Today’s facilities teams are in an operational mode that can best be described as firefighting. Instead of short, medium, and long-term planning that fits under a strategic umbrella, teams are forced to constantly focus on whoever yells the loudest. Why is this the case? The situation has arisen for several reasons:
There is hope, however, and a clear first step that can be taken on the path away from reactive operations. This solution begins with shifting intelligence into the cloud. Once there, cloud-based platforms have the computing power to sift through billions of pieces of data to arrive at actionable intelligence. For instance, simple data would tell the facilities team that there is an increase in the cost of running the fans in the HVAC system on the 2nd floor, in all zones. A cloud-based, AI-driven system, by contrast, would indicate that while the fans are indeed consuming more energy, this merely is a symptom. The real issue is the chiller control to its water supply setpoint, which in turn is causing a slow oscillation resulting in the airside equipment compensating. This slow lead-lag in turn is impacting downstream equipment. In other words, do not do anything to service the fans —a fire drill— rather use the next monthly visit by the chiller vendor to conduct a ‘routine’ inspection to fix the water temperature issue.
The above is an example of a fundamental shift away from a reactive operational stance to an active operational stance. In this example the cloud-based solution has:
Apply the above scenario to a campus or set of real-estate holdings and it is easy to see how active operations is a game changer. Cloud-based analytics, root cause diagnostics, and establishing causal relationships enable planning. And not just for the big-ticket items, but all items.
At scale, facilities teams will be able to focus on where to spend resources within their expected budget cycles; use key moments in time (such as a tenant change or seasonal shift) to pull in or push out tasks and smooth their quarterly spend; and have full visibility into what needs attention so they can make the tradeoffs in a strategic plan, rather than a fire drill.
Granted, it will take time to fully realize the potential of active operations given the state of most building operations today. But the cloud provides a path that can be followed, which brings along with it numerous other benefits that optimize operations. Read about a few in the blog posts Future-Proof & Optimize Operations with a Knowledge Platform About Your Building’s History, and The Talent Crisis: How the Cloud Aids Operations Executives’ Biggest Challenge of 2018.
Chris McClurg is Sr. Product Manager, Software & Services at BuildingIQ, and a mechanical engineer focused on energy efficiency in large portfolios and net zero developments. Chris has worked on deep retrofits, integrated design, integrated project delivery, and buildings as a grid asset. She is a PE, CEM and LEED AP certified.