Evolution of Facility Management from Traditional to Smart Buildings : Ep 12

About the Episode

With the rise of data analytics and connectivity, facility managers have emerged as pivotal players in organizational productivity and sustainability. This episode of the Hybrid Hangout highlights key areas where data management and analytics are revolutionizing facility management, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

We discuss the evolution of facility management, tracing the journey from traditional buildings to the interconnected smart buildings of today. There is a growing importance of technical expertise among facility managers and the challenges posed by a generational shift in the workforce.

We explore four significant areas driving change in facility management:

  1. Space Optimization: Leveraging data to rationalize portfolios and enhance space utilization in the era of hybrid work.
  2. Workplace Experience: How facility managers are influencing workplace design and culture through data-driven insights.
  3. Sustainability: The intersection of cost savings, regulatory compliance, and environmental responsibility in building management.
  4. Predictive Maintenance: Transitioning from reactive to proactive maintenance strategies through advanced analytics and machine learning.

As technology continues to advance, facility managers are tasked with integrating data from various sources to optimize building performance and enhance occupant experience.

Watch the Episode

Episode Transcription

Jennifer Heath 0:15

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Hybrid Hangout Podcast. I’m Jennifer Heath Director of Product Marketing here at FM:Systems.


Brian Haines 0:24

And I’m Brian Haines, the Chief Strategy Officer at FM:Systems.


Jennifer Heath 0:29

And we are excited to be here today. Thank you all so much for tuning in. In today’s episode, we are going to focus on data analytics and the importance of connected buildings. And then we’re going to look at a few key areas where data management and data analytics are really impacting specifically facility managers. So facility management is obviously a key part of every building you’ve ever been in from the grocery store, to your office building, to your schools. And historically, it’s been a little bit behind the scenes, there hasn’t always been a lot of focus on facility maintenance and facility management and really the impact that they can have on a company’s productivity and on their bottom line. But since the pandemic facility managers and facility maintenance has really elevated their presence, and they have become such a key part of how organizations are thinking about managing their real estate. So Brian, obviously you have worked in the facility management space for a number of years. How do you see how that role has changed? How that department has grown in importance?


Brian Haines 1:41

Yeah, that’s a really great question, Jen, it goes back to really that our buildings are becoming much more complex in terms of their the systems that are inside of those buildings,. If you should turn the clock back just maybe even a dozen years ago, we were really in what I would call the traditional building phase, which is probably most of the buildings on the planet. They’re primarily buildings that don’t have a lot of technology in them. The connectivity in those buildings was, you know, kind of difficult to understand really only accessible to maybe building engineers. But that changed really quickly starting at about, I don’t know, around 2015, when the internet of things really started to take off, better connectivity within buildings, we saw this sort of rapid rise of technology. And that’s really where we entered the market with things like sensors that we put under desks. And essentially, what we found during that time is that facility managers were starting to take on a much more technical role than they’d had previously. Pandemic came along, all sorts of new challenges entered the situation, which made it even more complex. Now, what we’re seeing is really the advent of easily accessible building control systems, smart and connected things like chillers, which are really requiring facility managers to continue that level their expertise as buildings get more connected, right. So we went from traditional buildings, to connected buildings. Now we’re almost on the verge of smart buildings, it’s getting pretty exciting. But it’s also really pushing the envelope in terms of, I think of what facilities managers need to know, in a time, where we’re seeing a lot of really experienced facility professionals retire. And so that’s gonna present a challenge, I think going forward, something that really needs to be talked about.


Jennifer Heath 3:36

Absolutely. And doing a little research to prepare for this today. That was definitely a common theme is labor shortages, there is really a generational shift, a lot of people are retiring out of the facility management field, and there is not as much young talent coming in behind. And I think that that will start to change, because facility management is going to start to sort of materialize as a much more lucrative, interesting tech savvy career, where maybe historically it was seen much more as you have a ton of paperwork, you’ve got equipment, manuals, you’re managing crews, now it is very much about being able to understand the data points that are coming in from different data sources and having the ability to analyze those and make intelligent decision so that you can be more proactive in your job. So I think there’s gonna be a real shift in the perspective of what facility management is, it’s gonna go from being a more manual to a very technical role.


Brian Haines 4:40

Yeah, which I think is kind of an exciting time for the facility professionals who really seize the opportunity because the more they use data the more that they understand how their buildings are actually performing. Really, the more important they become to an organization as they look at things like portfolio optimization, being able to provide a really dynamic workplace experience, ensuring talent retention, understanding that people come in at different rates. It’s a much more complex environment, and it’s sort of a blend of sort of facility manager becomes IT Pro in a lot of ways. Because they have to be really part of the process of evaluating thes systems and technologies that they’re bringing into their facilities that then provide insights. Once again, going back just 10 years ago, it was really difficult to understand how, you know, facilities were really being used. I mean, we have people walking around with clipboards, you know, checking off was Jennifer at her desk with Brian at his desk. That’s completely changed, because the way we use our facilities is completely changed. And it presents a massive opportunity, I think, for facilities professionals to really up level their game, become much more technology savvy, as well as being much more mission critical through the organization. Combine that with, you know, as we see, these really experienced facility managers who have a lot of that information in their head sort of age out and sort of retire. They’re not necessarily being back built from what we’re seeing at the same rate. So I think in the future, now and into the future, facilities, professionals need to look at the data systems and technology almost as partners in working together to provide that better physical environment, right, using data, I honestly think it’s gonna get really crazy when we have things like smart buildings blend into autonomous buildings that don’t look like it’s almost like something like Star Trek, right? Where you’re talking to the building, and it’s talking back and it’s giving you insights, and it’s acting like it’s a character in your environment. I mean, that’s not really crazy, that’s probably going to be the way it’s going to be in just a dozen years.


Jennifer Heath 6:55

Yeah, just right around the corner. So I see really four big areas where facility management is changing in respect to the technology that they’re applying to technology in ways they didn’t before. So first, in the wake of the pandemic, in the, you know, the fallout from this major transition to hybrid work, there’s a huge opportunity for organizations to refocus and rationalize their portfolios. How much space do we really need? What kind of space do we really need? And facility managers are going to be key, because they’re the ones who have the ability to go out and deploy that sensor technology to analyze it day in and day out, and report back to their C suite, they’re, you know, senior leadership teams, on what space is really being utilized, what spaces are popular, what locations are really suffering and underutilized. And it’s going to enable them, to your point, to be much more mission critical, and driving results for the organization at large.


Brian Haines 7:58

Yeah, it’s interesting, because you know, I said earlier facility manager blended with IT specialists, now we’ve got facility manager, blended with data analysts, which is quite interesting. You see a lot of these systems, including systems that we provide that provide the sort of visual feedback about how well you’re seeing your facility perform in a number of different functional areas. The big one, that’s a really hot topic is utilization, people have really been looking at putting technology solutions in place to help them better understand the way that you know, employees and occupants, visitors, whatever students are interacting with our facilities, which is kind of fascinating, because now we’re, you know, facility managers are now looking at that data and trying to make decisions. They need to continue to increase that ability to be able to take that data and make it actionable, right. Or the system’s themselves need to get smarter and start making recommendations. I think that’s going to come as well. Right now we’re at the point where we’re starting to see these insights from systems that are really providing sort of a, let’s say, a high level of feedback to facility managers. And once again, those who really grasp a hold of that and start using it to help them make better informed decisions are going to be the ones that are literally going to shoot ahead, I think in their careers in their professions. And they’re, frankly, going to run better facilities. So that’s an exciting time. So I keep thinking of like facility manager blending with, you know, it’s kind of getting crazy, like they’re becoming more well rounded, much broader, and I think really positioned to leadership in a way that they’ve not been in the past.


Jennifer Heath 9:40

Absolutely. So a second area where facility managers are finding themselves that is a little bit uncharted territory is in the world of workplace experience. So the type of space that you’re offering, the type of experience and culture that you’re wanting to offer your employees has traditionally been very much an HR function. But now facility managers again, because they have access to this technology and all of these data points, they can really start to influence and inform what is the workplace design. What spaces are most popular? What type of work are people coming in to do? And I think that’s a really interesting aspect that they’re coming, you know, out of the realm of keeping everything, you know, operational and clean and sanitized, and all those really important things they were doing before that were kind of in the background. But now they’re coming much more in to the forefront of influencing what is the day to day experience inside the office?


Brian Haines 10:43

Yeah, that’s interesting. The world is filled with buildings that aren’t healthy buildings that don’t provide necessarily a really positive workplace experience, maybe lack of sunlight, poor air quality, or energy utilization, you know, their net zero scores. They’ll never get to net zeros with a lot of that. And I think before the pandemic, there really wasn’t a lot of focus on that we weren’t really thinking about healthy air in the workplace, positive workplace experience, and understanding the way people were utilizing the workplace and whether or not they were having a really good experience that was supporting them. And you know, areas of productivity, wellness, all those sorts of things have come to the fore. Once again, facility managers are now being presented with new challenges that they didn’t have before. There’s an opportunity now to really evolve the way we think about buildings, and look at things such as better workplace experience, better air quality, healthier buildings, just really providing that environment that you feel good going into. I can tell you that I can go into an old office building now that’s been around for quite some time, and you almost feel like the energy is being sucked out of you, right? Like you just don’t feel great. You go in to a really super modern office environment that’s using a lot of technology, a lot sunlight, really beautiful environment. And, and they’re active, and you just feel energized to be there. There’s a lot of components to that. That’s another component that we’re seeing facility managers need to embrace. And then you combine that with sustainability. It’s not just the health of the building, but sustainability in a number of ways, right? It’s the right thing to do for the for the environment, it’s also the right thing to do for the business. Sustainability reduces things like energy costs, it provides a better, healthier environment. For everyone who’s in there, it’s really the right thing to do. So now we’ve got once again, blending facility manager, with sustainability executive. I mean, really quite fascinating to see how we’re evolving. I love it. It’s exciting.


Jennifer Heath 12:47

My dog has joined the chat, I don’t know if you could see her tail going past. So sustainability is the next topic on my list. So I said there were four major areas, we talked about space optimization, workplace experience, sustainability is absolutely the third area. And it really brings a lot of these together. Because air quality, to your point really kind of came to the forefront during the pandemic, because it was an important part of managing the health of our employees. So facility managers took that very seriously. But today, there is continued emphasis and continued regulation and compliance and government requirements for how we’re managing these buildings. I know we’ve mentioned this before, corporate office space accounts for like 40% of carbon emissions. And we have a huge opportunity with the move towards more hybrid work, you’ve got different levels of utilization in your office space over the course of the week, with the right data and the right technology, you can get really smart about how you’re delivering energy, how you’re managing your HVAC, your lighting. If there’s only two people on the third floor on Fridays, you should move them down to the second floor, close off third floor, people are really starting to take advantage of that. And it is such a multifaceted benefit. There’s cost savings, right up front, I mean that in and of itself is reason to do it. It’s the cost savings. But then when you pair that with these government requirements, regulatory requirements to reduce our carbon footprint, it’s all just working hand in hand. And it really is an exciting time to be getting into this field because you can have such an impact.


Brian Haines 14:36

Yeah, there’s really sort of this combination of corporate and institutional compliance, as well as corporate and institutional responsibility. You know, we’re looking at organizations like our own, Johnson Controls, where, you know, they have really put a stake in the ground and say, not only is Johnson Controls going to be a net zero company, and we’re really going to focus on sustainability within our own operations. But we’re going to lead a global charge and really help our clients get there by producing more building systems that allow you to monitor energy usage and sustainability over time. You know, Jen, once again, going back in time, I’m not sure you know, a lot of facilities were looked at as just sort of like a cost center, right? They weren’t profit centers, powering your buildings where all the employees were coming in was just sort of a necessary evil. We weren’t really thinking about things like whether or not that was a building that was really helping the sustainability of the company from a financial perspective and from a wellness perspective. So, you know, back in the day, you know, I would get surprised if I got an energy bill. And I was like, oh, my gosh, my energy is like, my bill is way up. I had no idea like, why really, until I made me realize that something had been left on or whatever, right, it was just sort of this thing that you got you were surprised about. I can tell you exactly what I’m using right now I’ve got a smart home here, I’ve got solar, I’ve got this very cool app that allows me to see. As a matter of fact, I’ve almost become obsessed, I’m like, Oh my God, why am I using so much power. I start walking around looking for things. It’s kind of fascinating. That level of access is available, you’re no longer waiting for a billing cycle, 30 days after. But because of technology, and what we’ve got now and you know, we’re really looking at the connectability, to the smart building sort of angle, that information has now become available, along with utilization, information, sustainability, energy usage. Then if you start to compare those, and you lay them over top of one another, if I’ve got a building that’s got a pretty heavy carbon footprint, and no one’s using it, why am I doing that? There’s got to be like a really, really super compelling reason why I would even do that it’s not smart. It’s not the right thing to do. So being able to layer over top of one another, these sorts of layers of data in ways that provide these unbelievable insights around things like energy usage really does lead to sustainable strategies that can be upheld and measured, right. Measurement goes a long way for things like compliance, ESG compliance, or things like corporate responsibility, if the company has said, Yes, we’re going to be a sustainable company, we can show you that we are because we are reducing our footprint over time.


Jennifer Heath 17:41

So your point about, you know, receiving that energy bill and you react to it right now, today, we can be much more proactive, and you can see how things are changing. The fourth aspect with facility maintenance that I want to talk about is exactly that- the difference between reactive maintenance, proactive, preventative, and ultimately what we’re driving towards is predictive maintenance. And it’s all about the technology, there’s so much opportunity there. And again, it’s a very traditional facility management role to make sure that everything’s working properly, that you know, key pieces of equipment, if it’s HVACs, or the elevators or whatever it might be that everything is operating at an optimal level. Historically, we always had to be very reactive to problems, you would find out something was broken, when it was broken, and somebody reported it. Today, we are much better able to predict what something is going to do based on the data of usage based on tracking things like temperature, air quality, there’s all these different indicators of what’s happening with all of this equipment. And it is a huge aspect of cost reduction. It’s a huge aspect of being able to maintain the continuity of your organization. Talk a little bit about how you see that change, and where you see it going for FM:Systems.


Brian Haines 19:06

Yeah, it’s interesting, because when you combine all of these things, and then you add the sort of building systems on top of it, it really is sort of the last piece of the puzzle. I think I kind of have this image in my mind of like, the facility manager going from the basement, on the elevator to the boardroom. Literally as the availability of data and the importance of data for operating their facilities. You go back in time, you know, maybe a little bit of a stereotype. But you could go back 50 years, it’s really that, you know, facilities person in the basement with boiler and a wrench, keeping the thing going and the valves and pipes and meters and things like that. Really, when we started, you know, probably around in the maybe in the 80s, but really into the 90s, we started to get things like BACnet protocols and building control systems that actually started to communicate a little bit. You really took that person out of the basement and then you put them more in sort of an office somewhere, building engineers, somebody with you know, really big sort of mathematical skills and the ability to be able to look at very complex data. They could look at the output of a system and they could say things like, Oh, that pumps going bad, or, you know, this chiller looks like it’s got a pressure problem. But they really had this immense amount of information in their head. I really think we’re now getting these systems that communicate almost in a natural language way, as if they’re a person on your staff. They are telling you, are they healthy, are they not feeling well, do they have a headache. You know, that sort of thing, like, that’s really where we’re seeing these systems go. And I think by combining analytics with the way that building control systems are actually starting to communicate, we’re going to be able to do amazing things. You know, I gave that Star Trek analogy earlier, which sounds kind of silly when you think about it. You know, many of us have Alexa or Google Home or something in our home, where we’re actually talking to it. And things can happen in our home saying things like, you know, Alexa, turn the lights out in the bedroom, or, you know, Alexa, please turn the heat up to 72 degrees in the living room. That’s really what I’m talking about being able to use that sort of natural language interface to, you know, maybe an AI and machine learning based data control system that’s listening to you, and they can understand you and respond accordingly. That’s a long way from where we were, you know, 15, 20, 50 years ago. Where, once again, you combine that data with the utilization data, you combine it with the healthy wellness data, the sustainability, energy data, and you start to get this amazing picture, where if you take that data, and you provide it to the building system that’s listening, it can actually start doing things and learning through, you know, advanced protocols. We’ve talked about this on previous webcasts, things like artificial intelligence, and machine learning, really being the intelligence of machines, as opposed to the intelligence of animals. You know, we’re animals in that scenario, and the building is a machine, right? It’s listening to the way we need it to operate, and it’s responding. But it’s also learning over time, and telling us how well it’s doing, it’s letting us know when it needs help, it’s letting us know when it needs to be replaced or repaired. Those types of things are happening now. FM:Systems and Johnson Controls are paying attention to that right now. Really evolving the way we think about our portfolio products and the way they relate to our clients. We are seeing in the market and we’ve seen studies that said for a while during the pandemic, you know, the facilities and asset management team had sort of taken their eye off of the maintenance of their buildings a little bit because they were focused on other things. Well, now that people are back, that’s tilting back up. That’s tilting back up, but they have less resources on staff. And they need to be able to handle that. And the way to handle that is to take advantage of getting smarter about the way they use the data coming from the building and really using that to affect operations. And that means connecting directly to building control systems, you know, solutions, like Metasys, which is a Johnson Controls solution. And really helping to understand the way buildings are operating all the way down to the individual components that are above the ceiling.


Jennifer Heath 23:30

Right. I think the future, there is all about integration. It’s all about bringing different types of data into those building control systems. And what really gets me excited about it is the potential to bring in that utilization data to inform all of these other systems. Because you’re no longer guessing, you’re not forecasting, you’re not, you know, making a best estimate of what needs to happen in your building on any given day. You have objective, accurate data that’s telling you exactly what’s going to transpire. And as we can put that information into these building control systems, to your point, they’re just going to get smarter and smarter and smarter. So I think it is I say this, I think on every episode is a very exciting time to be in this industry. I read an interesting quote, in a JLL blog this morning, talking about AI and machine learning that said “Innovation and disruption travel in pairs.” I think that is that’s an important little nugget to think about facility managers that are maybe listening to this right now, this might all sound a little overwhelming, a little intimidating. We’re saying you need to be a data analyst. So there is some disruption in this field. But it is because there’s so much innovation. And I think as more and more people lean into that innovation, the benefits will far outweigh the disruption.


Brian Haines 24:59

Yeah, that’s, that’s really fun stuff. That’s good.


Jennifer Heath 25:03

All right. Well, I think that is all of our time today. Brian, always a pleasure to talk to you lots of interesting topics in the in the world today.


Brian Haines 25:12

Yeah, oh boy it is. And please give your little disrupter, our special guest star a little scratch on the head for me. I love that he cruised right in that’s really great.


Jennifer Heath 25:20

We’re dangerously close to walk time. She’s running me know that she’s about ready.


Brian Haines 25:30

Well, terrific. Thank you so much, Jennifer. Always a pleasure and really fun to talk about this stuff.


Jennifer Heath 25:35

Thanks Brian. Have a great day. Thanks, everyone.

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