Changing needs and Covid-19 driving facility management firms to up their game

By
Ho Chee Kit
,
Cushman & Wakefield
/ EdgeProp Singapore
|
October 23, 2020 9:00 AM SGT
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of technological adoption across the built environment, and especially within the area of facilities management.
 FM professionals - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
With the outbreak of Covid-19, FM professionals are taking the opportunity to re-look at space usage (Photo: Cushman & Wakefield)
Earlier in April 2018, Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) set up the tripartite Facilities Management (FM) Implementation Committee to develop a blueprint for FM companies to enhance smart FM service delivery. The committee, comprising building owners, FM service providers, trade associations and chambers, pivots to technology as an enabler.
With the outbreak of Covid-19, FM professionals are taking the opportunity to re-look at space usage, advising asset owners and users on the most effective use of building space to meet the changing demands of the workforce and improve asset monitoring and performance. It is tempting to think that with more employees going back to the office, the office experience will revert to business-as-usual pre-Covid-19 conditions.
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Nothing is further from the truth.
Employees are now more sensitive to the quality of the user experience. First, they want to know that their safety and health is assured the moment they step into the office building, ride the lift up to their office, move around for the next eight hours within the office, to the point that they leave the office. FMs are therefore faced with the challenge to move from managing operations to managing the workplace user experience.
PROPTECH - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Employees are now more sensitive to the quality of the user experience (Photo: Cushman & Wakefield)

Proptech 2.0

The idea of proptech increasing the efficiency of buildings has taken on a new meaning with Covid-19. This virus has been a catalyst for technological adoption across the built environment, particularly within FM.
FM professionals are taking the opportunity to reconsider the use of space, advising asset owners and users on the most effective use of buildings to meet changing demands of workforces, and improve asset monitoring and performance.
There is no better time than now, as corporate occupiers begin to test their agility models with more employees returning to the office, taking into account the processes which have been re-engineered during the “circuit breaker” into Phase Two, and the new technologies that have been used to re-build business processes.
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Smart buildings, with Internet of Things (IoT) and AI-enhanced facilities, can positively impact productivity for occupants and the perceived property value for the benefit of owners, but it is important to start with the end in mind. The built environment exists for the end-user, so customer satisfaction is ultimately the goal. In this regard, there are countless technology solutions being tested to help improve the customer experience – apps to book desks where users can immediately give feedback about their experience, log issues they face as they use the space so that they can be served on demand, rather than served based on a strict adherence to a maintenance schedule.
The same app to book a desk can also be used to order a cup of coffee, select a time to collect their dry clean, search for F&B options around the area – consolidating all these data over time will give building owners valuable information about the types of services their customers are looking for, and will play a key role in shaping the kind of retail brands they should be looking to fill the space at their building.
People Focused - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Within the office, the same sensors that are being used to track availability of desks can potentially be analysed further to track occupancy patterns during the day, during the week and during the year (Photo: Cushman & Wakefield)

Big data in action

Within the office, the same sensors that are being used to track availability of desks can potentially be analysed further to track occupancy patterns during the day, during the week and during the year. This will enable building owners and facility managers to make predictions about vacancy rates in the medium to long term, and respond accordingly. The same applications that log customer feedback will, over time, also enable facility managers to anticipate problem spots and rectify them ahead of a problem presenting itself. In a nutshell, access to real-time, data-driven insights facilitates predictive management of facilities, and the net result is that the building occupier’s experience is seamless.
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Technologies that enhance connectivity and unify management also enable workplaces to perform better, scale faster and deliver an interactive experience for customers. FM companies which amalgamate these data from the portfolio of buildings they manage are also well-positioned to optimise their operations to deploy mobile technicians as and when there are trouble spots.
What is taking the industry by storm is the emergence of the Virtual Technician which scans wide portfolios of individual buildings, bundled by assets – industrial, commercial and, retail – in a remote operation centre. The technician, which scans data that is continually being pushed out through IoT and sensors that keep the pulse on air-conditioning controls, indoor air quality, water and energy usage as well as traffic patterns, is able to zoom in on potential defects. It can then quickly activate a technician to fix the problem on site before it worsens. Building owners are in favour of data- driven maintenance because it helps them achieve a balance of optimising building and operation performance against cost and risks exposure.
Some market observers have begun to map the needs of the built environment against Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where building performance moves up the value chain from being compliant at the minimum, to being productive and upwards to a level where a stimulating experience counts and where buildings are sustainable. Applying these metrics encourages building owners to save costs, operate at maximum efficiency, and create quality experiences as buildings move up the value chain.
In effect, the evolution of workplace practices is creating an opportunity for facility managers to leverage tech-enhanced services to attract a premium, generating cost savings and operational efficiencies at the same time. FM is evolving from maintenance and basic functional support to the provision of an experience that delights tenants and enriches their interaction with the facility.
Ho Chee Kit - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Ho Chee Kit is the senior director of Corporate Facilities Management at Cushman & Wakefield (Photo: Cushman & Wakefield)