“The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope”
— Stephen Ambrose – Historian
There are any number of great quotes about the importance of history. For the purposes of this post I’d like to focus on the deep knowledge of the history of our own very small domain – the building we inhabit. One of our industry’s dark secrets is how vulnerable we are to knowledge transfer, or more precisely, the lack of knowledge transfer.
The crux of the problem is that the actual operation of a building is an undocumented art that is learned through years of working closely with the building systems. Building operators that spend decades ensuring a facility or campus runs smoothly become key knowledge sources over time. In fact, they often become the sole knowledge source over time. Given the long-term use of buildings; undocumented complex system interactions and intrinsic design issues; tenant and therefore usage turnover; updated/retrofitted/unscheduled repairs performed; new technologies installed; and staff turnover, it’s no wonder that until now, the only “machine” capable of tracking the deep history of a building was a person.
Complexity and progress conspire to make it so that the risks affiliated with maintenance, modification, and upgrades accrue at a faster rate than a person can reasonably catalog. This is due to two main factors – isolated and captured knowledge within senior facilities staff, and loss of knowledge/expertise at each transition of people or systems. This puts the burden of educating the next generation squarely on the shoulders of the most experienced staff members, but person-to-person knowledge transfer is inefficient, uncontrolled, and most importantly, impermanent.
Despite technology being partly to blame, it’s also the key to solving the problem of knowledge transfer and protecting owner/operators too.
A cloud-based central knowledge management platform can become a valuable resource —documenting overrides, performance issues, outcomes from troubleshooting, issues being tracked, approaching end-of-life issues for assets, and system dynamics. Such a system would capture the dynamics of the building, which are seldom, if ever, documented let alone transferred from one team to another.
BuildingIQ’s collection of 5i technology-based services comprises such a cloud-based knowledge system. Unlike a BMS, we hold data for years. Not just trend data, but the discussions, indicators, conditions, analysis, and conclusions around building system anomalies, practices, and changes. Implemented correctly, whether from a greenfield new construction, retrofit, or an existing BMS, our cloud-based system is the vehicle for knowledge transfer —a history if you will— of your building.
When facilities team members transition, cloud data is a substantial de-risking tool. It enables owner/operators and management to be more efficient, making on-boarding and turnover an easier process. It doesn’t eliminate the extremely valuable person-to-person mentoring and tutoring, but it does help make it more consistent, repeatable, and efficient. Taken to the limit, meaning at the very beginning of a building’s life, embedded cloud services and knowledge ensures proper documentation, knowledge capture, and knowledge transfer at every stage of a building’s evolution.
Imagine taking responsibility for a 5-building campus with only your own experience to rely upon —receiving no training, little documentation, partial commissioning records, and a BMS that is average. What’s a facilities professional to do? Well, one way is to stop all work, do a proper set of commissioning tests, validate performance, and analyze and validate all the control sequences and operating procedures. This. Will. Never. Happen.
Instead, new facility managers are left with high expectations and not enough time in the day. Having a cloud-based knowledge system that they can search, review, and study gives them the knowledge base that tells them how the building is actually interacting, what has occurred in the past and how it was addressed (and to what degree), and much more. Such a knowledge system is exactly the foundation that new facilities staff need to succeed.
There are a number of choices when it comes to creating a knowledge system to capture your facility’s history and protect yourself against complexity and change in a building. I’d encourage to look at us, and others, in the market and ask yourself three simple questions:
The retelling of your building’s history can be a risk mitigation tool that not only saves you time and money but also helps ensure the smoothest journey for your buildings in a fast-changing landscape.
Read more about how a cloud-based central knowledge platform hedges against operational risk in our post The Talent Crisis: How the Cloud Aids Operations Executives’ Biggest Challenge of 2018.
Steve Nguyen is VP of Product and Marketing at BuildingIQ. He loves products and ideas that transform markets or society. Whether they are transformative in and of themselves, or because they are enablers, he’s driven by creating the stories, teams, and strategy that make these agents successful.