2013 Trends Recap

Compiled by TFM Editorial Staff
From the December 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

With plans for the new year in full swing, a look back on both the mature and emerging issues in facility management (FM) deserve a second look. This feature brings together a snapshot of some of the topics covered in TFM’s “Trends” features during 2013. The scope of these topics as well as their evolution, even over the past 12 months, is indicative of the diverse and fast paced nature of the work of today’s facility managers (fms).

HVAC Refrigerant Phaseouts

Put into motion in the 1980s, the move to reduce the harmful impact of certain types of refrigerants on the environment is in full swing. These substances, used in building HVAC systems for many years, present challenges and opportunities for fms. Emitted chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants have been directly linked to the destruction of stratospheric ozone, which in the upper atmosphere shields the earth from harmful ultraviolet B radiation. These and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants also act as greenhouse gases.

(Photo: Thinkstock­)
(Photo: Thinkstock­)

First generation refrigerants spanned from the 1830s to 1930s and could be characterized by “using whatever worked.” The second generation (1931 to 1990s) focused on safety and durability, which included introduction of CFCs and HCFCs as well as continued use of ammonia and, to a lesser extent, hydrocarbons. More recently was the third generation (1990 to 2010s) when industry concern turned to ozone protection and began the phaseout of CFCs and later HCFCs.

The industry has entered the fourth generation of refrigerants with a focus on low global warming potential (GWP) options. The most effective approach for fms may be to address their application requirements as well as looming environmental concerns together. Piecemeal approaches will not meet eventual targets.

Improving efficiency in air conditioners, heat pumps, and refrigeration will remain critical as the energy used and resulting combustion emissions has a more significant impact on climate change than the refrigerants themselves. Fms need to address not only refrigerant selection and leak minimization, but system efficiency.

There have been several programs and initiatives underway that focus on the technologies, methods, and means needed to accommodate the imminent phase-down of high GWP refrigerants. One is the cooperative Low GWP Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (AREP) by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). Products covered include air conditioners, heat pumps, chillers, water heaters, ice makers, and refrigeration equipment. The program does not prioritize the alternatives; rather, it identifies potential replacements for high GWP refrigerants and presents the performance of these replacements.

Another initiative is the Guide for Sustainable Refrigerated Facilities and Systems by ASHRAE and the United Nations Environment Programme. This resource, slated for release in early 2014, addresses the range of facility and equipment design and efficiency alternatives for refrigerated processing, storage, and distribution (the cold chain).

Currently, HCFC-22 is the preferred refrigerant for many facilities and systems, particularly for small and medium sized conditioners; this ozone depleting gas is being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. In the U.S., a ban on the sale and distribution of pre-charged new equipment containing HCFC-22 has been effective since January 1, 2010.

Meanwhile, ASHRAE is creating a voluntary refrigerant management plan, with initial publication planned in the U.S. In addition to proper cradle to grave management, the document will provide guidance on suitable refrigerants to be used to meet growing demand. The goals for this project include tracking and reporting refrigerant use and life cycle, minimizing environmental impact of refrigerant use, and raising public awareness of the environmental issues and the economic impact of refrigerant use.

(Full article can be found online here.)

FM Meets IT

The daily operation of data centers is just as critical as the initial engineering, design, and construction of these assets. As part of this, it is essential that fms take a holistic approach to maintenance and performance.

Energy costs can account for approximately 70% of data center operational costs according to a Forrester Research Report (Updated Q3, 2011: “Power and Cooling Heat Up the Data Center”). Enacting a comprehensive management plan that enables new or legacy data centers to drive effective daily operations, energy efficiency, cost management, and optimized performance calls for several components. These include: preventive maintenance; building management systems (BMS) integration; operational baselines; retrocommissioning; and local utility engagement.

(Photo: Thinkstock.)
(Photo: Thinkstock.)

Chris Koerner, critical facilities manager of T5@LA, which completed construction of a 205,000 square foot data center in Los Angeles, CA in 2012, says this starts with knowing the facility’s equipment. According to Koerner, “Developing a comprehensive preventative maintenance program with equipment specific methods of procedure (MOPs) and extensive documentation is critical to the operation of all IT, electrical, and mechanical data center equipment.”

Having detailed records of the operational nuances of systems and equipment allows fms to detect potential issues sooner rather than later when a reading or measurement deviates from the norm. This documentation also becomes valuable when justifying operational budgets or evaluating opportunities to reduce expenses without impacting reliability.

Koerner uses his data center’s BMS to capture and cumulate operating data at three minute intervals (including outside air temperature, prevailing wind, external and internal wet bulb and dry bulb conditions, internal static pressure, and air temperature). “Establishing operational baselines, assessing daily operating trends, and tracking Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) helps identify trends or irregularities in energy usage and operational performance that, when interpreted proficiently, can be used to optimize performance throughout changing operating conditions and potentially avoid costly downtime,” says Koerner.

In addition, Koerner captures the facility’s PUE at five second intervals, which enables him to identify opportunities for immediate operational or energy efficiency improvements.

As with any system, operational issues develop over time when components degrade as a result of usage, age, deferred maintenance, and modification. In a data center, where rightsizing system operation is a moving target due to continuous changes in power density and heat load, retrocommissioning can have a huge impact. In the data center environment, this process targets:

  • deferred maintenance issues and equipment operating condition;
  • proactive maintenance practices;
  • energy management and sequence of operations; and
  • the relationship between power and cooling capabilities compared to critical load capacity.

In addition to assessing the operation of existing systems and equipment, further investigation into such processes as air flow management, water and/or air-side economization, and central plant optimization can reveal additional opportunities.

There are local, state, and federal energy reduction programs that offer incentives to organizations for reducing energy consumption. The utility representatives are responsible for managing and promoting these programs that range from direct incentives for equipment upgrades to programs that incentivize data centers for switching to generator power during brownout conditions. (Full article can be found online here.)

Lighting Decisions

In a February 2013 survey, TFM readers were asked about their recent and future lighting plans. In keeping with TFM’s reader profile, the majority of respondents represented high level decision makers. Thirty one percent indicated they make the final decision on lighting upgrades, and another 30% indicated they prepare the final proposal.

The majority of respondents managed commercial or institutional facilities (78%), while others worked in manufacturing plans (13%) as well as retail and other industries (e.g., worship, financial, arts/ cultural).

(Photo: Jack Hollingsworth.)
(Photo: Jack Hollingsworth.)

In the survey, 22% indicated their facilities had never undergone any type of lighting upgrade, or it had been more than 10 years since work has been done. However, survey respondents also shared that 40% of their facilities had undergone lighting renovations within the last three years. Meanwhile, 56% said they planned to renovate within the next three years.

Linear fluorescent lighting is still the most prevalent interior light source, used in 86% of the survey respondents’ facilities. The most common lighting upgrade for respondents has been the change from T12 bulbs to T8 (used by 67% of those responding to the survey). Compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting is used in 78% of buildings. Meanwhile, incandescent and halogen are used in 49% and 36% of facilities, respectively. Interior use of LEDs increased from 46% to 50% from the 2012 TFM survey on lighting.

Outdoors, for wayfinding and security lighting, metal halide was the most preferred light source at 58.2%, followed by high pressure sodium (51%). And LED usage moved from 24% (in the 2012 survey) to 30.6%.

Overall, 60% of those surveyed stated LEDs are used in some manner at their facilities. This light source is most commonly found in signage (45%); for exteriors (43%); and in lobbies (39%). About one-third of responding fms who didn’t use LEDs stated they thought these were too expensive or the technology was too new to specify.

Lighting controls were also a topic of the survey. Although 59% of the respondents said they use a “lighting management system,” the vast majority, more than 70%, employ sophisticated lighting control (multi-level switching and continuous dimming) in less than 25% of their space. The types of controls used are: motion sensors (71%); time switches (52%); and daylighting controls (35%). And 27% reported using a building automation system with integrated lighting controls.

It appeared the greatest lost opportunity to date is that only 6% of responding fms reported they had taken advantage of the Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction (CBTD), and one third did not know about this federal incentive. Still, 40% stated they planned to take advantage of the deduction during 2013. Part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (extended in 2008), the CBTD will expire at the end of 2013. It remains to be seen whether or not it will be replaced with similar legislation. (The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) is working with the U.S. Senate on the Commercial Buildings Modernization Act.) (Full article can be found online here.)

Furnishings And Space Planning

Choosing office furniture has never been a one-size-fits-all endeavor, but the forces at work today make the need for spaces that support different work styles and applications more important than ever. Creating those spaces becomes even more complex when taking into account real estate allocation and budgetary concerns. When choosing furnishings, fms can keep in mind some key drivers.

Individual workspace reduction. The size of workstations has been on a steady downward trend. Meanwhile, panel heights have also been dropping. In many cases, these panels are gone entirely, and a benching solution is the preferred choice.

Greater emphasis on collaboration. Many fms have cut back on the use of traditional workstations and private offices and are replacing them with collaborative meeting spaces. There has also been a move away from larger conference rooms to smaller huddle spaces or quiet rooms, along with more informal meeting spaces, lounge seating in the open plan, and coffee bars.

(Photo: Creative Office Pavilion)
(Photo: Creative Office Pavilion)

Increase in green office policies and practices. Research has shown that occupants are happier and more productive when natural light is available. In addition, there is a move toward locating private offices at the center of floor plans and placing associates out on the perimeter near windows.

Greater emphasis on flexibility and variety. The workforce is one of the most diverse ever, not just in terms of work styles and activities but also in terms of the differences of having four generations at work. One way to address this is to choose solutions that offer a high level of flexibility and adaptability.

Mobile workers. These people represent key constituency whose needs should be addressed. It has been stated that 34.9% of the global workforce would be mobile in 2013 and that the United States and Japan have, by far, the highest percentage of mobile workers in their workforce (Source: IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2009-2013 Forecast). These workers come into the office to collaborate, so connection is mission critical here. It is imperative that they are located adjacent to or within their respective teams.

Other trends include increased use of architectural walls and raised floors. The ability to reconfigure wiring and cabling without core drilling makes space changes easier. Another way fms are streamlining their furniture and related purchasing is through increased one-stop sourcing. To maximize this scenario, fms can communicate with their prospective suppliers (dealerships), disclose their needs early, and examine those firms’ capabilities, references, and potential to handle as many of the aspects of a project as possible. (Full article can be found online here.)

Building Automation

What is driving advancements in building automation systems (BAS)? From the technology side, there are three fundamental drivers—integration and interoperability; the growth of Internet Protocol (IP); and the “open” influence on physical systems. From the operational side, drivers include financial pressures to contain costs and improve operating efficiencies, the rising cost of energy and maintenance, and the need to maintain occupant comfort.

(Photo: Siemens.com/Press)
(Photo: Siemens.com/Press)

The industry appears to be entering a turning point and another “disruptive” period. More than 20 years ago, a significant disruptive class of technology emerged in the market that tested the traditional FM world. A primarily mechanical driven environment was introduced to affordable microcomputers and the advent of IP-based technology. With that came the arrival of embedded electronics and interoperable subsystems: mechanical, electrical, and software.

The development of applications (apps) is moving at a fast pace. These are a catalyst to drive the value creation for BAS further. Value is not only derived from the applications themselves but through their integration with one another.

Looking at BAS evolution from the device level, the lines of middleware are contracting. Controllers are being increasingly embedded with software and offering enhanced functionally. Not only are BAS systems moving up in the enterprise and to the cloud, but at the same time, devices are getting smarter with higher end capabilities.

Meanwhile, wireless control is continuing to become more important, especially when it comes to building retrofits and energy measurement and management. Retrofitting becomes more practical, because structural changes are not needed and disruption is kept to a minimum. Significant advances in wireless technology are being made, which means products are more robust in terms of signal reliability.

And, with energy costs continuing to go up (combined with the drive toward facility usage and performance), it is expected that measuring energy with meters will continue to be important.

Perhaps one of the most important developments for the future is the increased stance of facility owners that data from BAS should be treated as business critical information. Large amounts of information provide fms with in-depth knowledge about building performance. Going forward, facilities will operate with one data pool with the various applications and people drawing from it instead of from individual data silos. The issue of data ownership will continue to be debated and will need to be determined.

And while the day-to-day operation of a building will continue to be managed at the edge, fms will have access to applications and all their data residing in the cloud.

Cyber threats within the facility environment are becoming more frequent and increasingly sophisticated. Cyber threats are not just about being able to turn lights on or off, or raising or lowering the temperature a degree or two. Characterizing possible disruptions to lighting or HVAC controls as harmless mischief dramatically underestimates the value of these systems to productivity, safety, and the business. Threats and breaches to facility systems can also be entry points into an organization’s network and become a pivot point that can bypass many existing network defenses. Proven IT cyber security authentication and encryption technologies will be incorporated into systems and become a critical part of a building automation network. (Full article can be found online here.)

Web Based FM

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is a broad term that describes connecting various standalone devices to a network, typically the Internet; collecting and performing analytics on the collected data; and perhaps even controlling such devices remotely.

Networks in buildings are nothing new. Offerings from BAS providers have been around for at least 20 years. Often these systems already connect over a secure wide area network (WAN) for remote access from a service center. What IoT adds is the use of IPv6 at the field bus and device level. Traditionally, buildings have not used IP-based field buses and controllers, and most devices have connected to field bus controllers using simple digital and analog I/O methods.

(Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte.)
(Photo: Thinkstock/Stockbyte.)

But the premise of IoT is that IP (specifically IPv6, because this IP version is required to grant enough addresses) can be driven down to each individual device and controller on the field bus. As a result, the cost and complexity of a building network (moves, adds, and changes) is significantly reduced, and adding services to the network is eased.

The distinctive characteristics of building control networks merit a distinct segment within the broader IoT. This segment could be called a “community of devices,” in which devices work cooperatively to achieve a larger goal, such as the comfort of an entire facility. A community of devices can be IP-enabled and feature Internet connectivity, but it mostly operates as an autonomous and resilient peer-to-peer network, even when there is no Internet connectivity.

But what happens when the networks transition to all IP? Are such community and control services available on “vanilla” IP technology? Unfortunately, the answer is no. IP may be inevitable, but today’s IP is not sufficient.

The appeal of an IP-enabled building automation network is that it is easier and less expensive to manage. But the economics of IP enabling a $50 device, for instance, doesn’t make sense if it costs $10 to set up the IP connection. Transforming small, low-powered devices into IP-enabled devices using currently available silicon has been cost-prohibitive. To address this, BAS vendors need to work with the next generation of specialized Systems on Chips (SOCs) to IP enable as much of their portfolios as possible. (Full article can be found online here.)

Securing The Perimeter

Because the threats differ widely, those involved in mall security must balance the need for a visible police presence against the public’s need to feel at ease. To that end, cameras have been, and continue to be, indispensable tools. Shopping malls cover massive amounts of square footage and usually have long “arms and legs” that grow out of open spaces and corridors, providing many nooks and crannies for criminal activities. Labyrinths like these mandate the need for surveillance technology that provides 100% coverage.

Immediately after 9/11, most large malls were equipped with a multitude of cameras, many of which were fixed, pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ). But this approach may not be enough anymore.

(Photo: HID Global)
(Photo: HID Global)

One common example of nefarious behavior is credit card fraud, during which a group of people enter separately, meet up, and share information. In these cases, law enforcement isn’t immediately looking for the detail of their faces, but they need the ability to track the group, and if they have to switch from one camera to another, the trail is lost. Wider views provide security pros with situational awareness; they can see 10 to 15 shop doors with one camera, making it easier to understand an incident live or retrospectively.

For parking lots, a 360° camera can be placed on the external corner of a building to give the ability, in effect, to see around corners. When mounted on a light post, the field of view could be upwards of 300′ in any direction. With current technology, if an incident is reported quickly, cameras can find and follow criminals right out the door, which could lead to an immediate arrest.

Meanwhile, near field communications (NFC) technology may be an fm’s next tool for access control in many cases. The NFC Forum describes NFC as a short-range wireless connectivity technology (also known as ISO 18092) that provides intuitive, simple, and safe communication between electronic devices. Communication occurs when two NFC compatible devices are brought within four centimeters of one another. A payment transaction is the most common application, but because NFC is compliant with the ISO standards governing contactless smart cards, access control has become a suitable application.

Meanwhile, high frequency contactless technology provides greater card and reader protection, plus encrypted data storage for additional card data security. This can be used for a variety of applications, from opening doors, accessing computers, and using time and attendance and secure print management systems, to paying for meals or transit fares and making cashless vending purchases.

High frequency contactless systems can feature multi-layered security and privacy support that prevent cloning and tampering, and these are also portable to NFC enabled mobile devices. This mobile capability enables a more streamlined security experience for users who can then carry all of their credentials on their phones.

Whether on a card or mobile device, there are advantages to giving users a single solution for securing everything from the cloud to data to doors. It enables strong, multi-factor authentication throughout the IT infrastructure on key systems and applications, rather than just at the perimeter. It also enables an organization to leverage its existing credential investment. (Full article can be found online here.)

Power Of The Plugs

Plug loads—the energy use of items plugged into outlets—are the fastest growing energy use item in commercial facilities, and today these loads can represent as much as 50% of the energy use in an office building where other efficiency improvements have already been accomplished. Recent research led by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) shed light on office equipment energy use and savings strategies for cutting plug load impact.

Naturally, the energy used by office equipment varies somewhat between facilities, but the lion’s share—95% of the total energy use of the loads studied in the NBI research—is typically concentrated in three areas: desktop computers, imaging equipment, and monitors, with desktop computers being the largest proportion at 69%.

To get a handle on plug load energy use, fms need to start with some base metrics. The most common energy use metric for plug loads is watts per square foot (W/sf) of space. In standard design, it is not unusual to find 4 to 6+ W/sf specified while actual use is found to be less than 1 W/sf; high performance buildings have lowered this to .25 to .50 W/sf. When combined with time, this becomes the measure of energy consumption expressed as kilowatt hours (kWh).

Approaches to reducing equipment energy use at minimum cost can be grouped into three categories: software, hardware, and people. The amount of savings achieved by addressing these areas through these combined methods can vary widely, but the sites in NBI’s study showed reductions of 20% to 40% in office equipment energy use. Key to these results were aggressive power management settings, the installation and use of plug strips and timers, and occupant reminders and prompts.

Against the backdrop of seeking energy use reductions, fms may be eligible for utility programs that will help them track their energy use and costs effectively. Success greatly hinges on controlling costs and resources, and that control relies on fms being able to gather and digest the massive amounts of usage data collected.

One great source for data is utility bill data; however, this data can be over 60 days old by the time it is calendar and weather normalized for use. So where else can energy data be found? This is where Green Button comes in. Inspired by a White House call to action in 2011, Green Button is an industry led effort that empowers energy consumers to take control over their energy use and costs by enabling download of building energy use data in a user-friendly format.

Green Button creates a consistent data set and new ways to access the data. Green Button also allows third parties to work with their clients to connect to the data and provide added insights to help manage energy use. (Full article can be found online here.)

Green And Healthy Cleaning

To incorporate sustainable cleaning makes sense for human health, the environment, and for facilities. Many cleaning tasks can be done as effectively with sustainable products, rather than traditional chemicals. This can reduce occupant exposure to toxins, improve indoor air quality, and reduce waste. It is possible to implement a successful sustainable cleaning program that doesn’t increase costs or introduce confusion to a facility’s current program.

(Photo: Thinkstock/Digital Vision.)
(Photo: Thinkstock/Digital Vision.)

Fms should set guidelines and create a plan that will help to accomplish sustainable business goals. Another step to an effective green cleaning program is to keep cleaning processes as simple as possible and communicate them accordingly.

In creating a program, fms should aim to use products that can be reused and avoid single-use materials whenever possible. Another significant step is to eliminate cleaning product redundancy and replace them with sustainable options that serve the same purpose. For instance, some facilities have discovered that one general purpose sustainable cleaner can effectively replace three or four currently used products.

Energy conservation also comes into play while implementing sustainable cleaning processes. Cleaning processes should be conducted at ambient temperature—using cold water instead of hot water when practical. Staff should be reminded to turn out the lights in areas when they are not occupied and cleaning is complete. Additionally, purchasing decisions should incorporate data about what products and equipment use the least amount of energy.

One emerging green cleaning and sanitizing option is the use of electrolyzed water. Electrolyzed water comprises two solutions—a grease cutting cleaner and a sanitizer—which a system creates through the process of electrolysis. In electrolysis, salt containing water is subjected to an electrical current. The current, along with ion-selective membranes in electrolytic cells, produces two types of solutions: a high pH, non-corrosive dirt and grease cutting cleaner (sodium hydroxide), and a low pH, high dissolved oxygen, chlorine containing sanitizer and disinfectant (hypochlorous acid). The hypochlorous acid acts as a high efficacy sanitizer, while the sodium hydroxide is a broad spectrum cleaning solution.

Electrolyzed water has been used around the world for decades to clean and sanitize, notably in Japan, Russia, and Europe. In Japan, electrolyzed water is used for many applications, from sanitizing sushi to filling swimming pools to medical applications.

Despite its myriad uses and benefits, electrolyzed water has been slow to see widespread implementation in the United States. Electrolyzed water is recognized as a disinfectant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and listed for use in food processing by the Federal Drug Administration.

When it comes to exteriors, green cleaning efforts can be incorporated at a facility in many ways, including power washing procedures. Fms may not know about their responsibilities regarding keeping the environment safe from toxic cleaning chemicals.

As the EPA steps up its patrol of Clean Water Act violations, fms are under greater scrutiny to make the right decisions when it comes to hiring a pressure washing company. Facility owners—not the power washing provider—face fines up to $50,000 a day if the water used in a pressure washing project contains dangerous chemicals or is allowed to contaminate the storm drain system. The EPA levied a record $252 million in fines from civil and criminal penalties, far exceeding the $168 million collected in 2011. (Full article can be found online here.)

Maintaining Safety On Roofs

Cold weather—especially when it turns severe—can take a toll on the entire building envelope. This is especially true for roofing systems, which faces the brunt of heavy rains, increased precipitation, and snow. Making sure the roof is in tip-top shape is integral to maintaining high facility performance and limiting risk.

Rooftop safety programs and protocols are not new. However, the industry focuses on improving measures to ensure everyone from contractors to fms are safe when inspections or work on the roof are needed. It is especially important to take safety measures when dealing with specific areas of the roof, such as access points (ladders, hatches, and doorways) and around mechanical equipment requiring maintenance. A recent trend is the use of safety guards around roof hatches and “ladder up” safety posts on roof hatch ladders.

At the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training facility, walkway pads on the roof not only minimize the risk of falls, but also delineate pathways to equipment. The 145,000 square foot sports facility opened in August 2006. (Photo: Firestone Building Products)
At the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training facility, walkway pads on the roof not only minimize the risk of falls, but also delineate pathways to equipment. The 145,000 square foot sports facility opened in August 2006. (Photo: Firestone Building Products)

Another trend is an increased use of safety tapes and markings around roof perimeters and hazards. These products serve to create a perimeter around the roof edge, mechanical equipment, and other hazards by visually drawing attention to these areas.

Walkway pads can be another essential item that helps increase safety levels, and these pads serve two purposes. First, these provide a non-slip surface for those accessing the roof. Second, the pads actually protect the surface from wear and tear associated with individuals accessing the roof for maintenance and repairs. Walkway pads safeguard people and roof systems year round, but these are also ideal for the winter months as they can be manufactured to display cold flexibility.

Safety protocols and products are being driven by organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as rising insurance costs. By making safety a priority, fms can minimize risk and accidents, keep insurance premiums low, and help to maximize the service life of their roofs.

When it comes to warranties, fms often purchase preventive maintenance programs from manufacturers in order to maximize the life of their roofs and follow warranty guidelines. There is a trend of moving away from purchasing the standard 10 year warranty and investing in 15 year or even 20 year warranties.

Preventive maintenance is one of the best ways to protect and extend the life of roofing systems. So as the weather changes, it is a good time for fms to evaluate existing inspection and maintenance procedures to determine how well the current program is working. (Full article can be found online here.)