Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Facilities Management in Digital Design

Constantly promoting a building design management perspective, in this article we start by taking a 30,000 foot view of the BIM process and then focus in on how digital design is changing facilities management. Bringing this type of information forward into the design stage is an important step to understanding the requirements of modern owners in all their specifics. Facility operations is ultimately a characteristic of a building's function. With that in mind, I wanted to introduce a publication from ARUP which contained some insights which will be of interest to anyone responsible for increasing the value of architecture through digital design.

It's true designers could ignore these insights, but then specifications helpful to creating a valuable building would go untapped. The target one is aiming for would stay blurry and be much harder to hit. On the other hand, the ARUP document is long and therefore not so easily digestible. The goal of this piece is to communicate good ideas which represent low-hanging fruit designers can start implementing right away. To date, the field has been characterized by many individual strategies, and there is much to be gained from promoting the unified approach suggested by ARUP. 

The two main reason to consider digital facilities management and big data:

  • More end user control and flexibility, leading to better health and wellbeing.
  • Tracking methods to ensure the high performance building stays high performance.
ARUP outlines six categories of digital benefits across an asset's lifecycle which I've summarized below for convenience. These categories should be checked on every project going forward. 
  • A digital Portfolio strategy embraces a data-driven investment strategy. It helps improve the decision making process and creates a framework under which to analyze operational performance across an investment portfolio. Both of which can lead to higher returns and operational cost savings. 
  • Faster, safer, and more accurate project delivery during the fit-out stage is supported by process virtualization, enabling a smoother transition between design/engineering and construction. 
  • Project planning can be supported digitally with new forms of stakeholder engagement. The data can also be applied during the planning stage to facilities optimal site selection. Ultimately, using digital for project planning can differentiate oneself in the marketplace. 
  • Asset operations is shifting to rely on digital infrastructure and processes. It helps to understand the occupant's experience and increases flexibility through integration. All sorts of other digital services can be spun off at this stage which can increase building value. 
  • When architects and engineers approach an existing building, digital design allows faster, cheaper and more accurate existing conditions modelling. Furthermore, simulations can be done to help understand and improve the experiences of future users. 
  • Lastly, when it comes time to renew assets, portfolio-wide intelligence means a smarter and better informed plan. A digital platform promotes the streamlining of whole renewal process. 
A short but interesting case study included in the report is from Microsoft's I.T. and real estate department who makes the claim that even though only about 70% of their global campuses currently leverage digital dashboards, they've definitely come to rely on the technology to make better decisions. 

Lastly, introducing one last layer of depth, hopefully without adding too much more detail, I wanted to connect this shift in facilities management to where some of the best research on the topic is going on. This gives us insight into where the technology is expected to go so that architecture and engineering firms can try to get there first. Here we extend our thanks to the work of Stanford University's Center for Integrated Facility Engineering. This is where the most complex custom approaches are currently being studied but also where the topic of digital facilities management is being discussed almost philosophically. Reading about the center's research and accomplishments, one thing I appreciate about their approach is their steadfast dedication to integration. This follows other industry trends toward more focus on collaborative and interdisciplinary skills. 

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