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The ABCs of Keeping Schools Healthy and Smart

Last month I attended APPA’s Virtual Town Hall entitled “Healthy, Smart Buildings and Why you Should Care, expertly hosted by Lander Medlin, EVP at APPA. Many great panelists were discussing this pressing topic, including:

 • Rob Murchison, Harvard Professor, Principal and Co-Founder of Intelligent Buildings, LLC, a smart building consultancy,
Emmanuel H.R. Daniel– Microsoft’s Director of Digital Transformation of Smart Buildings & Campuses and 
• Adam Gogolski of Gordian, a facilities data firm that’s “bridging the boiler room and the board room.” 

The audience consisted primarily of Facilities Managers at schools and universities across the US, who are all grappling with the same issue:

How do we get students, educators, and staff back into our buildings?

A = Awareness

“Buildings are central to our lives and our livelihoods – we spend 90% of our time in them,” Lander Medlin points out, adding that “the health of the buildings affects the health of those inside” and that “the people who manage our buildings have a greater impact on our health than doctors!”

Smart buildings need to be healthy buildings.

To get occupants to come back to school, FMs need to guarantee their health and make them feel safer in school buildings than anywhere else.

Rob Murchison continued with, “Smart building initiatives have been historically focused on energy costs and consumption (the “3” in the 3/30/300 rule) and not on the productivity of the people inside. FMs running energy-only programs are compromising the intellectual costs.”

B = Building System Optimization  

The adage, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, certainly applies here in that schools need to quantify that they are optimizing their building systems. Educational facility managers are challenged with finding a tool that can help them measure their buildings’ optimization. Without this, how can they ask management to invest in their buildings? Some big questions posed by the panelists at APPA include:

Should we use technology? 

Do we have a strategy to adopt technology?

Are we able to adopt these strategies? 

The good news is that APPA members are looking to create a smart, healthy building framework, including a building HPI (Health Performance Index), which relies on collecting actionable data to measure if buildings are detrimental to occupants.

Their mission is clear, schools that leverage technology to prepare for the future will differentiate themselves in the market. 

Put simply, FM needs to partner with IT. 

For some, this partnership may sound daunting. The good news is that there are technologies out there that make it easy for Facilities Management to bridge the gap between the built environment and the data environment. 

C = Compliance Intelligence

Many states and municipalities have now mandated that school janitorial services adhere to stricter hygiene and sanitization requirements, adding to an Educational FM’s challenges to create healthy buildings. Superintendents, Administrators, and Facilities Managers across the country are under pressure to validate that janitorial services have been performed regularly and according to operational, health, and safety requirements to ensure staff, students, and parents’ comfort level.  

As most school districts are grappling with tightened budgets, school facilities management faces a significant challenge to deploy a solution that is affordable, transparent, easy to deploy, and compliant with these regulatory requirements.  

Companies like Intralogic Solutions are using Equip ID’s Technology Assisted Guidance (TAG) to help schools mitigate bio risk and ensure compliance with janitorial mandates, restoring confidence in educational facilities’ cleanliness. Using Near Field Communication (NFC) tags placed outside classrooms, restrooms, and offices, the Equip ID platform provides “Compliance Intelligence” – tracking and validating that performed cleaning, and disinfection services were on time and in compliance with safety guidelines.

NFC tags are an innovative solution helping make ‘dumb,’ non-IoT enabled components in buildings, such as physical spaces, into smart ones. Programs like this are easy to deploy and feed actionable data into any healthy building framework.

Are you an educational facilities manager challenged with leveraging technology to create smart, healthy, and compliant school buildings?

Please share your story with us!

5 Things Restaurants and Retailers Need to Do Before Reopening

The world has changed. Today, the focus on disinfection has become paramount to combating the spread of COVID-19. While restaurants and retailers were previously cleaning for aesthetics and health, now they need to be disinfecting for safety. The good news is that plans are already underway to ensure the safety and health of all who visit and work in retail stores, restaurants, and other facilities in preparation for these sites reopening. Leading brands across the restaurant and retail industries, who have been significantly impacted by this nationwide shutdown, are responding quickly to develop a comprehensive disinfection standard.

Are you ready to reopen and stay open? Here are five things you need to do now:

1) Recognize that this is a serious situation in need of a serious solution

As restaurants and retailers have new customers entering their locations daily, disinfection is not a one-and-done solution but a daily regimen that must be adhered to by trained professionals following strict guidelines. Facility and Preservation managers who act now to understand the disinfection needs of the ‘new normal’ will be ahead of the curve.

2) Plan ahead

The time is now to get the right support in place. Make sure you’re working with partners who can deliver services that meet the disinfection demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once you’ve established the right partners, have them evaluate your store layout and janitorial processes to create a customized disinfection plan.

3) Trust and verify

A disinfection plan is useless if there isn’t a compliance monitoring system in place to ensure program efficacy. Equip ID’s Disinfection Intelligence solution utilizes NFC tags and a mobile app to create a service validation platform that provides staff and customers with the peace of mind that disinfection services are delivered according to health and safety standards, including GBAC.

4) Don’t overcomplicate things for your janitorial staff and service partners

The success of your disinfection program is also reliant on the ability of your internal and external service partners to adopt your solution quickly and easily. Solutions like Equip ID’s Disinfection Intelligence require minimal training and are as easy to use as Apple or Google Pay.

5) Overcommunicate

Knowing that you’re actively working on a plan to ensure the safety of your locations will mean the world to your management, your staff, and your customers.

Are you ready to reopen? Let us know how your restaurant or retail business is planning to meet the needs of the ‘new normal’.

Ready to give your facility a voice?
Let's talk

3 Things Your Equipment Would Tell You If It Could Talk

Whether managing commercial properties, restaurant, or convenience store chains, many stakeholders have an interest in the lifespan of the mechanical equipment and commercial appliances that support all of your locations. From equipment owners, repair and maintenance personnel to those who manage compliance with regulatory and manufacturer requirements, many are involved in all aspects of the equipment’s ‘life.’ As such, there is a lot of talk about assets on any given day. But one participant is missing in this dialogue – the equipment itself. What if your equipment had a voice, enabling it to be a participant in the conversation?

Here are some valuable things your equipment could be telling you:

1) “How to repair me right the first time.”

The skilled labor shortage is increasing – with a generation of skilled technicians retiring just as commercial equipment is becoming more complex.

According to a recent PRSM (Now Connex) Member Survey, 65 % of facilities managers stated that highly skilled field service personnel are most challenging to find. A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey indicated that 43% of service companies report that hiring skilled trade professionals is their biggest challenge. To make matters worse, the upskilling of younger technicians is not keeping pace with equipment sophistication, creating financial, logistical, and operational problems that grow more acute over time. According to the Aberdeen Group Report, “Fixing First-Time Fix: Repairing Field Service Efficiency to Enhance Customer Service Returns,” 25% of all work orders require at least one repeat visit. Typically because service personnel arrived on-site without the right parts (51%) or the skills needed (25%). Repeat visits cost time and money, disrupting your operation and leaving tenants and customers dissatisfied.

The good news is that your equipment itself can provide call-avoidance scripts and triage information to site staff when they encounter a problem, saving thousands of dollars in unnecessary service calls. And when a service call is required, vital equipment-specific data and supportive content can be communicated directly to field service personnel – when they’re standing in front of the equipment they are there to service. Having ‘at-asset’ access to this type of Equipment Intelligence can improve first-time fix rates dramatically.

2) “How to avoid my costly violation.”

From the NFPA and local Fire Departments to the DOB, DOH and OSHA, there are tons of national, regional, and local regulations covering equipment-specific inspections, operation, testing, maintenance, and repairs. Not being compliant with these myriad requirements is costly, time-consuming, and potentially fatal to your business. In the restaurant industry, solutions by Coinspect and Zenput help chains manage food safety compliance and protocols as well as brand standards. In commercial real estate, services like SiteCompi in NYC help provide knowledge to resolve open items after receiving a violation.

3) “What senior staff already knows about me.”

In a recent presentation at the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show entitled “Combating Costs with Strong Facilities Maintenance Management,” Tom Sansoucy, Senior Manager of Facilities Support at Cumberland Farms indicated that one of Cumberland’s biggest challenges was the transfer of knowledge by senior staff and service technicians. He included the upskilling of younger workers, which were often reliant on the teaching ability of senior employees or manufacturers who provided limited in-person training. With a generation of skilled technicians retiring, as referenced earlier, and inefficient methods to leverage the resident knowledgebase (tribal knowledge) of in-house service management, Cumberland struggled to capture and share information that is vital to the operation of their mechanical infrastructure.

By connecting mechanical equipment to the digital world with Equipment Intelligence, convenience store chains like Cumberland can create a ‘living’ equipment inventory including troubleshooting information and process intelligence for internal staff (think call avoidance scripts; best practices, ‘Redbook’ procedures), as well as a knowledge base of field notes and site-level equipment expertise for their field service personnel and external service technicians.

Giving equipment a voice optimizes the compliance, inspection, testing, repair, and maintenance process, changing how your teams communicate with the mechanical infrastructure that is vital to your business.

What is your equipment telling you? We’d love to hear.

Ready to give your facility a voice?
Let's talk