With the advent of game-changing technologies like automated user interfaces, the future will bring efficient operations, improved facility performance, and healthier, more productive work environments to the realm of facility management. Digital tools working in tandem with new collaborative design-build processes under Facility Management (FM) 2.0 will facilitate this future, but only if the industry is on board.
Despite the promise of a more efficient future, the industry has been slow to leave behind traditional design-build processes. Many facility managers still prefer the tried-and-tested methods of facility management, where most communication goes through the facility manager, keeping teams siloed throughout the process. When creating the smart buildings of tomorrow, collaboration across teams is essential — and not just between mechanical and electrical designers, but between the system integrator, the general contractor, the customer and all parties involved. As the industry evolves and zeroes in on the experience of the user and the desired outcomes of the building owner, upfront collaboration becomes increasingly important. System integrators are an essential element of this industry transformation.
Bringing the system integrator into the picture
Prior to FM 2.0, the system integrator (SI) was the last team involved because of how projects were typically purchased. The system integrator would enter the project post-design and bear the brunt of any mistakes made by teams in the earlier stages in the project. Moving forward, it is particularly important that SIs are involved at the start of the design process to offer the team their deep understanding of the smart technology used in mechanical and electrical systems.
The most important factors to keep in mind when bringing SIs into the process at the design stage are the efficiency, performance, comfort and health of the building. This leads to reduced rework, as issues with the design are noticed earlier, resulting in fewer last-minute change orders. Because reworks tend to eat up a third of the building cost, this change significantly improves cost savings.
This collaboration will not only lead to a superior specification, but will also optimize the design, ultimately cutting down on costs and preventing unnecessary duplication. When all stakeholders come together during the design phase, there is room for key discussions around the goals of the project and what needs to be done to achieve those objectives. These conversations unearth incompatibilities and risks to the project before they occur, which improves both overall efficiency and project outcomes.
Outcomes for including system integrators in the design phase
Open communication between teams is an important element that betters any construction project. By engaging the SI before the project moves past mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) design into schematic design, the SI can become a fully integrated member of the project, helping to ensure that the customer’s requirements are met.
For example, if the building owner’s expectation is that the final product embodies sustainability, the system integrator needs to be involved to make sure green technology is baked into the project’s design. The system integrator’s knowledge of the technology used in mechanical and electrical systems can prevent incompatibilities from a lack of detailed design, ensuring that all teams are working with the right materials to reach their goal. Taking the step to include system integrators in the design phase means that three key elements of a successful project can be achieved:
A sufficiently detailed specification for the final integrated solution. Having a detailed specification preemptively resolves many issues. In fact, certain specifications are designed with smart buildings in mind to facilitate a smooth construction process.
For example, the Division 25 specification offers advanced connectivity and integrated infrastructure across the operational technology (OT) ecosystem for the purpose of exchanging and collecting data within the building. Having this type of data gives stakeholders insight into how every system in the building delivers value, which results in improved efficiency and lower downtime. A smart building connected with Division 25 has the capability to host multiple systems and provide analytics on those systems, which generates visibility for the owner. Division 25 also allows facility managers to resolve building issues remotely, which reduces the need for unplanned maintenance.
Given the importance of client satisfaction under FM 2.0, having a detailed specification that aligns with the building owner’s desired outcome is an important step. Without the involvement of the system integrator when choosing the specification, the team may struggle to select the right fit.
A clear scope of work. It is challenging for the SI to complete an accurate bid for integration work without insight into the full scope of work. Scopes that lack important information often lead to assumptions that may result in inadequate risk protection. With the involvement of the system integrator and all teams at the start of the project, every stakeholder has an ample understanding of the scope.
An image of customer advocacy. System integrators that focus on the client’s desired outcomes in collaboration with the design firm and the general contractor establish a clear image of customer advocacy. Providing support to the customer results in better outcomes for all stakeholders, so it’s essential that the SI is considered a part of the general contractor’s team and has direct access to the client. This is also helpful when it comes to planning for the project, as a successful integration can reduce costs by sharing materials and tools across multiple systems.
The future of facility management
Buildings are more connected than ever, which means involving all stakeholders at the beginning of a project to encourage early collaboration and goal alignment has never been more important. Letting go of old habits and embracing digital-first strategies will revolutionize the facility management industry and usher in the era of FM 2.0. By doing so, the industry will be better positioned to create well-designed smart buildings, projects that are understood by each stakeholder, and the minimizing of technical risk, resulting in buildings that are constructed with maximum usability and cost-efficiency at the forefront.
Justin Lavoie is vice president of channel development at Schneider Electric. Tony Nolan is President & Co-Founder of Triton Concepts.