Innovations and trends in facility management (FM) were the focus of the digital conference "Servparc on air" from 29 June to 1 July 2021. For us, this was a very exciting event, not only because it was the first digital conference we attended, but also because we ourselves were represented in the Prime Channel with a presentation by Tanja Zirnstein. Of course, we also followed the presentations of our colleagues and picked out some exciting contributions on the topics of "Digitalisation & Smart Buildings", "Operator Responsibility & Risk Management" and "Sustainability, Energy & Environment" and prepared them here as a review.
Almost nothing was possible without artificial intelligence (AI) in the track “Digitalisation & Smart Buildings”. AI is finding its way into buildings everywhere. While the talking house in the film "Back to the Future" was still fantasy, it is already reality today. AI is present and supports us wherever it can.
This also became clear in the presentation "With AI in building operations to more user-oriented communication, transparency and constant availability" by Till Eichenauer, Head of Digital Transformation & Innovation at WISAG Facility Service Holding, because the digital feelgood manager Ellie intelligently links the interests of property users and facility management (FM). On the one hand, the user wants to send a message about a malfunction or a task quickly and easily and also receive regular status updates. On the other hand, facility management is supported in the categorisation and prioritisation of tasks, because Ellie can recognise which malfunction it is and also takes over the decision-making process as to whether the task is to be handled internally by an employee or by an external service provider. At the same time, the FM has the possibility to get an overview of the process handling at any time. In the process, the AI continues to learn, optimises processes and thus contributes to increased efficiency and satisfaction for all. Transparency for all involved, automation of processes and tasks and, above all, communication via an intelligent platform are the main pillars of the AI platform.
Also supported by AI is the smart cleaning platform of the Swiss company "Soobr – smart cleaning", with the help of which cleaning can be planned based on data. Kaspar Adank, CEO of "Soobr - smart cleaning", showed how individual cleaning schedules can be created with the intelligent software based on building plans, room directories and the corresponding service agreement. If the occupancy in the building fluctuates or new requirements are added, the plan is automatically adjusted, supplemented by the evaluation of occupancy data from smart bulding solutions or from movement sensors. In this way, cleaning tours can be called up dynamically, on mobile devices.
Gegenbauer Services is one of the early adaptors of the Soobr software. In order to be able to react flexibly to current trends, such as home office, co-working or mobile workplaces in the area of cleaning management, Soobr is increasingly being used. Gegenbauer is also able to meet the customers' wishes for workload-based cleaning, transparent service provision and cost reduction. With the help of the software, changed requirements and special orders can also be integrated flexibly and at short notice into the existing plans. However, before the system was presented to the company's own customers, it had to pass the "hard test" within the company, as Jonathan Wahl, Project Manager Quality and Innovation Management at Gegenbauer, described. Launched as a pilot in 2019, Soobr has since been introduced to some customers. At the same time, challenges also had to be overcome. Wahl emphasised that it was important to get the works council on board right from the start and to convince them that the use of sensors was not about monitoring employees, but about intelligent deployment planning. Acceptance in the operational area must also be ensured and the fear of using the system with tablets must be taken away from the employees - not all of them are digital natives. It is particularly worthwhile to use the system in buildings that are already "smart" and where the workload is very variable. In this way, with the help of AI-based software, effort and thus costs can be saved.
A more emotional focus in facility management is “Operator Responsibility and Risk Management”, because it is always about the well-being of people. No one has been able to escape this in the last one and a half years and had to look for new paths and also take them to counter the pandemic.
For all sectors, hygiene concepts were suddenly no longer a "nice to have", but became an indispensable "must have". However, many measures will disappear over time, but the changed hygiene requirements of the population will not, as Tanja Zirnstein from UVIS pointed out in her presentation. Contact areas that were already problem zones and major hotbeds of germs before the pandemic will remain so. These include handrails on escalators, operating elements in lifts or railings in stairwells or corridors. Therefore, only sustainable measures such as a long-term antimicrobial coating of contact surfaces with TiTANO, the installation of the UVC disinfection module ESCALITE in escalators or the use of the mobile UVC module Soluva can be sensible additions to existing hygiene concepts, says Zirnstein.
The fact that such hygiene measures can be advantageous as a fixed component in the catalogue of facility management measures was demonstrated by Tanja Zirnstein on the basis of the long-standing cooperation with ECE. A customer survey after the installation of ESCALITE in the Phoenixcenter Hamburg Harburg in 2018 showed that the increased cleanliness led to a higher sense of security, thereby increasing the image and indirectly also the turnover and at the same time reducing costs.
Panagiotis Tsepis, Head of Facility Services at Insel Gruppe AG in Berne, gave a very clear description of the challenges facing facility management in hospitals. The focus was on minimising the risk in connection with the pandemic and assuming responsibility for the various stakeholders - patients, relatives, employees. In addition to the ongoing projects, all areas had to deal with many new tasks, especially with communication in all directions - with authorities and ministries, with service providers on construction sites, with employees, patients and their relatives as well as with the general public.
The special challenges in FM lay in the elaboration and implementation of the new rules with regard to the pandemic situation. For example, all construction sites that were still under shell construction were continued, but under more difficult conditions, such as project managers in home offices, distance rules and hygiene concepts that also had to be coordinated with the authorities. An vaccination centre was set up during the 2020 Christmas holidays and a warehouse in the intensive-emergency-surgical building was converted into an intensive care unit with ventilation places within ten days.
Extensive infrastructural adjustments were necessary, such as setting up test centres that were open air in summer but had to be heated in winter, or creating clear signage and labels for all paths, entrances and exits as well as reception and waiting areas to ensure the flow of people.
A special challenge occurred when the use of public transport was officially discouraged. This led to a collapse in use, the timetables were adjusted downwards in capacity accordingly and, as a result, staff were no longer able to turn up for their shifts. Within a very short time, the FM therefore created 1,100 new parking spaces for staff and patients to meet the increased demand.
In the end, there were several factors, from the point of view of the clinic as a company and from the point of view of the FM, that made the handling of the pandemic situation a success. Competent and comprehensive communication, both internally and externally, was the top priority. In addition, on the company side, quick action, political support, motivation, solidarity and system relevance can be listed, for example. From the FM's point of view, the mastery of the many complex requirements, such as the implementation of far-reaching hygiene concepts, a demanding provider management, the maintenance of the supply chain and the transfer of experience to new building standards in the future can be listed, especially under the given time pressure.
In conclusion, Tsepis said that the pandemic had shown everyone the weaknesses and strengths of the system in a very impressive way and that the right conclusions must now be drawn from this in order to be prepared for the future.
“Sustainability, Energy and Environment” was another focus of the various presentations in the Prime and Expert Channel. No facility manager can avoid topics such as CO2 emissions, energy consumption and savings, especially in view of current climate developments. There still seems to be enough time to achieve the targets set by the EU, but the clock is ticking and the mills grind slowly. How quickly action basically has to be taken and what options companies have to reach the targets after all was impressively demonstrated by Frank Katzemich, Head of CoC Energy & Sustainability at Apleona, in his presentation "Opportunity for the FM sector through climate policy - operating buildings sustainably and innovatively!"
Owners and investors have a responsibility to comply with laws and requirements to reduce emissions and are also keen to tackle these with building operators, such as Apleona. According to Katzemich, buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of Europe's energy consumption. Emission-saving materials and procedures are still too rare in renovations, however – this is to change in the future according to EU guidelines.
However, if you look at the targets until 2025 – which is only a little more than three years away – the required 22 percent savings in CO2 and energy can only be achieved in the area of heating/ventilation & air-conditioning systems. For investments in buildings, the time span is already too short. Achieving the further required 27 percent savings by 2030 will be much more complicated. For this reason, the renovation programme for climate protection was set up. A large funding pot totalling two billion euros is available to renovate 35 million inefficient buildings. In order to reach the goal of CO2 neutrality by 2050, this would have to be 85-95 percent.
A holistic approach to implementing the renovation wave is clearly desired by the officials, not just "small" individual measures, such as lighting projects, which are, however, also funded. Rather, the whole buildings should be tackled and, for example, AI technology should be considered in the course of the renovation.
FM is already very active in many areas, but resources must be used sensibly and built up sustainably. At the same time, there are opportunities to stimulate structural change in the industry concerned through new business models, or to develop a new workforce in the field of CO2 neutrality.
Modern buildings and real estate services can already save emissions today. Innovative, networked and smart systems within buildings are the basis, such as with the help of sensors that enable intelligent usage management and constant monitoring of subsystems. This goes hand in hand with the "Digital Client Solutions" approach, which is based on comprehensive energy management, facilities operations, workplace management, but also user awareness and electromobility.
Ultimately, however, the customer's desire for clear measurability of the CO2 savings of the various measures, ideally combined with AI-based technology for the future in the field of energy and CO2 optimisation of buildings and associated with costs that quickly pay for themselves, is also decisive.
Supporting digital technologies for monitoring that are promoted, AI and networked systems that fulfil the specifications and customer wishes already exist, but there is still a huge lack of implementation in the operational area, because very few buildings are equipped, upgraded and digitalised accordingly.
There are some pots to draw from that are made available by the Federal Ministry of Economics, you just have to keep at it and show the customers the different possibilities, summarises Katzemich.
Our conclusion – we can absolutely chalk up our participation in the "Servparc on air 2021" conference as a success. On the one hand, we got exciting insights into the trends and top topics that move the FM industry as well as very positive feedback on our presentation. On the other hand, we were able to have interesting conversations and make new contacts at our digital trade fair stand, which we can now deepen. We are already looking forward to the next events of the FM industry.
Live presentations Servparc on air 2021
Published: 27. Juli 2021