FM Issue Bonus: Powering The Evolving Facility

technology trends
Innovation and a broad view are among the essentials to power high performance buildings. In Sydney, Australia, the Central Park development features an on-site tri-generation plant that supplies electricity, heating, and cooling. (Photo: Wikipedia)

By Kenneth Freeman
From the July/August 2016 Issue

The buildings we occupy are rapidly evolving to support the ever changing needs of occupants. Buildings are becoming smarter with more system integration required, and the role of the facility manager has never been more important—or more complex. Not only are facility executives responsible for ensuring the safety, security, and comfort of people in and around buildings, they must also stay up-to-date on the latest technology trends made possible by the digital revolution and the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Replacing outdated technology with the latest solutions is imperative for meeting the demands of today’s users. Employees expect their experience in the workplace to be similar to what they have at home, whether that’s streaming music wirelessly or having easy access to charge their devices. From vehicle charging stations and motion sensitive, solar powered lights in the parking lot, to day lighting sensors and integrated shade controls in the executive boardroom, there are a wide range of solutions that can work together to optimize a commercial building and make a facility manager’s job much easier.

In order to be effective in this evolving environment, facility managers need to be able to deliver in three key areas:

  • reaching sustainability goals;
  • providing easy access to power; and
  • facilitating an open and collaborative environment.

Reaching Sustainability Goals

Facility executives have watched the cost of energy climb as the demand for constant power has increased. The ability to measure and manage a facility’s energy use is imperative in controlling these costs and meeting evolving energy codes and standards.

To meet sustainability goals, infrastructure efficiency should be one of the first areas examined. Starting with a facility’s individual components and systems, the entire structure should fully integrate with the building control system. If this isn’t the case, facility management can benefit from a provider that doesn’t have a proprietary system, offers a wide breadth of solutions, and can integrate with a range of building control systems. This flexibility allows the facility power infrastructure to adjust and grow as necessary.

Using building control systems with occupancy sensors and timers to automate spaces is very beneficial when pursuing energy use reductions. Whether it’s lighting, power, or temperature control, having systems in place that allow the building to run as efficiently as possible helps to meet aggressive energy management objectives.

While implementing these systems is essential to meeting sustainability objectives, make sure the solutions chosen are compatible with each other. Some solutions can make functions more complicated for users when combined with another company’s technology. The last thing a facility manager wants is to make day-to-day operations more difficult for users.

To ensure building occupants don’t face these challenges, it’s important to choose something that is intuitive for users, but also powerful enough to handle the organization’s needs. Systems that are too complex are often underutilized or completely ignored. A good manufacturer can help mitigate these issues by helping to select the components that will work best for the organization, and specific facility.

Providing Access to Power

People today need and want connectivity and access to power at all times, wherever they are. Whether in their workplace, hotel, school, or otherwise they expect to be able to access the Internet and charge their devices.

Wireless data has enabled users to work from anywhere, which has led to the proliferation of people carrying multiple devices. This expansion of users and multiple devices, along with the expectation that they can work anywhere has created a dilemma for facility management. There are simply never enough electrical connections, and these are often inconvenient for the end user. The dreaded low battery signal is a stressful event for many, so facility managers need to be able to deliver solutions that can solve this problem efficiently and cost effectively.

Outdoor charging stations can be essential cornerstones for any patio or outdoor communal space. From corporate facilities to higher education institutions, outdoor charging stations encourage collaboration and social engagement, and this is only the start. In the near future, laptops and tablets will come embedded with the ability to charge wirelessly and users will expect to be able to do so in multiple locations. Working with a provider that has technology partnerships in place and is heading in this direction is important for staying ahead of the curve.

Facilitating Open, Collaborative Environments

Just as the need for power and connections has increased, commercial buildings have evolved into wide open collaborative spaces with fewer walls and columns through which to run electrical and A/V communications. With open workspaces comes the need for power and data access in the middle of these open rooms. There are a host of solutions available to easily and affordably accommodate open floor plans.

Solutions such as floor boxes, tabletop power, and multimedia A/V services, including telecommunications connectivity, can meet this need. In floor systems, raised flooring, intelligent digital lighting, and management control systems also provide cost-effective and flexible support for open spaces.

Ultimately, facility management is responsible for assuring an occupant’s health and safety, while enhancing productivity. These objectives result in a continuously evolving, never-ending list of fluctuating demands. Working with a solutions provider that understands the needs and can deliver solutions across the board is imperative in meeting these objectives. A partner that provides everything for a connected infrastructure—from data center to workstation, whether it is power, lighting, data, or audio—can design a complete solution.

With facilities becoming more integrated and complex, working with a technology partner that provides end-to-end solutions can be a critical advantage. This is the only way to ensure one point of contact to hold accountable. In lieu of the old adage, “one throat to choke,” it may be better to consider “one hand to shake.”

A solutions provider with a comprehensive offering of electrical and digital solutions for commercial buildings can help facility managers integrate data, power, and AV solutions into one platform that will operate efficiently and easily. As mentioned above, one of the most important roles of a facility manager is to make sure the products and technology do their jobs, so teaming products that work in cohesion is paramount.

Lastly, always plan for the future when implementing a solution. Don’t get stuck with a proprietary system that requires revisiting the same issues every six months. Plan now for the next six years. With the expansion of connectivity, the drive for high performance buildings, and the constant pressure to do more with less, facility managers have myriad concerns. The right technology partner will take a consultative approach, identify current issues, and design a solution that meet today’s goals and is flexible enough to address evolving demands.

evolving facility infrastructureFreeman is senior vice president, demand creation for Legrand North America, a global provider of solutions that deliver and manage power, light, and data headquartered in West Hartford, CT.

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