An Engineered Systems Supplement: Facility Operation--Evolution or Revolution?
The rapid movement of the building automation industry towards being Web-based allows us to interweave critical dynamic building information into a browser-based anywhere presentation. This allows us to concentrate and amplify our existing building operation resources and operators into virtual operational centers, in which all critical information is exposed to all stakeholders.
This visible-from-anywhere information allows authorized users to provide the correct input, management, and dollar accountability skills that will provide excellent comfort/energy performance with total accountability.
A Web-based presentation of dynamic building information allows not only operators to operate from anywhere with full functionality, it allows interaction of contractors, equipment suppliers, and consultants to provide valuable feedback and feed-forward information to the building operating equation. Upper management can also participate by having browser-based bottomline screens that provide the dynamic proof of the success or failure of building performance.
This new concentration and amplification of existing building operational resources and personnel will provide a strong refocus on the values of good operating principles.
This focus will cause management and operations to re-establish communications on what is important and what is required to achieve cost effective excellent building operations.
The creation of a new model of data and information and support provides an excellent opportunity to simplify and increase the ease of access to critical building operations. As the "DDC revolution" exposed the complex relationship between controls and equipment, the "net revolution" will expose our lack of understanding of the complex cost/comfort/safety issues of today's buildings. This will cause us to economically invest in the need for increased knowledge to operate today's buildings cost effectively.
The Web-based presentation of static and dynamic building information of what is actually required to achieve the best of client comfort, while maintaining excellent IAQ for the least cost per sq ft will be an eye-opener for all. As these dynamic models evolve, reflecting the realities of day-to-day building operation, management will be required to re-evaluate the real cost of having less than the best possible operation people; they will arrive at the conclusion that the correct operation team can greatly add to the company's bottomline by enhancing the art of providing desirable cost effective buildings.
The new Web-based media access and presentation has the power to simplify and teach while greatly aiding the comprehension of building operations. The concept of creating a website for each complex allows critical building information to be located in one organized place accessible to all. The interweaving of actual dynamic building information allows contractors and consultants the ability to quickly understand complex building problems.
The fact that this information is exposed keeps the pressure on the building operation staff to achieve excellence. If it becomes obvious that existing personnel cannot operate the building effectively, areas of responsibility can be easily shifted to someone who can. Aggressive and talented operators will take on more, and some of the existing operators will be re-employed as maintainers.
Of course, the day-to-day operation of the building remains relatively unchanged. Only the complex operational issues and decisions are separated from day-to-day operation. The operating team would also control day-to-day issues to solve operating problems caused by equipment failure. The operating team would determine if equipment problems were best solved by on-site personnel or outside contractors.
The building's operational website and virtual operational center seems to be the logical place to control and store equipment maintenance information. An added advantage of control from this point is that maintenance is driven by the necessity to operate the building for the lowest cost per sq ft while maintaining an excellent environment.
This supplement includes dialogue and insight in these important building operational issues:
- A redefinition of the essential issues;
- Web-based everything;
- Establishing accountability networks;
- Online energy accounting with immediate feedback;
- Creating your buildings' operation website;
- Understanding and utilizing inherited Web features;
- Online training and mentor support to create super operators;
- Hiring high-performance super operators;
- Computerized maintenance driven by performance;
- Web-based knowledge management systems;
- Documenting the design variance;
- Defining success indicators; and
- The advantage of Web-based building operations.
A Redefinition of the Essential IssuesOne of the advantages of moving your complete facility operations to a Web-based model is that it presents an opportunity for you to provide a complete review of the basic facility operation issues while re-establishing critical communication between the management and personnel actually operating the facility. All unnecessary information and tasks can be eliminated by mutual agreement. Only the basic issues need to be created, linked, and cataloged on the building website. This review on its own is of extreme value to most facility operations.
At an after-dinner talk at a BACnet Seminar on October 24,1996, I concluded my talk with the following summary:
"My prediction for the future is that we will see the separation of the vendors' involvement in the graphics and data presentation. Either Internet or Intranet type HTML multi platforms available anywhere presentation, will become the standard. This will allow the data to be easily organized into a common non-proprietary presentation application. We are presently working in this exciting area. Existing vendors will be required to concentrate their traditional hardware data into TCP/IP protocol, to pass information to a dynamic Internet database.
"Virtual operating systems will allow control from any browser on the Internet or Intranet. As apparent seamless national and international automation occurs, companies will organize themselves by function, not geographically as they are now. DDC will be expanded into many nontraditional applications. Integration will occur on a nonproprietary level, and vendors will have trouble keeping up with hardware and installation demand for the new breed of system as the number of applications will greatly increase."
These were bold comments in 1996, but today browser-based presentation of real time control data is the norm. The part I missed of course was the fact that the net on it own would be come the defacto standard for organizing complex building operations and it would be common for each building to have it own multifaceted website.
From ARCwire for the week ending May 3, 2002: "Comprehensive Facilities Management Strategies Increase ROA.
As capital budgets continue to be cut, manufacturers must find ways to increase their ROA and get more from their existing assets. To accomplish this, facilities managers must go beyond their current focus of paying less per kilowatt-hour of electricity or less for contract labor and take a comprehensive approach to facilities management. Integrated Building Automation Systems (BASs) provide facilities managers with the tools they need to increase their ROA and reduce operating costs. Many facilities managers, however, are leery to invest in integrated BASs for fear of a lack of internal technical expertise and the higher initial cost of these systems.
"In a recent ARC Insight," senior analyst Dave Clayton says, "to increase ROA, manufacturers must learn to strategically manage their brick and mortar assets. Manufacturers can save millions of dollars in energy costs, increase productivity and employee morale, and attract high quality recruits by strategically leveraging these assets. Optimizing facilities management improves a company's ability to provide those employees with a productive environment and significantly improves a company's ROA. When managed strategically, buildings can become tools to support the company's strategic goals instead of liabilities that drag down profits."
As the above states, you may not be able to ponder the merits of Web-based facilities operation, as it will become necessary to keep your facility management competitive.
Good building operation is all about good communication and an interactive website is a way to create and open the lines of communication. A building or facility has a life of its own, and what better way to portray this than in the reflection provided by the building's website, providing access for all stakeholders existing and future.
The creation of the website can occur from various locations almost simultaneously. The growth and flavor of the site will amaze you as it evolves with the help of all who touch and nurture it. If the site needs different functionality, new players can be easily added. It is important that the major stakeholders have at least a portion of the website that is their responsibility.
The website should be the focus point for energy performance, client comfort, and complaints. It is good that the site takes on a mosaic look as more a reflection of the actual complex than of excellent web design. Although a web designer is a good person to have on the team, it is more important that form follows function, and the function leads the creation of the site. Functionality can always be cosmetically adjusted if necessary.
Web-Based EverythingThe global acceptance of browser-based interfaces with a standard Internet protocol is an amazing phenomenon. Global acceptance of browser-based everything is bridging language and cultural barriers at a rate never before seen. Proprietary operating systems of the past often reflected the lowest-cost approach and were created in isolation from other building operating software. New browser-based interfaces are rapidly becoming the lowest-cost approach because of their global application.
The Internet is the major driver towards interoperability and information flow at all levels. All systems need to be integrated and interoperable, regardless of geographical location and hierarchical constraints.
Why do I want to include a Web server as part of my Web-based facility management? Massive acceptance of Web-based everything and potential connectivity and interoperability are the reasons. The only valid question is, "Why would I not want to include a Web server as part of my Web-based facility management?" The answer to the question in the past might have been "Because it is too expensive." But with the advent of inexpensive Web-based hardware and software driven by the massive number of users, there is no viable reason not to include Web capabilities.
We are not talking about viewing our old systems through a Web browser; we are talking about total product, design, control, and mechanical/electrical equipment integration. These new Web-based projects will be built for clients and will completely change our existing approach to control. Features will include diagnostics and maintenance of equipment and the client interface from anywhere.
Energy usage data from all integrated components will be available to the Web-wise. Interactive links to each client and his comfort can exist, as well as feedback on the consequences of their comfort actions. The new Web-based facility management will change how facility providers view building infrastructure economics.
These new breeds of systems will successfully demonstrate the need for complete restructuring and will cause even wider spread restructuring to imitate this success. The capability of today's BAS far exceeds the present understandings of the existing implementers and users.
The fact that clients are also in rapid transition as to the nature of their business complicates the process. Radical changes will beget radical changes, and these changes will move us to the next level as an industry.
There is an urgent need for increased performance with respect to system integration and flexible building utilization. Systems for handling energy optimization, ventilation, fire and water alarms, and security require interoperability.
In addition, there is an increasing demand for mobility within and outside of the building premises, where every employee will be provided with a portable device. In such a setting, it appears evident that optimal building control should be based on the same fundamental principles, i.e. it must be wireless-enabled, use standard Internet technology, and utilize existing standard field bus interfaces.
"The times they are a-changin'," but are we as building facility management professionals grasping the gravity of the moment? The fact that while Web-based everything is occurring we are still installing building automation from pre-Internet specifications with proprietary systems with no acknowledgment that enterprise interaction may be essential to system longevity. Designs, often done in isolation without the complete understanding of the client's total IT enterprise, are dangerously shortsighted. It is now clear that TCP/IP will be the data pipe of the future that fits all.
As with nearly every other industry on the planet, the future of facility management is directly linked with the World Wide Web. In fact, the Web may have more to do with defining our future than any individual development in control theory, hvac, or building technology.
Establishing AccountabilitySite operating philosophy, accountability. The operational philosophy for any building or complex is extremely important, and should be reviewed constantly by both management and operation. Web-based presentation of this critical philosophy places all of the major issues, both policy and dynamic data-oriented, within easy access of all stakeholders.
Sharing this information with building stakeholder such as consultants, contractors, onsite staff, and support trades personnel can greatly reduce the amount of time while increasing the possibility of solving complex building operation problems. Many of these subsystems have significant interactions.
Establish an accountability network. If everyone is made accountable for energy utilization, no one person is accountable. An accountability network must be put in place to have a successful energy conservation plan. Upper management must be concerned and have conservation as one of their objectives.
This objective must be conveyed to middle management by requesting that each complex manager be made accountable for the management of that area's energy. Upper management must continuously display their concern to meet their objective of improved energy efficiency. They must provide capital funding and creative financing when accountable managers identify viable projects, and they must present a plan as to how that manager can achieve his goal.
Online energy accounting. An individual must be made accountable for the energy performance of each building. The building utility histories should be used to document existing energy performance. This information can be provided as an online service by your utility supplier or calculated dynamically with your own on-site metering passing information directly to the facility website. A daily and monthly graph of energy usage should be available to the individual who is accountable for the energy performance. Energy accounting is mandatory.
Using the building's website to demonstrate a good online energy accounting program as operated by an accountable operator allows identification of conservation successes and failures and is the backbone of the complete energy conservation program.
The energy accounting system becomes the vehicle by which the accountable manager displays his or her successes or failures to upper management, as well as the vehicle that the accountable manager uses to demonstrate to staff the importance of good energy management techniques.
Upper management should meet with the accountable managers at least once a year to set goals and review results. They should understand each component of the total utility costs and request that accountable managers provide detailed variances and reports. Soliciting energy conservation concepts from building staff also provides effective results and increases awareness.
A quick review of the successes and failures as portrayed by the energy accounting system should occur at least quarterly. This should happen at both the upper management and complex levels. The review need not be long or involved. Do not underestimate the effects of placing accountability for energy usage on those that use the energy. They often understand better than management how the actual use relates to their particular equation. The accountability network must be in place for a successful energy conservation plan. The network usually exists in most successful management hierarchies.
Creating a High-Performance Operation WebSite
Buildings With Their Own Internet Identity and Address
The concept of a large building as an Internet identity with its own Web address is now becoming a common trend. Previously, websites have primarily been used for marketing the building and its services. Virtual browser-based walk-throughs are now commonplace, and allow potential clients to view space and building features before development. Note that the website URL is often the building address.
A Web camera that allows you to watch the progress of general construction is a great example of the interactivity that can be achieved with your building website. Another use for this Internet identity is the ability to allow virtual development of building requirements before the actual design specifications are set.
The concept of a website dedicated to an emerging building is a powerful communication tool that allows owner, designer, and developer almost instant communication on changing details. The website can also be extremely useful during the bidding or procurement process allowing copies of documents to be available to all contractors almost simultaneously. Addenda are quickly communicated. The following show how these concepts can be expanded.
One of the most requested articles on our website is: "Your Building Address as a .com?" More new automated buildings now have their own Internet address at www.automatedbuildings.com/news/may99/articles/addresses/addresses.htm.
From another article on our site: "HTML as a Documentation Medium for Building O & M" (www.automatedbuildings.com/news/may99/articles/ashraeto/ashraeto.htm).
I have extracted the following: "HTML is, as many of you will know, the language of the Internet. The concept is to make O&M documentation available in a form that is as readily available to the building operator as data on the WWW is available to anyone with Internet or corporate Intranet access on their home or business computer. It can be either an online or an off-line application of Internet browser-based data. Application of this concept is available right now. Any building with a DDC system, using a computer workstation interfacing to the system, can use that same workstation to hold HTML-based O&M documentation."
Why html?HTML is a good choice of medium for documenting building mechanical and electrical O&M information for your projects, including energy and comfort optimization strategies. HTML offers many features of value in an O&M documentation application: It allows graphics and pictures as well as text information to be easily mixed. Hypertext links between files are easy to set up. Word searches within files are a feature of the software. Data in paper form can be easily scanned into the computer system and form part of the documentation. Access and authority to revise the files, can be limited by password security.
HTML is able to run on most major computer operating system platforms that support an HTML browser. Provision can easily be made for the building operator to update the information, insert questions to be answered, etc. in order to make the information as relevant, complete, and useful as possible. An interactive multimedia presentation limited by only your imagination can be created for your application. Documenting in this method allows an interactive electronic legacy to be left on the building website for the project.
What Can html Environments Mean to Our Industry?The short answer is that HTML means there is an exciting new interactive medium that can be used to provide better and more usable O&M documentation. The use of HTML is constantly growing and improving because it is the language of the Internet. It is highly portable and internationally accepted.
In fact, O&M documentation using HTML is like having a local WWW on a single computer, or a local network of computers. Such a network, when using HTML files, a browser, and perhaps a custom search engine, is termed an Intranet. The new generation of HTML browsers allows close desktop operating system integration. It allows the simple assembly of easy-to-use, highly functional, PC-based, multimedia, linked HTML files.
Information from many sources can be quickly assembled into electronic form using any one of the many powerful HTML editors available today. If information is already available in electronic format, it can be simply read into the HTML environment. Examples of this type of information may include manufacturer information, balancing reports in a spreadsheet format, or sequences of operation from specifications.
Traditional paper documentation can be included by scanning and optical character recognition software. Successful scanning requires a clean original, preferably using a simple font. Even then, the resulting file needs to be reviewed and edited to correct any scanning errors. Also, text and graphics information should be scanned separately into different files.
Once the data is in electronic files, then it can be recombined as needed. Actual operating data, for example, trend logs from the DDC system, which illustrate correct operation, can be captured and included as diagrams alongside text explaining the operation being illustrated. Most new word processing and spreadsheet programs are able to generate HTML files directly.
A typical approach would be to set it up in a very familiar manner. There will be a "main menu" or table of contents (TOC) page or file. Then there will be files for each of the various systems and topics to be covered in the manual. These will all be linked to, so clicking a mouse on a TOC item will automatically cause that item to be displayed. All the abilities of the browser being used, such as "Forward," "Back," "Print," and "Edit" are available to the user.
The new generation of browser software can launch other applications and files, which leads to the simple custom generation of easy to use, highly functional, integrated project information from all sources. The resources required to generate this material can be reused on each project as core information, and can be edited to quicken assembly of similar information for additional projects.
HTML files are easily edited remotely and e-mailed to site as attached files, or can be edited on site by the operator to provide accurate quickly changing information. If a new contractor or consultant comes to the project, orientation and general explanation time can be greatly reduced by reviewing the building website before asking questions.
Where this approach to O&M documentation has been introduced, it has been well received, particularly by younger, computer-literate operators. In fact, one of the exciting aspects of this electronic approach to documentation is that, in a very real sense, it has no boundaries. There are so many new ways of doing things being discovered in the computer world today, that what is new, or optimum, today may well become obsolete or passe tomorrow.
For Information that is Best Printed: PDFThere is still some information best presented and circulated in a paper format. One limitation of html is the unpredictable printing. Adobe "portable document format" (PDF) completely solves this problem while allowing excellent interaction with HTML. HTML can launch a PDF file and printing to a PDF file is possible by most word processing, spreadsheet, and graphics programs. The seamless intermixing of HTML and PDF allows existing technical bulletins in PDF to be added or linked to a website.
The fact that Adobe provides the PDF reader free, and PDF does a much better job of printing than HTML, has caused the industry to support this format. The majority of our industry information is now available in PDF.
Resource Library for BuildingThere is no limitation to the information that can be included in PC-based O&M documentation. The following would be a typical list of options:
- Client contact information;
- Contractor contact information;
- Air balance reports which launch data and application spreadsheets or PDF;
- Product information (any paper-based information can be easily scanned in, or information can be downloaded from the vendor's website);
- Copies of, or links to, applicable standards or codes;
- Copies of employer-mandated procedures (e.g., IAQ complaint process);
- Frequently used engineering data, conversion charts, etc.; and
- Anything, which would otherwise be on a piece of paper taped to the wall, bulletin board, or wherever the operator could see it quickly.
In summary, anything which would be in a conventional O&M manual, and more can be included. A standard shell or document format can be developed into which information for specific buildings is entered.
A multi-building owner may develop a custom shell, to suit organizational operating needs. Access to the documentation can be easily launched from a desktop, via a shortcut link to a "start HTML" file. Clicking on the HTML file will invoke the default browser and launch the complete application. The electronic documentation can be set up so pertinent information is presented by pointing and clicking on hypertext "hot spots" in a graphical representation of the building or one of its' systems. This new media is well received by users, as it requires almost no introduction or learning curve.
Documenting System Operating Intent Using htmlComfort and energy performance intentions and goals need to be documented, and in a format that can be completely understood by the building operators. Results can then be compared to goals, and adjustments made as needed. The use of the computer and HTML facilitates not only documentation of both the original goals but also any revisions.
One goal is to communicate this information effectively to the people actually operating the building. Its achievement, however, will take more than technology. Operator training and familiarization in how to understand and use the information made available is an essential ingredient in the overall O&M documentation picture.
The website will include direct browser-based access to the operating DDC system. This dynamic data lets you actually demonstrate graphically the desired operating parameters that the designer intended. This is extremely useful for demonstrating how operators should use the system to achieve the optimum client comfort within a least energy use strategy.
An example of this is hourly and daily energy graphs that depict successful operation and provide a goal for the operator to achieve and maintain. The operating intent can be effectively documented in this manner and circulated to the owner, all involved contractors, consultants, and the building operator for concurrence.
It is important for everyone to know that the documentation left on the on-site computer will be operator-friendly, and contain usable information. This will stir new interest in its use, and hopefully encourage the people closest to the building, particularly the operators, to have a significant input. If the documentation is well prepared, it will be useful to not only the regular building operator but to others who seek to understand how the building operates.
The real value of the information often comes when the operator is on vacation and a temporary operator is required. These files can be electronically transferred to the temporary operator as resource information on the building. This concept also works well to update older text-based documentation.
Software is available which can pass dynamic text based data to the HTML files. Periodically, the actual operation should be compared to the operating goals contained in the documentation. Changes should be noted and updates prepared as needed. This exercise generally generates discussions on improving building operation.
Your Building as an Internet Service ProviderMost large buildings support their own telephone system and are quickly evolving to "ISDN and T1 service," but few have made the leap to being an Internet service provider (ISP) selling high-speed backbone connections, and e-mail, and Web access services.
Data has become a utility and our clients expect high-speed access to the Internet as much as they do heating, cooling, and lighting. Major clients bring their own systems, but the growing trend of having a building filled with several smaller clients changes this paradigm.
The enviromation for a project can take on many levels of implementation. Listed below are some of these levels. Make the building an ISP by selling high-speed backbone connections, e-mail, and Web access services. It is possible that this service can be provided at no, or extremely low, cost to the building, or the ISP services could be viewed as a revenue generator.
A building-wide client Intranet could allow automated tenant-billing systems with real time energy cost allocations. This same network could provide all building related communications; i.e.: holiday security procedures, fire drill times/procedures, occupant space complaint forms, client interface information, human comfort concepts, and IAQ assurance.
More leading-edge features could include access to real time temperatures and IAQ data, virtual thermostats, and lighting interfaces. The high-speed interpanel communication requirements for the building's DDC system could use this same Intranet network, using either TCP/IP, BACnet, LonTalk or a custom protocol. The Intranet is a new and exciting building maintenance and operating tool.
A well done, fully integrated building operations and maintenance Intranet is more than just an e-mail connection between your client and the building operators. The O&M Intranet provides a constant "I care about you" presence to your clients, and can be the most important member of your staff.
Multimedia presentations, including client input forms, can be generated to register and log all temperature and air quality complaints into your database. This same database can generate work orders, and communicate response actions directly to your client. Educating your client as to how the building's cooling and heating systems work using detailed interactive graphics, can often eliminate complaint calls.
By demonstrating concepts, such as the effect of closing blinds, with a multimedia presentation and answering other frequently asked questions (FAQ), you can provide immediate feedback and educate your client to help himself by doing everything possible before registering a complaint.
When major building upsets occur, as they do from time to time, this medium is an excellent method of communicating the actual problem and when it will be solved. These short circuit the rumor mill and gets the correct message to the client.
Share your successes with the client as well as your mutual problems. Show them how you are meeting the ventilation code while providing both excellent client comfort and energy performance for the building. Tell them about your innovative recycling program. It is the client's space too, so tell them how hard you are working to make changes to the parking, landscaping, fire upgrades, etc.
Since we are in the maintenance and operating business, we focus on the building's problems. Every time we meet our client, we tell him about the building problems and not about the 98% of the building that is working well. This new medium allows us to put together a professional sales presentation about the building's strong points, and to demonstrate to clients the ways we are caring for them. The recordkeeping of all client and maintenance staff interaction is inherent with the O&M Intranet and means no more handwritten notes.
Multipoint access keeps the complete maintenance staff in communication with each other, and the building clients. Auto paging and auto-generated client responses can be incorporated.
What about small renovation projects? Keeping a common file, accessible by both client and the project manager, reduces normal communications, and eliminates telephone tag. Plus, all changes are documented.
All of the traditional building O&M documentation for the project will be requested in HTML form and weaved into an interactive internal website, with connection to vendors and manufacturers' Internet sites and e-mail addresses. Video conferencing could be part of the building-wide client Intranet, offering internal high-speed PC-to-PC video service. More concepts surely will be brought forward.
Functional creep - the tendency to add more functionality because we can - should only be limited by the client's desire and budget. If having the building as an ISP is not practical, the scalability of the Internet allows virtual or physical server solutions.
Understanding and Utilizing Inherited Web FeaturesAs soon as you create a website for your building or complex operations you inherit all the power of the Internet. Simple features such as e-mail service allows the site to become self-documenting, allowing different addresses to be used for different complaints. The weaving of various e-mails with HTML instructions allows you to address FAQs.
If you provide enough information on common complaints, often service requests can be eliminated. E-mail can be programmed to automatically generate responses. E-mailed alarms, cell phone paging, or e-mail-to-fax each allows interaction with all existing support people.
The Wireless Service RevolutionField service technicians, carrying rugged handheld computers wirelessly connected to the Internet, allow downloaded maintenance checklists for each piece of equipment to be worked on. The technician can diagnose problems and record equipment readings, completing tasks quickly and easily by checking items from a list on the screen. All equipment history and readings are available to the technician in the field without even calling the office.
The acceptance of many new communication and automation concepts has radically changed the function of our large commercial buildings. Office hotelling has allowed the sharing of expensive office buildings with an increased number of telecommunicating occupants.
To effectively manage this phenomena, total coordination is required - phones, workstations, data links, security access, etc. Occupants also must have the ability to interact virtually. The greenest of buildings extends beyond sharing office space; it includes sharing the total transportation and support infrastructures while making home units more efficient.
Online Training and Mentor SupportThe concept of a building-based website works well with customized online training for a particular building and its equipment. Links to equipment supplier's online training and troubleshooting information greatly empowers building operators to learn at their own pace.
It is important that enlightened management and the super operators design the complete combination of dynamic and static data. In addition to providing connection to training and troubleshooting e-mail addresses, a list of all the suppliers of the building equipment should be provided with links to their websites.
This easy method of communication allows operating and maintenance questions to be answered by any of the stakeholders online. Online training must be designed and laid out to reflect the desires of management, the operating philosophies of the building, and the technical details felt necessary by the accountable super operator.
Extremely resourceful managers will create links to online mentors that can proliferate building philosophies while answering operators' direct questions.
The interactive nature of the Internet/Intranet reduces the loss of key operators' time training new operators, and it allows new building services people the ability to learn without the bias of the teacher. New young employees are likely much better at online learning than our existing employees and will be able to help training systems grow and help existing operators learn how to use website effectively.
An article, "Are (W)eLearning Yet?" (www.automatedbuildings.com/news/may01/articles/plr/eLearning.html) on our site, written by David Fisher, president of PolarSoft Inc., a Pittsburgh-based Interactive Multimedia and eLearning design company, defines "eLearning" as the creation and delivery of learning material by electronic means.
His opening paragraph states: "The world of building automation is full of mounting pressure. Exploding growth and change in technology has turned the traditional thinking about controls and automation on its head. The cost of once exotic technologies is falling and causing dramatic change in how we approach automation, and where we think the boundaries are.
"Thanks to standards and an expanding global market view, we are seeing more and more integration of once disparate automation systems, and more real interoperability between competitors. Yet these advances come with the cost of ever increasing complexity that always accompanies "flexibility." At the same time, the costs of energy and human talent are relentlessly increasing so there is continuous pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiency."
Creating High-Performance Super OperatorsIn the past, management has looked at an operator's cost only and have not seen the true value that an excellent operator can provide in benefits in energy savings, increased client comfort, and the ability to project a healthy building image. The amount of money saved by hiring less than the best operators has cost them dearly.
The problem in past operating philosophies was that investing in the knowledge of a super operator could only be justified in extremely large complexes. The concept of moving to Web-based operations allows this super operator's skills to be applied over a greater square footage of complex and down to smaller buildings. Of course, regular building operators will still be required for the daily tasks, but it will be the super operators who will be able to extend their reach and effectiveness.
The super operator is the correct person to make the complex decisions on when and where to use outside contractors, service companies, and consultants. The super operators will utilize the existing operators skill levels up to, but not beyond, their limit while providing ongoing and unconditional mentoring in a positive learning environment.
So where do we find super operators who can "walk on water," "lift large buildings with one hand," and "provide a positive virtual presence over several complex building sites simultaneously," all while projecting a healthy building image?
My experience of over 30 years in building operations has taught me that seldom will you find them unless you can steal them away from a company with similar goals.
A super operator must be created under the image of management and ingrained with the company's philosophies but be empowered to integrate today's complex technology. They can come from all walks of life with all kind of trades and backgrounds (often engineering and/or contracting), and of course with strong management skills. In fact, the more experience they have in several areas, the more useful they will become.
It is possible that this person already exists in your operations structure and could grow with a new identity giving a little more focus and connection to other super operators. AutomatedBuildings.com has started an online forum to provide an online exchange of ideas and good examples of Web-based facilities operations. Send your input to AutomatedBuildings.com.
Computerized Maintenance Driven by PerformanceComputerized maintenance programs in some complexes have turned into modern-day boondoggles because of the system's ability to rapidly generate procedures and work orders at a rate that far exceeds the ability of the designated maintenance staff to respond.
Moving to Web-based complex operations provides an excellent opportunity to apply factors such as "reality" and "necessity" to existing computer maintenance programs. I believe that the high-performance operation of the building should drive the requirement for maintenance, not some external force.
Often, over-maintenance - or at least over administration of maintenance - takes valuable resources from the goal of providing high-performance operation. If we look at the team that maintains and races high performance cars, maintenance is driven by improving the performance plus major issues that have the potential of stopping the car; now, dynamic onboard monitoring of critical equipment is a major input for emergency maintenance. Providing operations-driven maintenance could reduce maintenance costs.
If your existing computerized maintenance program is lean and mean and focuses only on the necessary maintenance to maintain performance in your building, then it should be only a simple matter of transferring its control to the building website. All stakeholders should share this information.
Web-Based Knowledge Management SystemsAn article on our site, "Knowledge Management Systems and Computer or Web-based Training," states that data has changed from a "hard copy" medium that was discarded on a periodic basis to create office or storage space to a digital medium waiting to be used in creative and useful ways. SQL servers and databases are becoming the rolltop desk of the 21st century. The article is written by Edward H. Brzezowski, P.E., Facility Energy Services, Inc. and can be found at http://automatedbuildings.com/news/may02/articles/brze/brze.htm
The article provides the following background: Building operators, mechanics, and design professionals have traditionally relied on "hard copy" written documents in the form of three ring binders or architectural, mechanical, electrical or plumbing drawings. These documents have a life of their own and are typically relied upon at different times and in different ways during the life cycle of a building - often from its original design/construction, during startup or commissioning, and in renovation/rehabilitation work phases.
Design and selection manuals are periodically updated by the manufacturer or equipment vendor on a 1- to 5-year cycle, while the installation and O&M manuals have a longer life, typically 15 to 25 years depending upon the piece of equipment and its scheduled and preventive maintenance service.
These documents can be generic or site specific. In the design phase they are used by the design professional as selection or engineering manuals, during construction as installation manuals by the contractor, and afterwards as operating and maintenance manuals by the maintenance mechanic or service technician.
The contract documents (specifications, addendum, and drawings), shop drawings, submittals, and "as-built" drawings are also very important resources. Over the life of the building they are typically damaged, borrowed/loaned, lost, or stolen. In many instances, these documents are irreplaceable.
Over the last ten years or so many of these types of documents have been developed and made available and distributed in electronic form. There has been a migration from hard copy documents to CD-ROMs, or "read only" electronic books viewable via the Internet using Web browsers via hypertext links, or URLs. This offers instant access. Documents are now able to stand the test of time and can be reprinted if necessary when needed.
From the perspective of the building owner or manager, provisions must be made to allow these documents to be used in digital form for archival and reference use. This requires in many cases contract provisions and deliverables from the design professional and contractors involved on the building project.
The process also requires that the manufacturer and equipment vendors make their documents available in electronic form such as Adobe Acrobat format. URL links back to the manufacturers'/vendors' websites are not recommended since this will not provide a long-term, viable solution. Local copies are required.
Documenting the Design VarianceBuildings are seldom operated as they were originally designed. Part of the reason for this is that designers often design an empty building without knowing the future occupants or the actual uses for the building. Equipment variations from original design and new energy rules all produce on site design variances. Often, it is a costly process to settle down a large building and achieve a comfort and energy optimization.
When this is achieved, the major issues should be documented on the building website to allow future building operators to understand the why of present operation. In addition, the information could provide valuable feedback for the design consultant who is often out of the loop as to what had to be done to actually make the building work.
Defining Success IndicatorsOnly when a building is fully occupied and serving its intended function can we begin to define success indicators. The indicator may be dollars/sq-ft/occupant or percentage of time "happy," but management and operations must agree on the definition of the success indicators for the building or complex, plus the yardstick that will be the mutual focus. Special-purpose buildings may allow special success indicators such as number of widgets per day or number of clients served, or total value of products sold. Creating success indicators with the building users' management provides an extremely interesting view of how each user views the value of the building.
Advantages of Web-based Building OperationsThe advantages are here, there, and everywhere because Web-based building operation can do that. Owners and tenants, old and new, will understand the added value in a building that has the total operation online and can be operated from anywhere.
They can quickly evaluate energy performance, client comfort, the number of complaints, and the overall health using their own expertise. They can quickly show, sell, and promote the building with a simple e-mail and the Web address. This allows stakeholders to get strong indications before buying, selling, or moving into or out of the building.
In fact, buildings in the near future that do not have a Web presence will be viewed as fixer-uppers, will be expected to be bought at a bargain price, and will be destined for both real and virtual retrofits. ES
What Does the Author Know About Facility Operation?Most Engineered Systems readers know me from my monthly "Building Automation" columns and my online Internet readers know me as the editor/owner of AutomatedBuildings.com, but before doing either of these, I spent over 35 years in the industry optimizing operating procedures in existing facilities and large buildings.
Johnson Controls in Milwaukee originally trained me as a service/sales engineer. I left my post of service manager with JCI to operate several buildings for a local developer. After that I accepted a contract position as the assistance energy analyst for the province of Alberta. This gave me exposure to the new and exciting world of computer simulated energy performance, although the program did run on paper cards on a mainframe computer in Ottawa over a very slow modem. For over 25 of these 35 years, I operated as Sinclair Energy Services Ltd. providing energy simulations, conservation, and automation consulting for existing large buildings in Western Canada.
While working on a computer simulation for a 60-acre solar heated bubble that was to bring a mild environment to a northern Alberta town for both for the construction and finished town-site, Don Holte of Nova Engineering taught me that the scope and approach to environment control engineering was unlimited. Don went on to be the International President of ASHRAE. Several of my industry mentors share a good understanding of computerized large building simulation principles.
I started Sinclair Energy Services Ltd. to do computer simulations, energy conservation, as well as identifying computerized controls related opportunities in large existing buildings. The University of Alberta (U of A) started a total DDC system in 1975. I was lucky to be part of this project that was installing large campus buildings with only total DDC without any conventional controls.
The computers were as big as refrigerators, and we had a system analyst and a team of code monkeys, plus we had to create and build most of our own software and sensors as most had not been invented yet or were too costly.
Being part of the team that created these extremely interesting leading edge systems spawned many life mentors for me. I was amazed at the quantity and variety of people required to build what had not been built before.
This project and associated mechanical/lighting energy conservation projects for over 15 million sq ft of facility helped me gain insight into large complex operations. A central chilled water plant with over 15,000 tons of cooling and miles of distribution allowed us to hone our hydraulic skills and let the DDC system prove us wrong or right.
In the early 1980s, I moved to Vancouver Island, and Sinclair Energy Services Ltd. started providing similar services for the British Columbia Buildings Corporation, which at the time had over 22 million sq ft of space in over 700 buildings. The DDC revolution had begun, and it was centered on the lower BC Mainland and Vancouver Island. Most of our energy studies on existing buildings ended in the retrofit of the existing controls to the new DDC systems. Working with the industry to make the new DDC systems as powerful and flexible as possible further increased my team of industry mentors.
I still had time to be a founding member and a president of both the local chapter of AEE and the Vancouver Island Chapter of ASHRAE. I was fortunate to be on the teams that won the ASHRAE international energy award for existing buildings Robson Square for BCBC and Vancouver Art Gallery for City of Vancouver and several AEE energy awards, plus local BC Hydro Power Smart awards.
Sinclair Energy Services worked with the local utility BC Hydro "Power Smart Program," which allowed us to identify, document, and oversee the implementing of many million dollars of energy conservation projects. Several clients as well as several large hospitals allowed us more insight into special application projects. All of our work was done in existing facilities and buildings and the identification of these operational opportunities gave me insight into the existing operation team.
In all our projects, much of our time was spent retrofitting, rebuilding, and training building operators to the point that we created a high performance building operator's course. I wish that the Web had been invented so we could share this with you now. It included the essence of room load calculation, building simulation, thermo, and energy analysis of various types of air handling type, control strategy development, power optimization, and more.
The best part was the creation of a personnel network of high performance operators that could share ideas and help each other solve problems.
I hope to achieve the rekindling of this valuable network of super operators in our online forum "Web-Based Facilities Operation" at http://www.automatedbuildings.com/webbasedfacilitiesoperation.htm.