Building Controls, Design and Construction, Energy Management and Lighting, Maintenance and Operations

3 Ways Smart Buildings Will Change the Role of the Facility Manager

Smart buildings are becoming increasingly popular. These buildings provide the information needed to make more intelligent and efficient decisions when managing them. And, they continue to bridge the gap between physical assets and digital innovations by leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT), data collection, and smart analytics. For FM professionals, smart buildings are reshaping the way work is done by offering them a new and more efficient way of doing things.

With that in mind, in this post we’ll discuss what the day-to-day role of facility managers in smart buildings will look like compared to their counterparts in decades past, which managed more traditional structures. 

1. Remote Work and Flexibility 

In the past, the thought of facility managers and their team members working remotely would have been unheard of; maintenance staff had to physically check everything that was happening on every floor in the building several times a day—sometimes these checks were done on an hourly basis! Therefore, someone had to be present almost all of the time.

One reason why FM teams were more or less tethered to their buildings is that, in older buildings, major systems were typically siloed. Hence, installations like HVAC, security, electrical  systems, and other infrastructure were managed separately, with each system requiring its own monitoring and maintenance, all accompanied by the obligatory loads of paperwork and spreadsheets. Staying on top of all this meant that FMs had to give their building(s) 24/7 attention and focus.

Fortunately, that model is changing. With more emerging technologies and the popularity of smart buildings, it is now easier for facility managers to access all that information on an integrated platform (usually a building automation system) that tracks multiple systems and shares relevant real-time information about what’s going on. Even better, all this data is collected and displayed centrally, thus simplifying the entire process even further.

Basically, regardless of their physical location, FMs in smart buildings now have an efficient extra set of eyes working nonstop to help monitor every aspect of their facilities. 

2. Less of Reactive Work 

Through asset condition monitoring and predictive maintenance, smart buildings empower FMs to evolve from an often reactive maintenance management culture into a more proactive way of working. Sensors attached to critical assets in the building give real-time data about the running condition of the asset. Potential equipment malfunction is detected and addressed well before the asset fails.

This significantly optimizes the maintenance of the entire building and minimizes the inconvenience of sudden breakdowns, service interruptions, and reactive maintenance work. This saves maintenance costs and the FMs’ time as well.

3. An Optimized Working Experience

Some of the common issues that FMs had to tackle daily in older buildings were largely due to human error and forgetfulness. 

For instance, staff and building users would leave lights on in unoccupied spaces, poorly adjusted HVAC systems would waste electricity, mistakes would lead to security and access control lapses, and so on. Instead of having to deal with these mundane issues on top of everything else they need to handle daily, FMs in smart buildings can focus their time on improving the building’s user experiences while the smart building’s control systems ensure that these kinds of commonplace errors do not occur.

Furthermore, their network of IoT sensors turn these buildings into powerhouses of actionable digital data—data that FMs can access in seconds and use to make accurate decisions about the premises. For example, occupancy sensors in a meeting room can monitor when that room is occupied. This generates data for real-time insights as well as information like how often it has been used over a period, for how long, and whether the pace utilization is optimal or not. 

Using this information, FMs can course-correct and make adjustments if the data indicates that the meeting room is over- or under-utilized. This kind of data extraction and usage can produce even better and more detailed insights for FMs when teamed up with modern maintenance software such as computer-aided facility management software (CAFM).

In the past, FMs would have had to pore over spreadsheets, room booking tickets, and other paper records for weeks or more before getting these same insights.

In Conclusion 

The key takeaway here is the scale of data that smart buildings generate and how much leverage this data offers FMs once they know what information to look for, how to extract it, and how to use it.

Whether FMs seek ways to improve their work functions and deliverables, or they want a more meaningful way to manage the spaces, operations, or processes in their facilities, this data, if well managed, can give them the needed advantages that they seek.

Bryan Christiansen is the Founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.