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The FM Dilemma – how to maintain buildings in a post-covid world

As the pandemic took hold in March our towns and cities began to empty.  The skylines of high-rise office buildings that define many of our cities remained the same shiny beacons while their inhabitants were absent for months.  Activity outside the buildings was scarce, but inside told a different story. Dedicated teams of engineers, property managers, cleaners and security staff were keeping the engines of our economy ticking over. They ensured buildings were running smoothly – and crucially, safe and ready to reopen.

As the coronavirus disrupted our daily lives, landlords and facilities managers spent their days working on maintenance tasks. It marks a significant shift from six months ago when the focus was on managing the tenant experience.

Landlords and facilities managers were on the frontline and used the lockdown to carry out minor checks, upgrades and work that could previously only be done at weekends or overnight such as testing lift systems or lighting repairs. Deep cleaning in buildings was also a priority.

Staff Safety

The safety of staff was and is still paramount.  Work schedules were transformed to make sure facilities managers juggled the needs of the building with staff being off sick or self-isolating. Night shifts were encouraged so staff could avoid rush hour on public transport or drive to work to reduce the risk of infection.

But one way to keep staff safe and buildings in good condition is  predictive maintenance which can flag issues before they become a serious problem. Plus, as buildings get smarter, engineers can monitor their security via live imaging, and track and adjust energy performance offsite using sensors connected to a building’s infrastructure.  This can minimize human intervention until it is needed.

The pandemic may have forced building owners to assess the solution that remotely monitors and manages facilities to ensure properties are safe, compliant and not prone to any unforeseen problems.  It now begs the question of how traditional methods of monitoring versus using IoT remote monitoring systems should be adopted in a post-covid world.

Smart monitoring

Smart sensors provide masses of valuable information to monitor building performance and flag any unfolding issues to offsite teams. Remote dashboard monitoring displays real-time data that allows teams to identify issues at a much earlier stage, while some systems employ machine learning to automatically adjust and redefine maintenance plans. This, in turn, can help prolong the life of the costly appliances they service.

Equally, with sensors collecting a building’s operational data and system alerts flagging risks, such as burglaries, gas leaks or poor air quality, it frees up engineers to then take on more complex tasks

With more data to analyse and a growing number of tools on the market to decipher the numbers, facilities management teams are able to understand how to improve operations, especially when buildings are under-occupied, and identify long-term cost savings.

Over the long-term, the return on investment means that costs are rapidly offset by new efficiencies that if left unchecked would lead to expensive mishaps.  Likewise, another major upside is the energy efficiency that can be achieved in a short time. By identifying where energy consumption can be reduced, not only do the sensors save organisations money, but they also address a key sustainability issue the built environment is facing – the UK’s journey towards net carbon zero.

So, if these platforms reduce costs, preserve the life of assets and keeps the building compliant, should owners be looking at the post-covid world as a time to pivot and manage their buildings more efficiently?

It seems the underlying theme of greater monitoring from outside the building’s four walls is front of mind for many owners.  And while for now, it’s about making sure buildings are ready for when tenants resume their normal activities, owners have a lot to think about, after all this is a new world that we are all trying to navigate.

Read time: 3:28 min.

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