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Living in a connected world

22 October 2019

The application of Building Information Modelling (BIM) enabled facilities management in conjunction with improved building automation has the potential to add significant value to assets and estates, says Stephen Roots, past chair of The Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM). There are, however, many challenges and barriers that need to be considered to make the transition easier and the benefits clear to all.

By embracing BIM, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Building Automation Systems (BAS), the workplace and FM process becomes more efficient, not least because the required information becomes readily available in a structured and integrated format. 

These digital trends have potential wide-reaching implications for many industries including workplace and facilities management. 

In April 2016 BIM – a process for creating and managing information on a construction project across the project lifecycle – became mandatory for UK government procurement projects in line with the Government Construction Strategy (2011). Its adoption and use was seen as a critical step to help achieve the ambitious cost, sustainability and trade targets set out in the Construction 2025 strategy (2013) of a 33% reduction in the initial cost of construction and the whole life cost of built assets; 50% reduction in the overall time, from inception to completion, for new-build and refurbished assets;  50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment as well as a target of a 50% reduction in the trade gap between total exports and total imports for construction products and materials.

 A number of industries have in the last two to three years  started to adopt BIM as the new norm for procuring, designing and creating assets, whilst the speed to which IoT and BAS is currently being adopted is somewhat slower, the benefits of having a definitive “enterprise architectural” approach are clear.  

The IoT can provide the infrastructure for the data collected by building automation systems to be analysed and acted upon.

So where can IoT and BAS deliver?  

It is critical to think about how effective your maintenance practices are. For many organisations, there are real benefits in analysing the costs and resources to reduce the significant waste that is likely to be hidden within the structure of the maintenance plan. Traditional maintenance techniques are often time or usage based, which is often not the best approach for assets, particularly where research has suggested that only circa 20% of assets have an age related failure pattern whilst circa 80% of failures appear to be random.  

Predictive or condition based maintenance has been portrayed as an effective alternative to the more traditional calendar based planned maintenance regimes.  Some estimates suggest that at least 40% of organisations are not using any type of predictive maintenance, so what is holding back these organisations from making the jump?

Predictive maintenance needs data and analytics to enable the decision of when to intervene before issues occur and this is where the connected approach of BAS and IoT bring the tangible benefits of reducing downtime and cost over the life of the assets. Organisations are still hesitant in retro-fitting sensors, data collection devices and the supporting analytical software due to the initial capital cost, however the return on investment is now being proven with predictive maintenance costs being reduced by 50-70% and breakdowns reduced by 70% where condition/predictive based maintenance has been adopted.

So, will the adoption of IoT, BAS, BIM (and all the other systems being introduced to the market) see the end of the need for the Workplace or Facilities Manager?  

As we move into the next decade, those who look after our buildings and keep them safe will need to add new skills and techniques to their toolboxes. The ability to analyse data and make intervention decisions based upon it will become one of the core skills required by those managing our workspaces – whether they are offices, schools, prisons or airports as we move into a more data connected world.