FM Frequency: My First Five Years With The TFM Show

By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the June 2005 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Sincemy initial visit to The TFM Show® in 2000, our industry and our nationhave changed dramatically. A dot com crash, attacks on 9/11, a seriesof corporate scandals, and an offensive against terrorism have beenfollowed by slow but steady economic growth and increased corporatehiring. Although high oil prices could slow the recovery, empty officespace and idling industrial facilities are showing new signs of lifewhile low interest rates continue to fuel new construction. These aregenerally good indicators for the facility management industry, andwith a few exceptions, I noticed an optimistic vibe at the show.

This year, the show was particularly enjoyable for me. It was myfirst experience as a TFM Show® session presenter. If you have a fewminutes, I want to fill you in on my experience and what you might havemissed.

(4/19) Tuesday

After a quick flight to Chicago, I sat in traffic aboard an”express” shuttle to the convention center. As I noticed the tracksbetween the highways to and from O’Hare, I thought of the light railproject planned for Charlotte, NC (where I work), and it reminded me ofthe chicken and the egg riddle. If mass transportation is sold as ameans to reduce congestion, a quick aerial shot of the Windy City couldsave Charlotte taxpayers millions of dollars.

After checking into my room, I went down to the hotel restaurant/barfor dinner. Within a very short time, TFM Show® management, exhibitors,and guests had unofficially gathered. Every few minutes another tablewas added to the developing party and by the time last call rang out,about 30 of us were talking about facilities issues, constructionprojects, business ideas, and our families, engaging in one of the mostvaluable aspects of trade shows and professionalconferences-networking! Hmm.were you expecting me to say drinking?Shame on you! Although I think the guy who stood on the table must havebeen doing a little of both.

(4/20) Wednesday

I woke up late (probably too much networking Tuesday night) but hadtime to sign in and attend several education sessions. I particularlyenjoyed Dr. John Studebaker’s presentation: “Reducing Energy Costs:Management Techniques That Really Work.” He discussed the importance ofunderstanding utilities contracts and explained how rate plans and loadprofiles impact monthly expenses. He also reviewed specific componentsof utility bills and presented several opportunities for reducing andmanaging these important expenses.

After lunch, I walked the exhibit hall and met several suppliers.The Antron® carpet booth had an impressive demo-they actually pourediodine/coffee/ink cocktails on carpet samples to demonstrate the stainresistance of their product. Even the most skeptical observers had toadmit that was pretty cool.

I also spent some time in the Group C booth catching up with famous”Tricks of the the Trade” Columnist Jim Elledge. We were manning thebooth so attendees could stop by and “Ask the Experts” anything andeverything. After being stumped in the first few minutes, we quicklyscouted the area and identified the nearest rest rooms and concessionstands.

Wednesday evening, we enjoyed a welcome reception at the FieldMuseum. After being treated to a few of Chicago’s famous foods, a groupof us explored the Ancient Egypt exhibit and were fascinated bydisplays explaining pyramid construction, mummification, farming,tools, jewelry, and the culture of the early Egyptians. Can you imaginehaving a design/build meeting with a pyramid architect and a pharaoh?

(4/21) Thursday

Thursday morning I attended Jim Elledge’s session, “Benchmarking:The Downfall of Corporate Facilities” and enjoyed the discussion offacilities management and various statistics and metrics compiled byBOMA, IFMA, and other trade organizations. Jim was careful to point outthat many of these statistics represent a very limited sampling offacilities. He warned facility managers to be careful when applyingseemingly universal benchmarks to facilities with distinct operationsand needs.

Another fantastic education session Thursday was led by Bruce Grovescalled “Solving Mold Problems in Buildings.” Bruce reviewed thefundamentals of biology problems in buildings and explained why it’spractically impossible to establish IAQ standards. He said that sincethere are so many things naturally in the air and since everyone hassome kind of sensitivities, specifying standards would be a veryinexact science. Bruce referenced EPA troubleshooting checklists andmany operational tips were offered. I think everyone found theinformation valuable and enjoyed the lively discussion.

Thursday afternoon included a general session where Best of Showawards were followed by the guest speaker, former Secretary of theInterior, Bruce Babbitt. After a humorous opening, Mr. Babbittdescended into predictions related to the environment. His suggestionabout oceans rising 20′ by the end of the century sounded likesomething right out of a Hollywood disaster film. (I had never thoughtabout my home in the middle of the Carolinas as potential oceanfrontproperty.)

I think facility managers everywhere would agree that we have aresponsibility to minimize the environmental footprint of ouroperations. There are plenty of social, economic, and competitivereasons to cut utility consumption and be as efficient as possible. Butthe scientific community is still studying global climate fluctuationsand evaluating if weather changes are natural or influenced by humans.

Thursday afternoon, I walked the exhibit hall and watched afascinating masonry demonstration with junior craftsmen buildingstructures while their precision and speed were monitored by moreexperienced masons.

Thursday evening featured the Facility Executive of the Year awardand dinner. The guest of honor, Ward Komorowski, recognized his entirefacilities team and his family. He graciously thanked each of them forthe support and hard work that contributed to his achievement. Awonderful slide presentation and Ward’s moving speech were thehighlights of the night.

(4/22) Friday

Friday morning I gave my HVAC and IAQ presentation. My group and Idiscussed the critical knowledge gap that frequently begins duringmechanical design and tends to grow during construction, start up, andoperation. We thought about the need for facility managers toparticipate in the facility design process and to understand how andwhy they should adjust their buildings’ mechanical operations. We alsotalked about the delicate balance between energy efficiency and indoorair quality. EPA checklists for IAQ troubleshooting and ASHRAEstandards were reviewed and referenced. The group discussed severalrelevant examples and questions. I really enjoyed the interactivesession and everyone’s participation.

[For a copy of Crane’s slidepresentation, please download HVAC & IQ – “Speaking the Language” from our Web site.]

After the morning sessions, I had to catch an early flight and wasunable to participate in the excellent facility tours. But I’m alreadylooking forward to next year’s TFM Show® April 10-12, 2006 at Chicago’sNavy Pier.

Crane is amechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress KleinProperties, a leading real estate developer and property managementservices provider in the Southeast

Past FM Frequency columns can be found online. To voice your personal views in real time, come to FacilityBlog!