CREW President Shares Insights On Facilities For 2020

In this Q&A, Holly Neber, 2019 President of the CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network and CEO of AEI Consultants, looks ahead for facilities.

Recently, Facility Executive had the opportunity to ask Holly Neber, current President of the CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network, about facility management challenges and opportunities for 2020 from her perspective.

Holly Neber
CEO, AEI Consultants and 2019 President of the CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network)

Neber is also CEO of AEI Consultants, an international consulting firm providing comprehensive services to commercial lenders, property owners, managers, tenants, and developers. These services include environmental, property and facility assessments; zoning and energy consulting; site investigation and remediation; industrial hygiene; and construction risk management.

Facility Executive: Looking ahead to 2020, what will be some of the top areas of consideration for facility management and building owners? Are there any specific recent or upcoming changes to building standards and codes that you see they should be aware of? 

Neber: The largest single building code change that will impact facility owners and managers in 2020 is the federally mandated phasing out of manufacturing Freon (R-22 / HCFC-22), a chemical component that is widely used in older HVAC cooling systems.

The industry has known about this phase-out for some time now, but many facility management professionals and building operators have not yet replaced working systems simply because they contain R-22. While stockpiles of R-22 exist in the hands of local HVAC contractors, its value is anticipated to increase substantially as supply diminishes.

Looking ahead to 2020, building operators will find that continuing to use R-22 may not be a cost-effective solution due to these rising costs. They may now want to consider replacing these HVAC systems with those that use more efficient and less harmful refrigerants like R-407c.

Facility Executive: What are your top strategies for facility management teams looking to ensure their buildings remain in compliance and, if necessary, are upgraded in a timely and cost-effective manner?

Neber: Engaging building specialists is the key to staying in compliance with ever-evolving building codes. Building specialists on quarterly, annual, or even five-year inspection cycles can aid facility managers in navigating ongoing requirements. Based on our experience, we recommend that buildings be evaluated every five years to monitor overall condition.

All building(s) and/or building systems will eventually have failure points — thresholds where systems age out, exhibit poor operation, and/or display functional obsolescence.

Predictive analysis and understanding of where failure points and code requirements meet enables facility managers and owners to develop maintenance programs and budgets to address replacements or upgrades that comply with lifecycle needs and code requirements in a cost-effective manner.

Facility Executive: What are some of the trends in building upgrades and features you are anticipating in 2020?

Neber: The largest discussions today revolve around energy efficiency and green building programs. Many organizations including the federal government, American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), have adopted the 2030 Challenge, which states that new buildings, developments, and major renovations shall be carbon-neutral by 2030.

As more states and local municipalities bring these themes into their own building code programs, the proposed changes will continue to push for higher building performance. Building owners and operators are working to integrate cost-effective energy efficiency systems into their operations, and AEI supports facility managers across all property types and portfolios to manage this process through capital planning programs.

In addition, by keeping abreast of advances in building upgrades and features, property management and asset management teams are increasingly utilizing leading-edge technology, which is elevating the job descriptions of team members to include savvy and experience with the latest technology platforms.

Facility Executive: As data collection and reporting technologies advance, what challenges, if any, do building owners and managers face in navigating these new processes?

Neber: Rapidly evolving technology is changing the responsibilities of property and asset managers as they must now sort through copious amounts of data to extract meaningful information. With this in mind, we’ve found it effective to always ask clients: “What are the challenges and obstacles you are facing?”

Needs vary from organization to organization, so based on that answer, we modify our approach and reporting to ensure we can anticipate and address every potential challenge faced by building owners and managers.

The type of data collected also presents a unique challenge. Many data capture firms employ a “one size fits all” mentality, and many building operators manage portfolios at arms-length, even as they are making major decisions to reposition a property. By assessing the needs of the Client, consultants better position themselves to determine how a property is performing or positioned in the marketplace. At AEI, we further utilize the most recent technology to obtain relevant information that allows organizations to make the best decisions regarding lease negotiations, future market positioning, and property acquisition or divestiture.

To prepare for how changes in technology will impact the industry, the CREW Network is working hard to educate our membership. For instance, there were several technology-based educational opportunities at the recent CREW Convention in Orlando, FL. By keeping pace with how the industry is evolving, we are well positioned to continue navigating the challenges faced by today’s professionals well into 2020 and beyond.