Facility Management 2018: Transforming into a high-tech profession - Dec 2018

By Darius Helm

In their role as end users, facility managers (FMs) have traditionally had priorities that are distinct from other stakeholders, though their understanding has tended to run ahead of those controlling the purse strings, but these days, FMs’ focus on performance, ease of maintenance and, most significantly, lifecycle costs is finally gaining recognition. However, as the FM role expands, design and aesthetics are also becoming more relevant in managing today’s facilities.

Demand is high for facility managers-the placement rate for graduates from accredited programs is currently 100%. And according to Eileen McMorrow of McMorrow Reports, for every graduate, there are eight or ten job choices. But today’s facility managers require an exceptional skill set, including deep knowledge of a range of fields, strong IT skills and, most importantly, the ability to analyze a lot of data on the fly.

In many ways, the role of facility management is just now being born, developed through an odd inversion of the natural process. First, facility managers operated and maintained buildings. Then, as businesses grew and commercial operations became more complex and sophisticated, the facilities themselves became much more complicated, comprised of multiple systems, leading to the birth of an elevated FM role to parent the other managers. The expansion of support operations in modern businesses generated other responsibilities that naturally assembled under the FM umbrella, relating to everything from technology and communications to property development, security, environmental stewardship and even human resources. And so someone had to manage all of that too.

It’s this developmental stage of facility management that has led to the impression of FMs as harried, frantically busy and drowning from an endless sea of responsibilities. That was the difficult birth, but the world that today’s facility managers are emerging into is a world of data, of live networks, sensors and remote switches, building information modeling, evidence-based design, and smart buildings. At the leading edge, no longer do FMs have to run around gathering data, sifting through information, hollering on phones, dispatching teams and generally managing minutiae. Instead, cleaned and organized data streams flow into the tablet of the facility manager, whose job it is to conduct the orchestra, to finesse their capabilities so that it all runs smoothly and efficiently.

Mind you, that’s the leading edge. Most facility managers are only just starting to cozy up to these new technological opportunities, and before long it will be, like the Internet, the new normal. Though in this case it’s all about the Internet of Things (IoT).

Four years ago, PLP Architecture completed its construction of The Edge, a 15-story office building in the Netherlands. The 430,000-square-foot building, located in downtown Amsterdam, is the global headquarters of consulting firm Deloitte, and it is often promoted as the world’s smartest buildings. The building has a BREEAM certification, with a score of 98.36%, the highest rating for any office building in the world. BREEAM is a leading international assessment tool for master planning projects, infrastructure and buildings.

The Edge not only uses 30% of the energy of comparable buildings, but it’s actually energy-positive, thanks to massive solar arrays on the roof and south face, as well as two deep geothermal wells. And the building is drenched in IoT, with lighting, temperature, humidity, movement and occupancy all continuously monitored and adjusted for maximum comfort, efficiency and, ultimately, productivity. The lighting alone-an Ethernet powered LED system-is managed through 30,000 sensors.

When it comes to maintenance, The Edge knows which rooms have not been used and therefore don’t need cleaning. It knows when lights need replacing and when printers need paper. It helps its 2,600 employees find parking spaces and free desks, and it even knows how they like their coffee. And, believe it or not, it uses real-time historical data, traffic and weather info to predict lunchtime cafeteria volume in order to reduce food waste.

There is a major movement underway to create smart, healthy buildings to lower environmental footprints, achieve prestigious certifications and ultimately increase productivity and profit. Fortunately for facility managers, every smart building needs a smart human to analyze, manage and oversee the flows of data. When it comes right down to it, a smart building is only as smart as the person at the controls.

The Internet of Things refers to connecting devices to the Internet, pretty much any device that uses electricity or can be controlled by an electronic switch. Processors and sensors are cheap and getting cheaper, and wireless networks are ubiquitous, opening the door for vast volumes of data to flow to and from…things. The list is literally endless, because it’s growing every day. Lighting, HVAC systems, door locks, motion sensors, vending machines, coffee makers, air quality sensors and, of course, robots.

Then there’s embedding networked sensors into objects that don’t typically run a current. This has already started to occur in flooring. About six years ago, Germany’s Future-Shape introduced SensFloor, a capacitive sensor floor underlayment, focused on healthcare applications for slip and fall detection, though it’s being used in other commercial environments as well, often to generate foot traffic data. And last year, Signature Flooring unveiled a prototype carpet with piezoelectric sensors that can detect not just traffic and falls, but also footstep counts, speed of movement and other health-related data. Tarkett is also involved in developing these sorts of systems.

It’s only a matter of time before smart floors become standard in commercial environments. The potential benefits are just too alluring-for health, safety, productivity and the efficient use of resources, like floor cleaning when the floor tells you it’s time.

There are estimated to be about 11 billion IoT devices in the world right now, and it’s poised to hit 20 billion by 2020, according to Gartner, a leading research and consulting firm. But in the commercial arena, it’s not just about IoT devices, it’s about using those data streams, analyzing them and combining them into large dynamic systems that maximize the efficiency of energy use, water and other resources, including human resources, to minimize environmental footprints and enhance employee well-being and ultimately productivity.

Needless to say, to successfully manage and employ these data streams requires that facility managers be technically proficient, according to McMorrow, and they need an advanced comprehension of analytics.

In early October, the International Facility Management Association held its annual conference and expo in Charlotte, North Carolina, with 4,200 attending the event, up from last year. Keynote speakers included stock car racer Kyle Petty, former White House cyber security expert Theresa Payton and Scott Breor from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The theme of the show was Creating Your Own Success, and there was a lot of focus on sharing best practices. Credentialing and certification were also major topics at the show, which offered education sessions in 13 topic tracks on core competency areas, along with panels and presentations on the show floor. And Workplace Evolutionaries (WE), a community of IFMA comprising 1,100 members, offered WE Sessions, including talks from thought leaders like Bill Jensen, author of The Day Tomorrow Said No, and workshops on the top three shifts impacting the FM community.

IFMA was founded in 1980, and it currently has over 24,000 members in 100 countries across the globe. Among its many roles, the organization offers three certification programs: facility management professional (FMP), sustainability facility professional (SFP) and certified facility manager (CFM). Next year’s World Workplace will be held at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona, October 16 to 18.

Flooring is not as central a focus for facility managers as it was in the past, what with the slew of new responsibilities that have been placed on their shoulders with the passing years, but it remains fundamentally important. Many facility managers have degrees in architecture and design, and they’re making decisions based on both performance and design.

Lifecycle costs guide a lot of flooring decisions. Facility managers have always had a good understanding of lifecycle costs, but what’s changed is that they meet with less resistance these days. And this is leading FMs away from certain types of flooring and toward others. It should come as no surprise, for instance, that flooring with high cleaning and maintenance requirements, most notably, VCT, is being deselected in favor of LVT.

Nevertheless, lots of facilities still use VCT; it’s better suited to some businesses than others. High traffic environments that don’t rely on high design, like certain types of retail chains, still use a lot of VCT, though when it comes time to refresh their looks, VCT is generally the first element to go, often replaced by polished concrete or LVT.

One traditional flooring that seemed to have secured its position in the modern era is terrazzo, which generally has a very high upfront cost but has a low maintenance profile and is almost unparalleled in durability and lifespan. One of the biggest challenges with terrazzo is design. Terrazzo’s lifespan is measured in decades, not years-and that initial investment requires it-so decisions about the design and color of the installation are far more critical than decisions about, say, carpet tile or LVT design. Colors and looks trend in and out, which is why a lot of terrazzo installations shy away from vivid colorways. Exceptions include schools and universities, where school colors are fundamental to the enduring identity of the institutions.

Ceramic tile is also popular among FMs. It has a lot of the operational characteristics they’re looking for, along with practically unlimited design options. It’s used in utilitarian applications like restrooms and back-of-house applications, and it’s also used for high-profile customer-facing applications, like foyers and reception areas. Interestingly, one of the leading design trends in tile right now is terrazzo looks, often showcasing the vivid colors and bold looks that are too big a risk in real terrazzo installations.

Facility managers also have to pay attention to the bigger picture, including minimizing downtime. That’s part of the reason that carpet tile has replaced almost all of the broadloom in their facilities. And these days the bigger picture extends to sustainability and occupant well-being, with FMs essentially tasked with carrying out protocols. This means that color, texture and pattern are more than just aesthetic considerations-they also fall under the operational mandate of facility managers.

Color and pattern, like daylight, fresh air and temperature controls, are part of the cutting-edge arsenal of tools that facilities employ to maximize productivity. The growing body of evidence-based design research underscores how every single decision has some sort of impact on employee health and comfort. For many FMs, it has become critical to be aware of the various effects from the different colors and patterns. While this focus is particularly important in healthcare facilities, where choosing the right interior elements impacts patient outcomes, including speed of healing, evidence-based design has made its way into other sectors, like education and corporate.

It’s worthwhile taking a closer look at some distinct operations, since the different commercial market sectors have fairly distinct FM frameworks in terms of funding, structure and purpose. For instance, government and education are focused on public funds while corporations are not. And sectors like airports and healthcare have specific functions that guide the FM’s priorities.

Because facility management developed organically in response to the evolution of the commercial arena, everybody approached it differently. “As little as a decade ago, you’d find a huge variety of different FM practices between continents, countries and even different buildings within a single company’s portfolio,” says Graham Tier, CFM, FMP, MRCIS, chair of the global board of directors of IFMA, the International Facility Management Association. “That fractured nature was inefficient and expensive. With the emergence of ISO standards for FM in the last few years along with training programs from international bodies like IFMA, FM professionals are beginning to reap the benefits of professional unification.”

IFMA reports that there are about 25 million facility management practitioners around the world. Unfortunately, there are no good statistics on numbers in the U.S. because until recently the federal government didn’t treat facility management as a stand-alone profession in terms of compiling statistics. However, in January 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor approved a separate stand-alone SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) code for facility managers-the official designation is Administrative Services Manager.

“This is something that IFMA has been working toward for years,” says Tier. “There are a wide number of reasons this is significant, not the least of which it demonstrates the increased importance of FM in the larger economy. In addition, this means the U.S. federal government will begin gathering data on the FM workforce and that career guidance counselors will have a specific career option for students, making it much more likely that FM will be considered as a strong career choice.”

Demand has never been higher for facility managers, and a big reason is simply that companies increasingly recognize the need for professionals to manage the operation of their increasingly complex systems-and operational efficiencies have never been more important. And as companies increasingly invest in environmental sustainability and human well-being and productivity, the management of those systems is also folded into the FM role.

Another critical issue-one that the flooring industry is intimately familiar with, particularly when it comes to installers-is a shrinking workforce, accelerated by the Great Recession. “A huge number of skilled tradespeople left the market and have not come back,” says Tier. “In a way, the fact that FM is one of a huge number of similarly impacted professions has been a blessing. We’ve gotten the attention of industry leaders and government policy-makers who are working to find solutions to attract more talent into the marketplace.”

IFMA has been focusing on the workforce shortage for years. Through the IFMA foundation, the association created the Global Workforce Initiative and developed an accredited degree program in universities around the world. One of the goals of the initiative is to get their programs into curricula as early as high school. And in California and Maryland, high schools are already creating FM courses. And IFMA’s accredited college-level degree program offers about 30 courses all over the world-though most are in the U.S.

According to the Department of Labor, facility managers have a median income of $94,000, and it predicts the field will grow by 10% in the next decade.

Universities are like little concentrated cities, with aspects of every residential and commercial sector, all tightly interwoven. Facility management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) is a formidable challenge, with more than 260 buildings making up 22 million square feet stretching across 1,100 acres. Dave Irvin, associate vice chancellor for facilities services, joined the university in 2011, bringing with him over a quarter century of expertise, following long tenures at the University of Houston and the University of Nebraska. UTK’s facilities are run by a staff of 780 personnel.

In his seven years at UTK, Irvin has witnessed significant developments in facility management. Arguably the biggest change has been in the use of big data, with new systems being developed not just for advanced diagnostics-e.g. for preventive maintenance-but also for other predictive datasets that might not at first blush seem to apply to facility management. UTK facility management tracks enrollment trends and even what kinds of research opportunities and grants are likely to come in order to predict which buildings will be in high use, who will populate the various spaces and what their needs will be. In some cases, if a particular building is not predicted to have major enrollment or research growth, it might face an adjusted strategy, where it’s kept functioning but maintenance is deferred. The point is that FMs can use all of this data and more to increase efficiencies and lower the bottom line.

Irvin believes that big data will expand much more. “For one thing,” Irvin notes, “there’s a lot more data out there, and it will explode” in part because of increasing demands for transparency about decisions. It’s not just the CFO and provosts, but also the students and parents, who want to look at the data and be more involved in decisions.

When it comes to flooring, UTK’s Irvin reports that decision makers have begun to embrace the FM’s focus on lifecycle cost analysis, which has helped drive the shift from VCT to products like terrazzo and LVT. Terrazzo was used in the student union public corridors and in the engineering building-which has lots of donors-but the new classroom science building, which doesn’t have as much traffic as the student union, nor the same budget, was installed with LVT. (The board of trustees was initially dismayed because they thought it was wood.)

UTK mostly uses carpet tile in the classrooms, and in office suites and reception spaces. In two new residence halls opening in January, the public areas mostly use LVT, and the student rooms use carpet tile. Ceramic tile mostly goes into bathrooms, and some break rooms. Sheet vinyl isn’t used much at all, though it’s installed in the student rec center. Some rubber flooring goes down in exercise areas. And sealed concrete is generally used for specialty applications, like certain chemistry labs.

From Irvin’s perspective, the facility management role is no longer simply about managing facilities, but about empowering the university. And it makes it a much more interesting and exciting profession. For instance, the office of sustainability is part of his team, and that covers everything from recycling to green operations and materials.

“For students as well as faculty and staff, sustainability is critical,” says Irvin. Students in particular are heavily involved. In 2005, a student vote led to the establishment of a “green fee” to establish funding for green energy and campus sustainability initiatives. Stickers posted around the campus detail how the fees are used and the environmental progress achieved to date.
Because the construction market is hot, skilled craftsmen are in high demand, so the university has to compete with the private sector. To address staffing issues, UTK employs a range of strategies. A recent FM-focused job fair, partnering with community colleges, trade schools and even churches, has already yielded 12 zone maintenance positions, another 12 custodial positions (with four more in the process) and an electrician.

For the last couple of years, IFMA has been working closely with RICS, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, a global group that also includes FMs among its members. The collaboration aims to unify the FM community and cross-certify members so they can benefit from all the resources available, and it enables IFMA members to take advantage of RICS’ global network.

IFMA and RICS also worked together for the first World Workplace in the Middle East in Dubai in May 2017, and following the success of the event, it held a second one in April 2018, again in Dubai. At the event, IFMA and RICS released the first edition of its Strategic Facility Management Framework, which provides a more holistic approach to facility management by offering strategic best practices from practitioners all across the globe.

According to Sean Tompkins, RICS’ chief executive, “FM services are driven not only by the changing nature of the economic environment or organizational imperatives but also by the rapid progress in technology, social aspirations, the environment and the political landscape. The new IFMA/RICS framework puts facility management at the heart of organizational objectives and creates a strategic approach that will enable facilities professionals to deliver their expertise globally at a consistent standard."

A very different type of business is SAP, a massive global software company that has a leading position in business applications. The firm, which was founded in 1972 in Waldorf, Germany has 89,000 employees in 130 countries and is publicly traded on Germany’s Frankfurt Stock Exchange as well as the New York Stock Exchange. SAP currently has 385 locations around the world, covering 18.5 million square feet of space. Most of the locations are leased, and the handful of owned properties include the global headquarters in Waldorf and the U.S. headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.

Karen Cobb, who has been with the firm for over a decade, started out as a project manager. She eventually led the project management team for the Americas, and in the last year her role was expanded to global management. Up until a year ago, her position and her team did not exist-a testament to the deepening understanding of the FM role. Regions that used to operate independently are now connected through a centralized global office, which is particularly beneficial for global service agreements with producers like flooring manufacturers. And considering that 98% of the world’s enterprises are, according to the firm, using some form of SAP software, a lot of its providers are also clients.

Earlier this year, Cobb spoke at a Fuse Alliance meeting, helping commercial flooring contractors understand facility managers’ priorities and the range of issues they have to deal with, from time pressure in construction and renovation projects to acoustical solutions for open desking environments. She also spoke about raised access floors-about 85% of the flooring at SAP locations is raised access. Cobb points out that these technical flooring options will continue to gain share of the floor space, and flooring producers need to focus on floorcoverings designed to work with the raised profiles.

Carpet at SAP locations worldwide is almost entirely modular tile. And while there’s not a global look, there are performance guidelines and some basic design parameters, like not selecting pale colorways that would be difficult to maintain. And, unsurprisingly, there’s been a huge uptick in LVT in SAP locations, largely displacing VCT.

Most of the installation is subbed out by general contractors, though in some of the larger facilities FMs will contract directly with installers. In Newtown Square, for instance, SAP contracts with a couple of installers and providers.

Interestingly, SAP has been cautious and deliberate in its embrace of IoT and associated technologies, in part because it’s a large investment for something that’s changing so quickly. However, the firm has started working with a range of technologies, like room bookers, which can sense when rooms are being used. These sorts of utilization trackers can really improve efficiencies in terms of maintenance schedules and also offer useful data in terms of personnel flows and the effectiveness of office designs. SAP’s operations are more co-working spaces than traditional offices with assigned desks, so use of the space is less regimented.

Cobb sees a lot of possibilities in marrying IoT technologies with floorcoverings and subfloor systems. There are already floors that clean the air and others that light up. Subfloor utilization trackers would yield a windfall of functional data.

Another very distinct operation is Weis Markets, which is headquartered in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The firm, which was founded in 1912 and was privately held until a couple of decades ago, operates 204 stores spanning Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia, with 23,000 employees. The company self-distributes its products through a 1.3 million-square-foot facility in Milton, Pennsylvania.

Owned and leased stores together combine for about 13 million gross square feet, and there’s a fairly wide range in store sizes, from 8,000 to 70,000 square feet, with an average of over 50,000 square feet. A couple of years ago, Weis Markets acquired 38 Food Lion stores, mostly in Maryland but also in Delaware and Virginia, along with five Mars stores in Maryland, averaging about 40,000 square feet.

In March 2017, the firm opened its 65,000-square-foot prototype store in Enola, Pennsylvania, featuring a new store layout with a focus on experiential elements, like a pub and an ice cream parlor. And the firm is also experimenting with large sections for organic and gluten-free products. The prototype also has a Chobani Yogurt Bar. The firm is monitoring all of the new features to see how well they do and to gauge rolling them out in other stores.

In terms of managing facilities, food stores have specialized needs revolving around issues like refrigeration and storage that feature precise guidelines. As such, there are enterprise services catering specifically to the monitoring needs of these sorts of facilities. Weis Markets has recently moved to unifying its approach using Danfoss monitoring systems, which is based on set points, with alarms triggered when systems move outside those points. As of now, the systems are all standalone, but the firm anticipates over time bringing them together IoT-wise.

While most of Weis Markets’ stores still use VCT over concrete slab, the new prototypes are polished concrete with LVT in accent applications. In prep areas, a monolithic epoxy is used. Though VCT works well in the firm’s stores, there’s a steady shift to concrete driven by both its trendy aesthetic and its performance attributes, including slip resistance. It doesn’t need the maintenance of VCT, and it’s comparably priced-polished concrete without color is cheaper than VCT, and colored concrete is a bit more expensive, while LVT’s about double the price of VCT.

When it comes to sustainability, the firm is focused on reducing its overall environmental footprint, and it recently opened its first stores using CO2 refrigerant systems. In September, the firm’s Randolph, New Jersey store received platinum level GreenChill certification from the EPA for its reduced refrigerant usage. The system reduces refrigerant emissions by the equivalent of an estimated 673 tons of carbon dioxide per year. So far, the firm has 11 GreenChill certified stores. Also reducing the firm’s footprint are LED lighting systems, demand response programs to reduce power load and the use of polished concrete, which obviates the need for chemical cleaning solvents.

Copyright 2018 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Fuse Alliance, The International Surface Event (TISE), Fuse, Coverings, Tarkett