Author: Brian Haines

Beyond the Beanbag – The components of a truly employee-centric workplace

mobile workforce

beanbag guy 300x296 - Beyond the Beanbag - The components of a truly employee-centric workplaceThe employee-centric workplace is not just about beanbag chairs and attracting new employees. For the record, I have nothing against beanbag chairs! Even the hippest, coolest environment can look great from an outward aesthetics perspective, but that doesn’t guarantee a harmonious workplace for the long-term. A true employee-centric mindset is one that organizations adopt for their entire workforce, the environment, as well as those less tangible variables. Ann Frey, a Corporate Leadership Coach, says it’s best when she defines employee-centric organizations as ones who “create an environment where you honor your employees, where you take care of them, so they can take care of your customers.” I love this definition. It not only addresses the needs of employees, but also highlights the fact that optimal customer experiences are directly related to organizational environment and culture.

As a facility management organization ourselves, we can greatly affect a positive employee-centric workplace, which, in turn, creates a customer-centric workplace. There are 7 essential components of an organization which are required to put the employee front and center. In this post, we’ll define each component, explore why it’s important, and provide examples of how you can make changes to your facilities to build an employee-centric culture.


Positive Culture

Asset 16 279x300 - Beyond the Beanbag - The components of a truly employee-centric workplaceCulture is defined as the personality of the organization and embodies the beliefs and values of a company or organization. Workplace culture not only encourages employees to interact based upon embedded attitudes and traditions, it also considers the space where work is performed. A company’s culture is directly tied to the employee experience. According MIT research, enterprises with a top quartile experience achieve two times the innovation, doubles the customer satisfaction, and 25 percent higher profits than organizations in lower quartiles. A positive culture is directly tied to the other components of an employee-centric workplace, including working productivity, turnover, and general wellness or absenteeism. Workspace design can be a physical manifestation of a company’s culture – from lighting and break rooms to worker mobility policies and smart building technology.

Comfortable Office Design

It’s no surprise that employee wellness is one of the leading concerns for employers. Rising health care costs and loss of productivity due to employees missing work because of illness, sick children, or high stress levels are the norm for organizations today. The Harvard Business Review cites 80% of both workplace accidents and doctor visits are due to stress. These numbers are driving employers to evaluate the design of their current workspace. The actual workplace impacts wellness; studies have proven that access to natural light, environmental control technologies that adjust temperatures and lightning, and physical wellness spaces create a healthier environment that improves employee productivity and well-being. With building space at least 50-60% underutilized at all times, companies are missing out on tremendous opportunities to develop working spaces that are designed with the health of the employee in mind. This is where facility management and analytics software come in to play. It helps businesses uncover the possibilities, the what could-be, and most importantly, creates cost savings that can be directly invested back in to employees. It also helps you manage maintenance projects and process tickets, like that dripping ceiling tile or smell coming from a vent which may be impacting employee wellness and satisfaction.

Space Availability

desk 300x220 - Beyond the Beanbag - The components of a truly employee-centric workplaceProductivity in the workplace is a measure of the efficiency of individual workers, groups of workers (cohorts), or of the overall organization as it relates to employees. Productivity is typically measured over a specific time period. In the employee-centric workplace, the workspace itself is designed to enhance efficiency and increase collaboration, thereby collectively improving productivity overall. Availability of space, such as meeting rooms or conference rooms can restrict collaboration, and increase stress levels, especially when it comes to project deadlines and plans. Remote or mobile workers coming to the office to participate in team-based exercises can also be limited by desk space availability. Integrated Workplace Management Software (IWMS) technology allows organizations to manage collaboration through booking systems, as well as room or desk reservation systems. Additionally, workplace analytics platforms help organizations understand whether they have enough of the spaces they need as dictated by the working styles and patterns of employees. Without this actionable insight, companies are flying blind, and both productivity and profits can be hindered when software solutions are available that provide visibility and the data.

Agile for all Scenarios

occupancy 260x300 - Beyond the Beanbag - The components of a truly employee-centric workplaceBusiness agility refers to qualities that allow organizations to respond rapidly to changes in the internal and external environment without losing momentum or compromising their defined business objectives and goals. This can mean organizational adjustments based on market trends, such as planning for growth, contraction, or a recession. It can also mean acting with urgency and capitalizing on an acquisition opportunity. Scenario planning software provides visual displays and dashboards, so you have the information you need to evaluate multiple options and then act confidently. Outdated, manual planning that involves physical drawings and the integration of multiple data sources is insufficient when it comes to modeling for the modern workspace. This approach especially falls short in the areas of cost breakdowns, and various space configurations. In the agile organization, your business must possess the ability to act with urgency while maintaining flexibility and balance for employees and customers.

Future-proofed workspaces

Asset 13 262x300 - Beyond the Beanbag - The components of a truly employee-centric workplaceOrganizations who have innovation at their core tend to support free exchanges of ideas amongst employees. These companies are also on the cutting edge of trends and power technology users. One of the greatest trends impacting workplace design and space utilization is mobility. SHRM predicts that 75% of the US workforce will be mobile by next year, yet many companies are still holding on to the traditional design of assigned desks which get very little usage. Highly effective, innovative, employee-centric companies are future-proofing their workspaces by adopting hot-desking and hoteling initiatives which are managed by IWMS and analytics software. One such client of ours is projected to save $20M in real estate costs over a 5-year period from implementing this new approach to space management, which allowed them to consolidate building while actually adding even more desk space. In order to collect and share in the brilliant ideas of employees, the responsibility is on the employer to create an up-to-date space which functions practically for today’s worker.

Collaboration-friendly layouts

Collaboration in the workplace is the bedrock of the innovative organization and includes small and even larger groups of employees working closely with one another to exchange ideas and information. Workplace collaboration can be encouraged and enhanced when organizations provide an environment that makes it easy and organic for employees to move from one group of people (or one department) to the next – removing barriers that might typically keep an organization siloed. Just as we discussed with productivity, cross functional collaboration is fostered via workspace design. Often this means renovating your existing space to create a more open environment, or moving departments from one floor to another, from the right side of a building to the left side. Space planning technology enables facilities teams to make decisions and accomplish complex projects with real-time, accurate data at their fingertips, which cuts down on completion time, saves major costs, and boosts time to collaboration.

Employee-Centric Mission

lenovo 286x300 - Beyond the Beanbag - The components of a truly employee-centric workplaceA mission historically defines what a company does and helps to communicate the values of the organization. The mission is often defined in a statement that typically describes the company’s function, markets, competitive advantages and its reason for being. In the employee-centric organization, the mission is less about “what a company does,” and more about “how we all achieve it together.” Deloitte introduced the concept of the “human experience,” in its 2019 Human Capital Trends study and asserted that as people, rather than as employees, we are untied by the common objective of finding meaning in our work. This is the single most crucial factor in creating and maintaining a positive employee culture. If your workspace design and processes support your mission, you have certainly moved far beyond the beanbag.

From a space and facility management perspective, we need to stay informed and in step with the changes that impact each of the 7 components encompassing the employee-centric workplace. While each impacts the employee, and each brings a vastly different benefit to the table, they all have one thing in common; the workplace, or physical environment. The age of IoT is unlocking new data sources and analytics from existing building technologies such as Wi-Fi data, badging systems, thermostats, and cameras. When centrally connected and analyzed by workplace management software, the potential for what your organization can do for its employees is really endless. By embracing all of these components as a single, collective whole, the employee-centric facility team can enhance performance, productivity, wellness, culture, innovation, and even happiness–with, or without, the beanbag chair.

The Mobile Workforce Preparedness Guide

In case you missed our webcast, the recording is now available for on-demand playback. Take a step approach to readying your organization for an even more mobile and remote workforce by designing spaces with the help of technology. Introduce innovative concepts such as hot-desking and hoteling to turn your real estate in to an asset.

b314d825 6a92 4ad2 95fa ce95ae0f729d - Beyond the Beanbag - The components of a truly employee-centric workplace

Measuring Space Utilization in the Era of the IoT

blog iot - Measuring Space Utilization in the Era of the IoT

Technologies to better understand how your employees are engaging your space

Smart Building Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Many organizations are actively researching or implementing technologies to aid in collecting data on true building performance in order to make better decisions using actionable intelligence. While sensor technologies are gaining a lot of headlines, it’s important to note that some of the technologies that your organization may already have in place can help you get on the road to being able to perform science-based analytics on space utilization data. This includes the very same Wi-Fi technologies that we use every single day to access information on our smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. that are part of our corporate or institutional IT infrastructure. These Wi-Fi solutions that connect Internet of Things (IoT) sensors in some instances can already provide triangulation of signals to help you locate and track how these devices move throughout your organization, for instance. Additional technologies such as your current badging solutions and employee facing digital signage such as room booking, desk booking, and kiosks can also provide a strong base of data for your space utilization initiatives.

Asset 2 1024x379 - Measuring Space Utilization in the Era of the IoT

Below are the top 5 things you should know when you begin to implement a data driven approach to space utilization:

IoT and Sensors are Hot

Sensors can help to provide data and improve various performance KPI’s, however, we can see that organizations are often drowning in unused data. Sensors are best deployed to solve specific known use cases to supplement already existing data sources. Output and results should be understood in advance so you can be sure you are solving the right problem.

Balancing Costs with Upkeep

While the per unit costs of sensors have dropped dramatically in recent years, the cost of operating and maintaining them is still high. This needs to be taken into consideration when using sensor-based technology to augment the data collection needed to perform space utilization analytics.

You May Already Have the Solution

Most organizations already have multiple data sources, and if they were to apply advanced analytics and data science to them, these data sources could yield tremendous insights. As mentioned above, this could include badging systems, Wi-Fi technology from companies like Cisco and intelligent digital lighting solutions from companies like Osram.

Best in Class

Smart organizations are first inventorying what data they have, implementing a data governance process, and then implementing smart analytics to mine the data. This is the best place to start before you select additional data driven solutions to help you measure and analyze spatial performance of your facilities.

Doing Analytics Can Be Hard

Most organizations are not staffed or experienced enough to do analytics well, especially space planning and real estate teams. This highlights the need for technologies to help organizations better understand how your employees are engaging with your space. Science based analytics take a deep understanding of massive amounts of data that could be coming from multiple data sources and often includes data that requires specialized staffing resources to understand especially when data is coming from IoT based sensor solutions and Wi-Fi networks, digital lighting, and more. Deep analytics platforms such as the FM:Systems Rifiniti Optimo solution have been purpose built to help organizations perform this type of highly accurate analysis on complex spatial data and can help you effectively measure space utilization in the era of the IoT.

rifiniti screenshot 1024x471 - Measuring Space Utilization in the Era of the IoT


Your Successful IWMS Implementation, Guaranteed

Blog handshake - Your Successful IWMS Implementation, Guaranteed

Your Success Guaranteed

Fixed price implementations are only successful when the company that is performing the implementation fully understands the business requirements of the customer down to the smallest details and performance objectives. The FM:Systems consulting team and our certified industry partners have implemented hundreds of successful IWMS customers by leveraging the thousands of hours of best practices embedded in our proven methodology learned from our 30 years of industry experience.

We’ve worked with many of the top companies in the world with the most challenging facilities portfolios, and our core strength lies in our ability to learn from and tailor best practices for our customer’s individual needs.

We work collaboratively with your team during an in-depth needs analysis to gain a finely tuned understanding of your specific requirements and develop a mutually agreed upon project scope that is the solid foundation of our final fixed price. Our highly visible and predictable total costs, combined with our outstanding service and support are the foundation for FM:Systems having one of the highest customer success rating in the business.

Our Process

FM:Systems uses RightPath, a proven process based on hundreds of successful IWMS projects and decades of experience. FM:Systems customers consistently find that their systems are deployed on time and within budget, with measurable results in time-frames that are dramatically faster than those of competing products. Our methodology includes solution configuration, project management, and knowledge transfer activities created to ensure the smooth implementation & efficient of our IWMS solution. Our process allows for the application of best practices, based on our experience, weighed with your needs to define a tailored solution that meets your defined requirements and goals.

FM:Systems will work with you to establish a project schedule with defined roles and responsibilities to ensure the successful completion of the project. We will assign a project manager to provide the joint project team with guidance around the tasks and next steps of the project. Our methodology includes key project check points to ensure deadlines are monitored, open items are addressed in a timely manner, and your sponsors and our sponsors are well informed on the project status. On average, a standard implementation spans a 20 week period.

Our Software

city space 300x208 - Your Successful IWMS Implementation, GuaranteedUnlike other IWMS products that have been “assembled” through mergers and acquisitions, all FM:Interact modules have been solely developed in-house by the FM:Systems product team. FM:Interact was built from the ground up to be easily configured to our customers’ business processes. This avoids the high cost, long time-frames and risks associated with customizing other IWMS products or the development of custom or “bespoke” systems.

The easy yet powerful configurability of FM:Interact enables organizations to rapidly respond to changing requirements and realize new business value. FM:Interact is the only IWMS specifically created with powerful abilities to enable adaptability and configurability to continually allow change as your business and needs change. This means that FM:Interact is truly configurable and fully integrated into your systems and processes, resulting in faster implementations, less complexity and lower risk.

FM:Interact evolves as your business evolves… and enables a more dependable ROI.

Sensor Based Real-Time Space Utilization Technologies


I wrote in January about the need for organizations to begin to measure the utilization of their space in real-time. I covered several factors leading up to this need including the increased mobility of the workforce and the tech reasons that have fueled those trends. The need (and desire) for employees to be able to work anytime and anywhere has been powered by maturation of advanced mobile technologies that have evolved since the 2007 introduction of the first iPhone.

In the past few years alone, the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) sensor-based technologies are enabling our ability to track the utilization of space in real-time. These sensors are evolving at a rapid pace due to the development of extremely low power devices powered by Power Over Ethernet (POE) or incredibly efficient batteries which are greatly increasing the usable length of services that use devices that cannot be plugged in. That combined with better connectivity and the development of a range of devices meant to solve specific problems now means facility teams can quickly and cost effectively deploy a range of sensor based real-time space utilization technologies which I am going to cover below.

Inside each of the categories below are a range of different options so I am going to keep them general in nature. High level groupings of several of these sensor types are below:

Furniture Sensors

Furniture sensors are a broad category and are typically used to measure the amount of time an employee is sitting at a specific location. FM:Systems has deployed sensors that are typically battery powered, are stuck beneath chairs and desks and communicate wirelessly to a hub which connects real-time occupancy data from up to a hundred work points. These sensors use heat and vibration sensing to detect the presence of workers and can provide excellent visibility into actual space utilization over a given period.

People Sensors

There a variety of sensor types that I am lumping beneath people sensors that primarily perform the function of people counting such as cameras and motion sensors. FM:Systems integration with Hella 3D stereoscopic cameras enables organizations to see the number of people going in and out of a designated area in real-time on FM:Interacts FMx5 Floor Plan viewer. The video below shows a conference room with a maximum capacity of 7 on the left and has a real-time feed of people walking in and out of that conference room on the right. You can see while people enter the conference room, the floor plan is updated in real-time with the amount of people in the room and once capacity has been reached, the counter turns red. This integration allows you to better analyze your data by seeing the real-time occupancy of your facility space and can also be used to maintain safety regulations and requirements.


Geo tracking heatmap 300x183 - Sensor Based Real-Time Space Utilization TechnologiesGeo-tracking provides real-time location (RTLS) capabilities indoors and can be used to track the location of assets or equipment within a facility. Essentially this technology uses Wi-Fi Access points to triangulate and track laptops and other mobile devices and is often already installed in facilities or can be easily installed by your IT team. An example of this type of technology is the Cisco Meraki platform which currently integrates with FM:Interact and enables the display of an asset location heatmap in the FMx5 Floor Plan viewer.


There is an entirely new type of sensor platform that is just hitting the market which provides the ability to multiple sensor types on a single piece of hardware. An example of this is intelligent digital lighting systems such as the CREE Smart Cast Lighting solution which contains several different sensors including the ability to perform data light harvesting, temperature control, lighting level control, real-time space utilization information and more. Similar to the geo-tracking capabilities listed above, FM:Interact enables the display of information from the CREE Smart Cast Lighting solution as a heatmap in the FMx5 Floor Plan viewer.

All of these different sensor types and more fully integrate with our FMx Sensor platform to provide better insight to organizations who want to use sensor based real-time space utilization technologies to help them to measure how effectively their physical space is being used.


How AEC professionals can better understand a building owners needs for their Revit facilities model


How AEC professionals can better understand a building owners needs for their Revit facilities model


In one of my blog posts last year I introduced the concept of the BIM for FM model which I believe is the best approach to providing a Revit model to a facilities team in a way that has been purpose-built for their success. The BIM for FM model is an evolution of all the models that came before it in the process of designing, engineering and construction of a building. The primary reason for this approach to modeling is to absorb information from the AEC process that informs the ultimate model that is being used for FM. This approach also recognizes that an operational model has different priorities and will have a much longer life than an AEC model. This means that Revit models you are turning over to facility teams not only have to be useful, but also need to be maintainable thoroughly the potentially long operational life of a facility from acquisition, through operations and finally ending with disposition.

Lifecycle Management BIM FM - How AEC professionals can better understand a building owners needs for their Revit facilities model

A growing audience for your Revit Models

I get the opportunity to attend several conferences over the course of the year including large conferences such as Autodesk University, IFMA’s World Workplace and the Facility Fusion conference as well as small conferences such as the BIM Workshops and regional IFMA events. Every one of these conferences now have a considerable number of classes and presentations that are emphasizing the potential use of a Revit model for operations. All this points towards that fact that Lifecycle BIM has now moved from theory to practice and building owners are looking for modeling guidance as they begin to explore the integration of Revit models into their facilities processes.

Understand your clients’ needs

Revit models constructed for the purposes of fabrication, coordination and as-built conditions are typically not going to function well in a facilities environment if they are used “as is.” It’s important for AEC service providers and consultants to understand their customer needs. Chuck Mies from Autodesk sums this up best by posing the following three questions that you should be asking a building owner if they intend to use a Revit model for facilities management:

  1. Who on the facilities team is going to use the data?
  2. What data is going to be collected during the AEC process for future FM purposes, and how?
  3. How will it be maintained once operations begin?

By asking these questions and engaging a building owner you can have greater confidence that a Revit model turned over for the purposes of FM will be more successful and actually used during operations. I also recommend that you ask your customer to really think about what data is critical and who in their facilities team will be responsible for maintaining the information once the model is turned over. This will ensure that you don’t over model or provide excessive detail especially in your equipment families that is not critical and will be difficult for a facilities team to maintain.

A360 9 300x147 - How AEC professionals can better understand a building owners needs for their Revit facilities model

Autodesk Forge Viewer and FM:Systems Integration

Know your client’s standards

Re-work is never fun and can be costly for whoever needs to perform the work a second or third time. Before modeling check with your client to see if they have internally developed data standards for their Revit models before you go too far in developing a new one. If they are migrating from an AutoCAD based FM process to Revit, ask them for their existing AutoCAD guidelines as this will at least give you a starting point in understanding what is important to the owner from a facilities perspective. Even something as basic as understanding their room numbering standards as well as how they classify space types, asset types and data etc. will help you ensure that the information you put into their Revit model will translate more easily into facilities operations which can really help to reduce re-work and smooth the transition of the model to the facilities team.


In conclusion, I strongly believe that the transition to a BIM based building lifecycle is well underway in a number of large owner companies and organizations. This creates a tremendous opportunity for AEC professionals to provide better Revit modeling services to building owners especially if you understand your clients’ needs and standards which will help you to better serve their needs and will help you to also strengthen your trusted advisor status.

Sensor Based Real-Time Space Utilization


Sensor Based Real-Time Space Utilization

Building Automation Systems (BAS) have been around for several years and thousands of buildings around the world are equipped with sensor based technology to automate tasks such as turning lights on and off in rooms, adjusting room temperature, reporting fault conditions in equipment etc. Newly emerging trends in the actual engineering and construction of building based sensors is not only broadening their use, but also reducing costs, simplifying installation and even providing a platform for an evolutionary leap in building performance. The rapidly evolving capabilities for organizations to integrate a sensor strategy into their facilities is not just for new construction but even applies in many cases to older building stock.

space utilization department - Sensor Based Real-Time Space UtilizationSome of the very same reasons that are enabling organizations to utilize their facilities in entirely innovative ways are the same technologies that are enabling the rapid rise of sensor based technologies especially for real-time space utilization right in the workplace. These include the ubiquity of handheld mobile smart devices, brighter clearer displays, the continued miniaturization of high performance low power processors, near infinite Cloud-based computing and low power wireless technologies. All of these components are coming together to not only empower employees to work anytime anywhere but also is enabling sensor technology to track actual space utilization in highly dynamic Alternative Workspace (AWS) environments.

Because traditional assigned seating is quickly being replaced by free address systems, hoteling, touch-down spaces, occupancy zones, huddle zones etc. it is getting increasingly difficult to measure exactly how well our space is being used. That is where real-time occupancy sensing technologies are being rapidly developed and integrated into the best in class Integrated Workplace Management Solutions (IWMS) like FM:Interact which can provide a truly portfolio wide view of the not only real-time insight into your space utilization but also allows you to analyze trends over time.

In the coming months, I’ll explore some of these sensor based technologies and how they be can be implemented in your organization to give you an accurate view how your physical space is really being used.

The Cost of Interoperability in Facility Management

blog project management - The Cost of Interoperability in Facility Management

McGraw-Hill Construction released the Interoperability in the Construction Industry SmartMarket in 2007 Report that showed that project team members attributed 3% of project costs to software non interoperability. Some of the contributors to additional cost included:

  • Manually reentering data from application to application
  • Time spent on duplicate software
  • Time lost to document version checking

Over the lifecycle of a single building project from design to construction there is a loss of information in each major phase of this process as which I will cover in a moment.

I believe this problem goes much further beyond software that simply doesn’t work together as interoperability affects a number of other critical factors which I am going to cover in the next few paragraphs.

When we look more specifically at each of the individual stakeholder groups we can see that it’s actually the building owners and operators who are affected the most by interoperability issues across all cost categories. We can also see that the magnitude or significance of the costs are also greater for owners.

Imagine the difficulty of interoperability beyond a single project when a building owner potentially needs to deal with an entire portfolio of facilities. Let’s explore some of the additional factors that can impact the efficiency, accuracy and quality of information and processes during the life of a portfolio of facilities.

  • Locations – Managing multiple locations including countries, regions, campuses etc.
  • Technology – Technologies including CAD, BIM, browsers, databases, mobile platforms and more
  • File formats – Can include multiple disparate file formats and types including paper, photos, docs, files etc.
  • Data – Data consistency, quality, completeness, history, applicability and timelines
  • Accessibility – Security and accessibility by specific roles and individuals by various means
  • Workflows – Internal and external processes to ensure standards, guidelines and requirements are being met

In the US the National Institute of Standards and Testing actually calculated the costs of interoperability and broke those calculations down in to a small number of key categories (Source: NIST GCR 04-867). The categories included:

  • Avoidance Costs – Are related to managing paper trails and included areas such as inefficient business processes, the cost of having multiple facility management systems in place across an organization, productivity losses and training costs of employees on multiple systems and increased IT costs related to managing multiple disconnected systems
  • Mitigation Costs – Relates to manual re-entry of data between systems, redundancy and validation to ensure data accuracy
  • Delay Costs – The time spent waiting for information (This could be time waiting for info from someone else, time spent waiting for data that has not been entered yet etc.)

The US National Institute of Standards and Testing then actually calculated the cost of interoperability which could be applied to the total cost of a facility year over year of its entire life from design through construction and came up with a total loss of $0.23 US cents per square feet per year…every single year.

I do believe that there is an answer to this issue which is a fully Integrated Workplace Management Solution which is an integral foundational component of a BIM based lifecycle approach to manage a facilities portfolio.

Integrated Workplace Management Solutions provide an integrated suite of powerful web-based facility management tools that helps organizations improve their space, occupancy, assets, moves, maintenance, leases and property management.

When we organize all of the types of data and workflows into a widely accessible solution made available via web-based tools, we can see that an entire building portfolio can be managed effectively. This addresses the interoperability issues not only from the technology standpoint but also from a data and process standpoint as well.

Systems – All of the systems involved with managing a large portfolio of buildings including not only the Integrated Workplace Management Solution itself but also important systems such as Human Resources and Accounting Systems that the organization may have. This enables us to not only track the information about our buildings but also the employees utilizing the facilities and the costs associated with each building related activity.

Data – Imagine all of the information about our buildings being housed and maintained in a single integrated solution. This includes not only data but also drawings, models, photos and documentation necessary to track and maintain every aspect of a building portfolio.

Process – And last but not least a system for managing workflows including request management for items such as corrective maintenance requests, move requests, space requests etc. all being controlled through a highly secure system that manages the requests, reviews and approvals of all workflows required to operate all of our facilities in a consistent manner.

FM:Systems integrates a variety of IoT based sensor technology to track real-time utilization


IoT based sensor technology to track real-time utilization

I’ve been closely watching the evolution of the modern office over the past several years as many organizations embrace alternative workplace strategies. This has been particularly driven by the ability for employees to work anytime and anywhere due to really incredible mobile technologies. While this has offered new and incredibly efficient ways to work, it’s also provided companies and institutions alike with new possibilities for better utilization of space but it also comes with challenges.

One of the biggest challenges FM:Systems has seen emerge is the difficulty in tracking actual utilization of space in this new mobile paradigm versus traditional butts in seats strategies where individual employees were assigned to a specific seating location (think cubes and offices). Now that workers are so highly mobile and the workplace is evolving to reflect that, employees in highly dynamic companies are being assigned more and more often to shared space, “neighborhoods” and have to have employee technology such as our room scheduling and hoteling capabilities to make sure they have a space to work on any given day. This has created some unique challenges when an organization asks itself, “how well are we using our space when our employees rarely sit in the same space day-to-day?

Real-time Space Utilization Analysis

FMInteract CoWorkr - FM:Systems integrates a variety of IoT based sensor technology to track real-time utilizationThe answer is newly emerging Internet of Things (IoT) based sensor technologies that include a range of techniques such as heat sensing, vibration sensing, triangulation and 3D stereoscopic people sensing cameras. FM:Systems has formed a partnership with CoWorkr for instance which enables our customers to utilize a turn-key real-time utilization sensing technology where they can essentially rent the hardware when they want to perform a utilization study of a specific facility all the way down to individual work-points. Our CoWorkr integration allows our customers to view a heat map of utilization over the period of the study and offers an unprecedented ability to see how well your space is actually being used.

3D Stereoscopic People Sensing

A second technology that I am very excited about which we just integrated and introduced at our annual User Conference is 3D stereoscopic cameras that perform people counting in and out of specific areas that have delineated on your floor plans! We’ve integrated the Hella APS-90 and 180 cameras which have incredible resolution and accurately count people in and out of spaces with the actual count of employee live and dynamically updated on the floor plan which is displaced on our FMx5 Floor Plan viewer which can be seen in the video below.

You will see us continually introducing these IoT sensor based technologies that are integrated fully with FM:Interact over the coming months so please check back often for updates. Also, we will be attending and displaying at the Realcomm IBCon conference in San Diego this week if you’d like to drop by and see a live demonstration of FM:Interact at booth 217.

The Evolution of Revit Models for each phase of a buildings life


BIM has transformed architecture, engineering and construction. However the great potential of BIM is to provide accurate, timely and relevant information not just during design and construction for a single building, but also throughout the lifecycle of an entire portfolio of facilities. The use of BIM technology in the operational phase of a building’s lifecycle is just beginning to take hold as building owners look for new ways to improve the effectiveness of their facility operations.

The most recent McGraw Hill Smart Marketing Report on the business value of BIM for building owners which was completed in 2014 said that 84% of building owners in the US and 95% of building owners in the UK would be adopting the use of BIM for all new construction within 2 years….which is now.

One of the challenges that building owners implementing Lifecycle BIM face is the difference between the BIM models created for design and construction and the BIM models needed for operation. Although with proper procedures building data can and should flow from one phase to the next, it is useful to identify at least four types of BIM models as seen in this diagram.

BIM Design Models

These are created by architects and engineers with the objective of first defining the conceptual design and ultimately producing construction documents. Building materials and equipment are defined generically, allowing the contractor the freedom to competitively bid and price equivalent alternatives. For example, air handling units are described by general dimensions and performance requirements by the engineer without knowledge of who the selected manufacturer will be. The diagram shows the progression of the different types of model throughout the lifecycle of a building.

BIM Construction Models

Contractors and subcontractors will use these models to aid in staging and detect potential conflicts using clash detection before encountering the issues in the field.

BIM As-Built Model

This is created by the general contractor, subcontractors and suppliers. Traditionally this information has been provided as a set of paper working drawings that were annotated to reflect change orders and field changes and was accompanied by equipment cut sheets and shop drawings depicting specific equipment selection.

The BIM FM Model

This model is derived primarily from input from the BIM As-Built Model. When creating the BIM FM Model, the following modifications are made:

  • The model is “purged” and extraneous information is removed including construction details and working drawing sheets. This information can be obtained from the as-built model if needed, but otherwise encumbers the BIM FM Model.
  • Where linked models have been used to distinctly represent building core, building shell and tenant improvements these are merged into a single model.
  • If practical, linked models representing architectural, mechanical, electrical, fire protection and specialized equipment are merged. For large buildings this may not be practical with current technology, so there may be the need to maintain multiple models that are linked.
  • Occupancy room numbers are derived from construction room numbers with numbers matching building signage.
  • For office space, workstations and offices are defined separately from rooms and are numbered with an occupancy numbering system. This is key to matching office occupants to desks, cubicles and offices and is also essential for management of work orders.
  • Building equipment items are numbered with unique asset ID’s.

The BIM FM Model can then be linked to the facility management system (IWMS/CAFM/CMMS) which tracks ongoing work orders, maintenance operations, occupancy information, equipment and material replacement costs and other data related to building operations.

I believe that building owners can address the issue of models resulting from BIM building design and construction processes not containing the information necessary for building operations by asking a series of questions during the AEC process that can ensure that building owners get a model that can be effectively used for facility operations.

My friend and former colleague at Autodesk, Chuck Mies, was the first to pose these questions in a very simple easy to understand form that allow building owners and AEC teams can ask which are:

  • Who – Who will use the data on the facility team?
  • What – What data is needed for post occupancy operations and how will it be collected?
  • How – How will the data be maintained and by which members of the facility team?

The best way to define what data you need is by talking to the people who will actually be using BIM data for their day-to-day tasks. Find out their roles and responsibilities, why they need the data, how they use the data, what systems and tools they use to do their job.

This diagram is an example of the typical facility management professionals who might need to integrated with information coming from your models every single day. But keep in mind that many of these employees may have little or no exposure to BIM, so some initial level of BIM education may be required beforehand even though many of these potential facility team members will never touch the actual model itself or ever interact with the 3D geometry of the model.

BIM Lifecycle Participants - The Evolution of Revit Models for each phase of a buildings life

BIM Lifecycle Participants

4 Reasons Why Universities Should Treat Their Space as a Strategic Asset – Part 1

blog university aerial view - 4 Reasons Why Universities Should Treat Their Space as a Strategic Asset - Part 1

In my previous blog post, “4 Reasons Why Universities Should Treat Their Space as a Strategic Asset” I introduced this four part series which will explore why universities should be should begin to think of their physical space inventory as a strategic asset and how an integrated space centric technology approach can help them manage their campus more effectively in today’s highly competitive campus environments. In this part of the series I will focus on how cost reductions can be achieved through areas such as increased space utilization. We’ll explore how a unique focus on utilization can help you find the space you didn’t know you had.

Cost Reduction

When it comes to talking about cost reduction in terms of space on University campuses we really need to focus on two primary elements that can provide us with opportunities for reducing costs. The first strategy is to maximize the capacity of your existing space portfolio and second and probably more probable would be increasing the utilization of the spaces that you already have in your physical space inventory.

Maximize the Capacity of Your Existing Space

It’s important to understand the difference between capacity and utilization as this introduces an important concept that makes a portion of these cost reductions (savings) possible. The definition of capacity is the theoretical design limit for a given space that takes into account the maximum number of individuals a space or spaces has actually been constructed for. The definition of utilization looks at how many people truly use that space/capacity and also adds in the additional factor of how often the space is actually scheduled for use.

There are some basic approaches that you can take when it comes to manipulating room capacity beyond what may have been the original design capacity. This is not always recommended because spaces are typically designed with a specific function and layout in place. That being said the most common and simplest method of affecting capacity is to use a different method of arranging the spaces you currently have. This could be as easy as rearranging the existing furniture, supplementing it or removing some to convert it from for instance classroom style to theatre seating. By looking at the way your spaces are actually laid out you could make some basic changes to increase capacity by re-evaluating how you set them up with existing furniture and resources that you have.

Analyze the Utilization of Your Existing Space

A second approach can happen when you begin to analyze the utilization of your existing space and plan for and schedule how you will increase the utilization of all your spaces by maximizing the amount of time that there are used on a daily basis.

I’m going to demonstrate a quick calculation in to demonstrate how a simple increase in efficiency can help you to think about the opportunities that you have for finding additional space in your existing portfolio. Take the example of a 1 million square foot campus portfolio. If you look at industry norms in the higher education market, the Assignable Square Feet (ASF) percentages for a 1 million Gross Square Foot (GSF) portfolio is about 50 to 65%. In our one million gross square foot portfolio there would be approximately 500,000 – 650,000 assignable square feet in that space. For the sake of simplicity. Let’s take 600,000 square feet and look at what a 1% increase in utilization would look like. By performing some basic math, we can determine that a 1% increase in utilization of 600,000 square feet of assignable space equals 6,000 square feet of newly found space that could be used for instruction staff space, swing space etc. just by using what we have with a higher degree of utilization.

Let’s break this down in another way and look at examples of room capacity and what happens when we examine the sizes of specific types of rooms ranging from basic classrooms which could as small as 350 square feet or discussion rooms which may be 500 square feet, seminar rooms at 600 square feet or group work rooms at 750 square feet. If we take that 6,000 square feet of newly found space and divide by the typical size of a lecture room, discussion room, seminar room or group room you will see that we virtually gain 8 – 17 new spaces with only a 1% increase in the utilization of our existing space.
Cost Reduction Calculation - 4 Reasons Why Universities Should Treat Their Space as a Strategic Asset - Part 1
Now of course we didn’t really discover additional rooms in our facility, but we can infer from this is example that better utilization means that if your existing space is not utilized 100% of the time at 100% capacity then there actually space at your disposal that can used more effectively to help address your campus space needs. By taking better advantage of what we currently have we maximize our investment in our buildings by utilizing every square foot of existing space as effectively as we possibly can. This means we are not paying for space that when empty isn’t supporting the ultimate mission of your campus.