FM Issue: Eyeing The End Result

By Kirsten Soderlund and Laura Handler
Published in the October 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Joe Boiler arrives at a facility ready to correct a problem. If he has a drawing or documentation, it’s more likely to be wrong than right: showing the wrong room, wrong equipment, wrongly installed, wrong access, modified twice, and not shown. No wonder he’s standing there with the wrong equipment or tools. Even experienced mechanics often make their first (wasteful) trip to do only fact finding. In 2012, in a world with remote robotic surgery, pilotless drone warfare, and digital precision, Joe Boiler can’t find the right room in his facility.

Life Cycle & Wood Construction

By Alberto Cayuela and Lynn Warburton

Set amid the natural beauty of the Pacific coast, The University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver Campus is accentuating its sense of place by emphasizing its location. To accomplish this, new buildings on campus are encouraged to design for strong indoor/outdoor relationships and celebrate views of surrounding landscapes. The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) at UBC is a prime example of an exposed wood structure making this connection. It is also one of the first UBC buildings constructed after the 2009 Wood First Act was passed in British Columbia, requiring the use of wood as a primary building material in all new provincially funded buildings.

The purpose of this Act is to facilitate a culture of wood as a primary building material, in a manner consistent with the British Columbia Building Code. The CIRS facility was built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification standards, and it is on track to receive Living Building Challenge recognition from the International Living Future Institute.

While dimensional wood has been the backbone of residential construction in most of North America for decades, using wood as the main structural component of large commercial and industrial buildings is a relatively new trend. Since the 1950s, heavy timber construction in commercial and industrial buildings in the Pacific Northwest and indeed in most of North America faded away as steel and concrete took over.

This trend is now reversing. Wood can be used in any mid-size building as long as fire and safety provisions are met, and structural requirements and site specifications can be accommodated.

Today’s wood products provide sound options for most types of construction. Certification ensures forest management and industry standards are adhered to. The three certifications used for CIRS were: Canadian Standards Association-Sustainable Forest Management Standards (CSA-SFM); Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (FSI). Third-party, independent certifications are the most objective and trusted. Green rating systems such as LEED or Living Building Challenge have wood standards which can serve as a useful guide even if the project isn’t going through the certification process.

Engineers and architects are combining monolithic heavy timber structural components such as glue-laminated (glulam) beams and columns, parallel-strand lumber (parallam) girders and I-joists, and wall and floor systems made of cross-laminated timber (CLT), with the use of curtain walls and other glazing systems to increase access to natural light. The use of heavy timber structural members for CIRS ensured that each facility occupant has a naturally lit workspace, heightened aesthetics, and comfort. Early indicators suggest this is making a measurable improvement in productivity, performance, and overall contentment for those who work and study in the facility.

In compliance with British Columbia’s Building Code, heavy timber components were chosen at CIRS as a sound structural solution. Heavy timber is less heat conductive than steel or concrete so it reduces heat transfer that spreads fires. Additionally, the members are sized slightly larger than structurally required in order to handle external charring in case of fire. The charred exterior will create a layer of insulation that prevents the interior from burning, thereby maintaining structural integrity. The strength-to-weight ratio of heavy timber confirms its fitness as a good structural component for seismic performance, and earthquake research suggests that modern wood structures absorb energy and seismic forces better than other building materials.

The CIRS facility is more than the sum of its parts. The objective of the UBC team was to prove that rather than just reduce environmental impacts, buildings can positively contribute to environmental integrity and improve human well-being. This approach advocated by researchers at UBC is part of a sustainability paradigm called “regenerative thinking.”

While the intent was to use wood as the primary structural material for CIRS, the design team compared the carbon footprints of steel, concrete, and wood for the building structure. Relative to the embodied carbon in a structural material, wood had a clear advantage over concrete and steel. It is a renewable resource, powered by solar energy that in sustainably harvested forests results in trees sequestering and locking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. CIRS locks more carbon dioxide in its wood components than what was emitted during the extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and installation of the other building materials (steel, cement, glass, aluminum, etc.), enabling net positive carbon performance. N

Cayuela is the associate director of UBC’s Sustainability Initiative (USI) and the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS). He was the program manager of CIRS responsible for project planning, implementation, and delivery from the initial feasibility stage through post-commissioning and operations. Cayuela has experience in sustainable building and renewable energy projects from working in the private sector, including at his last position as senior project manager with Stantec Consulting.

Warburton is a communications consultant specializing in sustainability for private and public sector clients. Communicating for the built environment, clean tech and innovation, she writes for the web and industry publications and is a leader in building culture through communications.

This problem is more than frustrating, it’s costly. Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) calculates it spends 10% of its annual operations cost on fact finding—equivalent to $2.2 million per annum. What is the role of designers and builders in correcting this problem? Can a facility management (FM) system pinpoint problems? Before a solution is proposed, industry stakeholders need to step back and analyze the problem.

The life cycle of a facility can be divided into three phases:

  1. the design phase where ideas are turned into a set of drawings,
  2. the building phase where these ideas become rooms with walls and windows, and
  3. the final phase where people occupy these spaces. Traditionally, barriers are fixed between these phases—resulting in a fragmented and highly inefficient building process.

In 2002, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reported that an estimated 4.5% of a facility’s cost is lost due to inadequate interoperability, or lack of communication and proper documentation between these phases. This same study found that the capital put in place for new construction or renovation of facilities in the United States was an estimated $374 billion, which means every year $15.8 billion is lost to this broken system—almost enough to pay the mortgage.

While these figures are discouraging, the upside is that there is plenty of room for improvement. Many in the industry have already reduced barriers between the design and build phases by using Building Information Modeling (BIM) throughout the project life cycle and by working under Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) contracts.

And while the industry has yet to use these tools to develop a systematic approach to reducing life cycle cost, industry leaders are looking beyond the traditional design-build-occupy framework to a more holistic view. This shift has encouraged teams from different disciplines to work more cohesively than ever and to base their planning on the late Stephen R. Covey’s philosophy “Begin with the end in mind,” popularized in the construction industry by Penn State.

There are two overarching ways to reduce life cycle cost through operational efficiency: design with operational efficiency in mind, and integrate and optimize operational data.

Design with operational efficiency in mind. Although architects and builders understand how decisions drive costs during design and construction, only facilities managers (fms) truly understand the long-term cost of a decision. The traditional process often excludes fms from decision-making and then leaves them to manage the results.

IPD encourages key players, including owners, fms, occupants, architects, engineers, and builders, to engage in the project from the earliest phases of design. By bringing teams in early, a facility’s designer can consider options and select the greatest benefit and lowest life cycle cost. Integrated teams can further improve decision making with BIM-enabled analytical tools. When properly used, BIMs can analyze design options for energy usage, performance, construction cost, and operational cost.

Integrate and optimize operational data. Design and construction teams are increasingly able to include BIMs in turnover, at the end of construction. There is huge potential in the rich data set that resides in the BIM; it includes the evolution of the project, from design intent to as-built conditions. However, to leverage this dataset efficiently to operate a facility (the physical asset), fms need dependable, consistent digital assets.

Although both of these practices are valuable, a focus on streamlining digital assets for use during building operation can be most valuable. For large campus owners working on BIM and FM system implementation, a common strategy emerges. Not surprisingly, it is effective to “begin with the end in mind,” and there are five methods that can be used to achieve this.

Align stakeholders around “the end.” Typically, several perspectives surface around both the current problem and end goal.

  • FM, operations, and building staff rarely agree on the source of high operational costs. Complaints include a combination of inaccurate documents, outdated mechanical systems, inadequate funding, and poor implementation of each system.
  • Finance and purchasing departments are convinced there is a problem and they have the answer: tighter fiscal controls, more hard bidding, and mandated productivity improvements.

Depending on the facility, project, or equipment, none or all of those perspectives may be accurate. Owners may not want to spend money to organize data, but often they cannot assess a problem without aggregated building performance data. Many organizations hire external consultants to facilitate the process since they don’t have a stake in a particular viewpoint.

Determine FM system components. Chuck Mies, an FM integration expert at Autodesk, Inc., breaks the FM systems down into:

  • Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) for work order and asset management;
  • Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) for space management;
  • Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) for electronic file storage; and
  • Energy Management System (EMS) for mechanical and electrical systems control and monitoring.

Not every physical asset requires all four components of the FM systems, and fms may use any combination of these. Fms need to determine which systems the facility or campus has, as well as what it requires. Fms need to inventory existing software platforms and identify the functionality of each platform. In the case of overlapping functionality, they should identify which platform will be used.

Define standards and data requirements. In order to align systems efficiently, fms need to define standards (such as coordinate system and nomenclature). And to use systems efficiently, data requirements (including geo-referencing, location identification, file organization, and specific equipment attributes) should be defined.

Fms are in the best position to know what information the FM operations require, and they need to use any and every tool available to gather this data. These tools include surveys, interviews, and shadowing

If an fm is not familiar with BIM based data, the inclination may be to say, “Include it all.” However, too much data is just as harmful as not enough data, so firms facilitating implementation of BIM based standards with fms often include training in order to hone in on precise requirements for equipment.

Implement standards. For new construction projects, fms need to integrate standards into their Requests for Proposals and Turnover requirements. With project stakeholders working more closely and setting up information flows through design and construction, they are willing to flow the information into occupancy.

Fms must also state data requirements for all stages of design and construction to avoid the frustration and lost time associated with as-built conditions, which may vary widely from design documents. They should include a list of unwanted information. As more builders develop BIM capabilities, there will be beneficial data (e.g., accurate in-place geometry, verified maintenance access zone data) and unnecessary data (e.g., sequence data, logistics information).

When design and construction teams clearly understand downstream data requirements, they will incorporate data earlier. This practice minimizes loss of information and document turnover time to fms.

This approach is not only for new construction. Existing buildings also benefit from life cycle costing and beginning “with the end in mind.” A comprehensive outlook that outlines the life of the building helps operations teams make sound decisions based on the specific situation. As much as is possible a building’s future should be planned, including how often occupants will change, when the building will undergo renovations, and how the building’s current state will impact future maintenance and operational needs. With a well developed timeline, it is easier to implement standards.

Maintain databases. As operations staff maintain their facilities, they need to maintain the database for these facilities. Using clear protocols and simple procedures, they need to capture data from preventive and emergency maintenance work orders. This will likely require a thorough training program.

Changing The Approach

While taking the IPD approach requires a new way of thinking about making decisions, managing budgets, and restructuring practices, it can reduce costs significantly. If the industry better manages information passed down from design and construction alone, operational costs in the U.S. can be reduced by $15.8 billion. Beginning “with the end in mind” isn’t about slashing budgets but making better decisions and seeing more savings over the life cycle. If the building industry can shift the paradigm it can start doing the right things from the beginning and realize substantial savings.


Soderlund and Handler both work for Tocci Building Corporation, a Woburn, MA-based firm specializing in lean construction and sustainable building projects throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Soderlund is the virtual design and construction (VDC) modeler responsible for the integration of BIM and facilities management for the Peter W. Rodino Federal Office Building, part of the GSA’s Administration FM/BIM Pilot Program. Handler is director of VDC with responsibilities that include current efforts around data standardization. She is also responsible for Tocci’s VDC services group and is a leader of the BIMForum, a joint venture between Associated General Contractors and the American Institute of Architects.