the opinion that their use of technology is only going to keep growing. New trends in facilities management show that the scope of a manager's responsibility is expanding, and technological innovations are rising to meet these new challenges. Some of these trends include:

1. The internet of things

The internet of things (IoT) is a shorthand term for connected devices that are capable of collecting and sharing data. These devices have IP addresses, just like conventional computers, for connecting to the internet. More and more of these Internet-enabled devices are being developed to help streamline the way that facilities managers track and monitor their assets -- everything from tracking stock, to determining which parts of a given facility get the most use (and require the most attention). Many sectors are already seeing a big boost in efficiency from the IoT, and that trend is likely to continue into 2019.

2. The use of social media feedback

If you think a social media presence is optional for facilities management, think again. More and more companies are seeing the value of staying connected to customers through social media platforms, and facilities managers are no exception. Connecting to customers can offer invaluable feedback when it comes to seeing where you are doing well, and where your service can be improved. Plus, interacting with customers online offers countless opportunities to make an impact far beyond what your services alone can do, and helps you create the impression of integrity, approachability, and transparency.

3. Expanding the concept of retail space

The demand for inexpensive, easy-access medical services is causing more and more walk-in clinics to open in shopping centers. Retailers are seeing the benefit of offering food services in their stores when it comes to drawing in customers. More and more businesses are striving to become centers of their communities, offering their customers experiences beyond shopping. What do these things have in common? They all represent the expanding scope of facilities management. While many managers have experience in maintaining medical facilities, retail spaces, or restaurants, 2019 is going to see a lot more crossover between different sectors. This means needing to comply with additional safety and health regulations and find new ways to effectively manage the expanding needs of these blended facilities.

4. Using the blockchain

The blockchain is good for more than cryptocurrency. It is effectively a way to maintain a continuous ledger, and facilities managers are seeing the value in it when it comes to tracking supply chains, processing work orders, processing and tracking payments, tracking maintenance and management needs, and increasing transparency. Though its use is still in its infancy, expect to see more and more businesses demanding it in 2019.

5. Expanding automation

Facilities management is already a demanding field, and the increasing scope of what it requires means that it takes a superhuman effort to keep things running smoothly. According to a survey of facilities managers across sectors, programs that aid with work orders and ticketing rank as the third most valuable technology tool. Self-handling software can automatically create invoices, schedule field service appointments, direct work orders, and more, dramatically reducing the workload placed on managers and allowing them to focus on the areas that require their attention the most.

6. New approaches to sustainability

Energy efficiency is key. Not only are energy costs a significant part of a facility's budget, but responsible approaches to energy management also create a selling point for sustainability-minded customers. Batteries can help reduce the financial impact of peak demand charges and cut down a facility's carbon footprint at the same time. Chemical and refrigerated battery storage can help maintain battery effectiveness and increase longevity, further reducing energy costs. If 2019's facilities management trends could be summed up in a few words, they would be efficiency, transparency, and sustainability. New software applications can dramatically reduce the tedious, time-consuming work of processing work orders, generating invoices, and manually scheduling service calls, particularly as more retail facilities begin expanding the type of businesses they host. Social media and the blockchain can help increase transparency. Batteries and battery storage can help reduce energy demands, leading to financial and carbon savings. Expect some very exciting innovations in all of these areas as the field of facilities management continues to change and grow.

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Is Geothermal Heating and Cooling a Viable Alternative?

As a facilities manager, it is up to you to keep the costs of running your building as low as possible. As summer or winter approaches, however, you might find yourself worrying about rising energy costs. Your solution could be to install a geothermal heat pump system that can help lower utility expenses and give you a steady return on your investment.

What are Geothermal Heat Pumps?

A geothermal heat pump is an environmentally friendly system that can both heat and cool a business or home. It does not need fossil fuels like coal or gasoline to operate. Instead, it harnesses the geothermal heat from within the earth's underground to maintain a comfortable temperature in the building.

These systems are energy efficient and cost effective, allowing building owners to save significantly on their utility bills. However, they also reduce the carbon footprint of a business or homeowner.

They do not require a lot of space in which to be installed. While some systems can be installed horizontally in a field in a rural setting, systems that go into urban buildings can be installed vertically sometimes in a space as small as a dining room table.

Once installed, these systems go to work right away harnessing the temperatures from the earth's underground to cool or heat the building. With proper care, the interior parts of the system can last for as long as 12 years.

The pipes installed under the ground can last for as long as 50 years. This longevity means you get your money's worth out of the geothermal heat pump before you have to replace or repair it.

Further, most geothermal heat pump owners see savings of 60 to 70 percent off their utility costs within the first year alone. You can recoup the total cost of the system within five to 10 years after you have it installed.

Finally, building owners who choose to install geothermal heat pump systems in their buildings often have a unique opportunity to take advantage of incentives and tax credits. A number of utility companies are offering rebates to customers who install these systems in their buildings. The rebates can range from $1000 to $6000 with the average rebate being around $4000 per customer.

You can also claim credits on your taxes after installing one of these systems. You can deduct up to 30 percent of the installation cost from your taxes, helping you recoup some of the money you spent on the geothermal heat pump system.

The monetary advantages that come with geothermal heat pump systems can make this heating and cooling choice more attractive to you. You can save money on your building's utility costs while still keeping it cool or warm during the summer and winter.

Additional Information about Geothermal Heat Pumps

If the cost effectiveness of these systems has yet to convince you, you might be swayed by discovering the versatility that geothermal heat pumps can offer to customers. Along with heating and cooling your building, a geothermal heat pump can likewise be installed and used to heat pavement right outside of your building's doors. The heated pavement prevents ice and snow from accumulating during the wintertime.

Further, the rejected heat from the system can be used to heat outdoor pools, hot tubs, or fountains. You can enjoy these fixtures all year long knowing that the water in them will remain thawed by the geothermal heat pump system installed underneath them.

Finally, as a facilities manager, you might pay attention to state of the local economy. When you invest in a geothermal heat pump for your building, you contribute to the productivity and health of the economy.

All of the system's pumps and parts are made in the U.S. The manufacturers of these systems boost the local economy by creating more jobs. Likewise, contractors who are hired to install these systems benefit by hiring more workers and putting money back into the economy.

A geothermal heat pump system can reduce the costs involved with cooling and heating your building. You can keep your expenses low while helping to boost the local economy by investing in a geothermal heat pump for your building today.

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Staying Competitive in the Facility Management Sector

Smart facilities management is crucial when it comes to inhabiting work spaces and recruiting and maintaining talent. It has the ability to drive employee performance and increase productivity as well as maintain a company's competitive edge in the market.

Because of its importance, facilities management must evolve and change with the pace of the global marketplace today. These strategies could allow for your own building to stay competitive in the facilities management sector.

Value Creation

Until recently, one of the primary focuses of facilities management involved keeping costs as low as possible. You may have looked for every way to shave a few dollars off your building's operating costs. You aimed to reduce expenses while getting the most return for every dollar you did spend.

As facilities management strategies evolve, saving money will still be important. However, the main focus will shift to finding ways to create value with work space inhabitants and stakeholders.

You will need to adopt progressive technologies that will permit for increased mobility and provide for better conditions for training your employees. It also will allow for a healthier workplace environment that will increase productivity, decrease absenteeism, and minimize the level of stress.

Sustainable Energy Management

Another strategy that will come into play with tomorrow's facilities management involves increasing the sustainability of your building across all activities and platforms. You will need to rethink your building's existing assets and create a framework for it that is sustainable.

This could involve making life-cycle assessments and undertaking a new approach to life-cycle building management. It could also involve training employees themselves to maintain a sustainable workplace.

Regardless, your primary focus should involve finding cost-effective, sustainable ways to reduce energy levels, waste, and your building's overall carbon footprint. These methods will carry over to your main role of transforming energy management in your building, recycling, water management, safety, health, and other key aspects of effective facilities management.

Space Optimization

When it comes to reducing costs in your building, you could achieve your goal by optimizing the way that its spaces are used. To improve the use of space in your building, you can create flexible workstations for employees.

You also can redistribute workplace strategies and utilize mobile work spaces and mobile workers as a part of your approach to facilities management. Your focus should revolve around using less space with better space propositions.

The Best Use of Technology

Making the best use of technology is important to facilities management for several reasons. To start, it can impact the manner in which your building's employees perform their everyday jobs. It can also allow for the creation of different work spaces like assigned or shared workstations, virtual work spaces, home offices, or flexible offices.

Technology can also enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of work spaces and workplaces. You can take all of the available technology to support your building's employees while responding and proactively using it to leverage optimization in the workplace.

Personalized Delivery Service

Finally, competitive facilities management of tomorrow should focus on the creation of personalized service deliveries. Personalized service deliveries allow for supporting new ways of working and the creation of a fit-for-purpose approach to facilities management. It allows each company to be unique in this regard.

In fact, when workplace strategies among companies differ from each other, they permit customers to make demands for their individual specific and exact needs. Personalized delivery services go beyond the management of assets and systems.

In the near future, clients will require service providers to understand their businesses. You can thus train front-line service employees to deliver on that client understanding.

The future of facilities management will shift the focus from practices to which you are currently accustomed to strategies that will further enhance productivity, performance, and profit. It will require you to make the best use of modern technology while personalizing services demanded by your clients.

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Smart Buildings and Facility Management

The Internet of Things has transcended most boundaries in society and now makes its presence known in countless industries. Among them, architecture and building construction in particular benefit from this newest technology.

Smart buildings are becoming more commonplace around the world as facilities managers discover the many perks that come with this innovation. Discover what a smart building is and in what ways it can make your job as a building manager easier and most cost effective.

What is a Smart Building?

A smart building, also called an intelligent building, is a building that features a plethora of smart systems and automation. A smart building itself is part of the Internet of Things and in particular functions to collect and analyze data that once had to be gathered and recorded by hand.

Buildings with smart automation technology typically will feature a network of sensors attached to equipment like furnaces, ventilation systems, light fixtures, hot water heaters, and other appliances throughout the premises. The sensors collect and analyze data about the functions and performances of these fixtures automatically so the building team can focus on other tasks.

Further, the data gathered and analyzed by the sensors allow the building manager to schedule maintenance tasks based on the actual usage of the fixtures rather than time-based intervals. These devices allow building managers to know exactly where their building's assets are located so they can gather credible data and information about them and then determine what if anything needs to be done to repair or enhance their performance.

A smart building also allows the building team to be reactive in maintaining the premises rather than spending time responding to emergencies like broken appliances or faulty lighting. They no longer have to predict if or when a facilities crisis might occur. They can be alerted immediately whenever a fixture is broken and react quickly to repair it in a prompt manner. This immediate notification can result in operational cost deductions of at least two to three percent.

Controlling Internal Operations

Another perk found with operating a smart building involves being able to control its internal operations better. The devices attached to fixtures like air conditioners and furnaces alert building managers to functions like room or building temperature, vibration of equipment like HVAC systems, air flow in and out of the building, the amount of electricity being used on a daily basis, noise level, and revolutions per minute of certain types of fixtures.

In this way, the building manager can be alerted whenever any fixture with a device attached to it breaks down and stops working properly. Once notified, the facilities team can take immediate action to get it repaired or replaced as necessary.

Streamlined Facilities Management

Perhaps the biggest advantage that comes with managing a smart building involves being in charge of streamlined processes. Before this technology was invented, you may have had to manually take note of and record operations within the building. This task may have taken hours of your time and made it impossible for you to handle other important tasks on a daily basis.

With smart building technology, you no longer have to rely on manual processes but instead can rely on the sensors to automatically record the functions the equipment within the building of which in you are in charge. Any malfunctions can be reported and addressed before the building's personnel reports them to you or perhaps even notices them.

Likewise, as a facilities manager, you avoid the huge cost of having to repair and replace faulty equipment as often as before because you can be notified immediately whenever a malfunction is about to happen. This prompt alert saves you and your company money and lowers the overhead costs that otherwise could take away from your profits.

As a facilities manager, it is up to you to know if or when a fixture like an HVAC system or furnace needs to be repaired or replaced. You no longer have to rely on manual observations and recording to do your job. You can be notified immediately about impending malfunctions when you are in charge of a smart building.

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Sustainable Facility Management

In the modern age of information, society has come to terms with humanity’s destructive impact on the environment. A large majority of scientific experts and lawmakers argue that policies need to be implemented to reduce this man-made ecological impact. A growing number of consumers agree, and they have made the conscious decision to make more responsible choices about the companies they give money to.

Facility managers have always needed to remain compliant with the laws and societal standards, and it appears that sustainability policies are quickly becoming a new societal demand from companies. Adopting these business practices gives your business a competitive advantage over other businesses, but it does come at a cost.

What is Sustainability?

Broadly defined, sustainability means utilizing our resources in a way that both meets present needs and focuses on long-term stability. The Brundtland Commission explains that refraining from “compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” is paramount to sustainability.

In a world where humanity’s life-support resources are declining and the demand for these resources is increasing, sustainability seeks to more responsibly utilize these valuable resources to maintain an ecological balance. Forum for the Future lays out five of the key aspects of sustainability including care for the environment, respect for ecological constraints, equity, partnership and quality of life. In summary, sustainability is an attempt to protect the environment while simultaneously driving innovation, improving human health and maintaining our way of life.

What is Sustainable Facility Management?

Sustainable facility management describes the method of managing your company’s business, resources, people and infrastructure in such a way that it optimizes the long-term environmental, economic and social stability. Facility managers influence sustainability when making decisions about environmental management, during building construction and when conducting maintenance.

Some sustainable business practices include tracking your energy use, assessing water consumption, prioritizing energy improvement, managing your carbon footprint and reducing your facility’s baseline energy use. As a facility manager, you’ll need to understand any relevant policy regulations or governmental energy efficiency goals. As governments on the state and federal level make policy changes in favor of sustainable business practices, your business will need to remain compliant.

Advantages

The most important benefit of maintaining sustainable business practices is improving the overall quality of life for all citizens. Many organizations choose to focus on sustainability as both a goal and mission, and the practice is often embraced as part of the company’s brand. Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious and Eco-friendly.

Consumers are making more responsible decisions about the products they purchase, so including sustainability as an integral part of your business will have a positive impact on the public perception of your company and boost profits.

Another advantage of sustainability is that companies are at a competitive advantage and may even receive government benefits due to their environmental policies and practices. Ideally, enhancing your company’s productivity, profits, safety standards, health and efficiency are always top-priority goals. Enforcing sustainable goals as a part of facility management will be beneficial in various areas of your business.

Disadvantages

While all the advantages of sustainable facility management practices sound unbeatable, they do come at a cost, and that cost is relatively high. The most commonly reported challenge faced by facility managers when it comes to sustainability is the high expectation of energy and water costs and a lack of available funding.

Eco-friendly building materials, supplies and products are typically more expensive, and the cost reduction in energy savings usually isn’t enough to quickly offset the upfront expenses. 

In the study of ecology, sustainability is defined at the ability of biological systems to say diverse and survive indefinitely. Facility managers that adopt sustainable business practices gain a competitive advantage, boost their public perception and help protect the environment for future generations. While these practices do come at a cost, they are typically seen as the responsible choice for today’s businesses.

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The Pros and Cons of an Open Workspace

Silicon Valley is well-known for its incredibly successful global tech companies. Companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have all revolutionized facility management styles with new solutions like the recent open-office trend. Facility managers around the globe take note of the management styles and trends coming out of Silicon Valley because of the apparent success of these businesses, and the open work space trend has quickly become the new normal.

The International Facility Management Association reported that by 2014 around 70 percent of American offices had low or no partitions to facilitate a more open work space. An open office creates both advantages and disadvantages in the work space. Facility managers should weigh their company’s goals and look at the evidence presented to decide if an open work space environment is a potential solution for their business. 


Benefits of an Open Work Space

The number one reason facility managers consider moving to an open work space is because it is much more cost-effective than private offices or cubicles. Shared workstations mean less overall financial investment into private desks, individual rooms, materials and other building costs. Additionally, facility managers consider strategic motives like improving social support, cooperation and communication between team members when considering an open work space.

Silicon Valley titans like Yahoo!, Facebook and eBay argue that an open office design facilitates fairness, transparency, productivity, communication and innovation. Communication between employees improves, and different team members will be more engaged with one another with an open work space design.

Research indicates a phenomenon called “culture collision” occurs when a chance encounter between workers boosts each employee’s creativity and sense of community. These culture collisions are proven to boost overall office productivity rates.

Without assigned offices and cubicles, an open work area is more flexible than traditional designs. More employees can operate in an open space, and the layout can be rearranged as needed. This allows for maximum space utilization. Another positive aspect of an open work space design is the eco-friendly energy implications.

Open offices are the green choice because the design reduces the strain on heating and cooling systems, gives more opportunities for broad daylight windows and involves less construction waste. Another important reason facility managers are opting for an open work space design because it is both aesthetically pleasing and trendy with the newer millennial generation. Business owners report that an open work space design leaves a positive impression on clients, whereas the traditional cubicle-style design is often seen as old-fashioned. 

Consequences of an Open Office

One of the most glaring disadvantages to having an open office design is the increase in noise level and distraction for employees. It has been repeatedly cited in many studies that simple noise impairs concentration and cognitive performance.

Matthew Davis, an organizational psychologist, reviewed over one hundred studies relating to office design to research the psychological effects on employees from an open office design. His published findings show that an open work space means an increase in uncontrolled disruptions, higher levels of stress, lowered concentration levels, lowered productivity and a decrease in worker satisfaction. 

Facility managers recognize that a sense of privacy boosts productivity, but an open office removes this aspect. An often-cited study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that around half of all open office workers were unhappy with the lack of sound privacy, and 40 percent complained about a lack of visual privacy.

Additionally, more open space leaves employees more vulnerable to contagious germs. One study comparing different office designs found that employees who worked in open offices took more time off due to illness . Another study published in the 2014 Journal of Ergonomics confirmed these results. 

Silicon Valley seems to have reinvigorated the open office movement, yet it may come as a surprise that open office designs were the norm back in the 1950s and 1960s. An open floor plan may be a good fit for some businesses, but it’s not a good option for every company.

Facility managers need to consider that every employee works differently, and the potential advantages and disadvantages to an open work space are highly dependent on various job functions and the company’s overall goals. While large tech companies like Google that rely on innovative ideas and collaboration greatly benefit from this open office design, facility managers should carefully consider their options before jumping on-board with the trend.

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