Facilities Management

Deb Noller: Facilities Management As We Know It Is Dead

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Deb Noller, co-founder & CEO of Switch Automation discusses how owners and developers can take advantage of the new business models and revenue created by digital facilities management.


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Deb Noller, Co-Founder & CEO, Switch Automation

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This video was filmed at a Peerspace, the leading online marketplace for meeting and event spaces. Click here to Learn More.

Very shortly, facilities management as we know it today will be dead and a whole new digital model will spring up and take its place.

All across the property and the real estate industry, people are adopting new technologies and using data to create really interesting new digital business models. I'm Deb Noller, I’m CEO of Switch Automation, and we have a smart buildings platform, and we're seeing a rapid transformation towards digital F.M. (facilities management). We're really excited about this digital F.M. because what we think is better building management will lower the impact that buildings have on our planet.

Research and experts have all indicated that there's going to be more than 3.5 billion new data devices posting information out of commercial buildings over the next two to three years. All of this new high quality data is going to create new business models and new revenue streams.

Real estate, as an asset class, is our largest asset class on the planet. We spend more money there than anywhere else. And real estate and the adoption of technology is being very slow. It's not just last across all of the industries it's dead last, and all of this is beginning to change. But why now? What's causing the industry to change now?

So the incentives are actually lining up to create these new business models, new technologies, and the adoption of data is causing new businesses and existing businesses to really understand how they're going to innovate for the future.

If you look at Uber as a company they didn't build technology and bring that into the market and try and sell it to the taxi drivers. What they did was they created really interesting, easy to use tech that scaled and it created a whole new market. So their drivers. And the customers adopted that technology and they adopted it in droves and they built a whole new business model. In this very similar vein, this is what's going to happen in real estate.

So the technologies are more available. They are more cost effective. They’re more deployable and increasingly interoperable. And this is being recognized right across the industry by the property companies themselves and also the service companies that are servicing the industry. They are looking at those technologies and bringing those in and creating interesting new business models and also brand new revenue streams.

We're working with a number of companies that we see as world leaders in the adoption of technologies. So this is a Canadian real estate company largely recognized as being best in class. They are using data to drive a better occupant experience. They passionately want to be the landlord of choice, and what they're doing is they're using data to proactively manage occupant comfort, and to understand where they have hot and cold spaces, and to address those before their customers are even aware of it.

We're also working with a large coworking space that is growing very rapidly, and they are really interested in using data and technologies to understand how space is utilized. So what they're really interested in is the design and the use of space around employee productivity and employee collaboration, that ultimately leads to workplace innovation.

So here's our three tips for how to survive this digital transformation of our industry.

First of all, you need to get your strategies right. So starting with a data strategy, you need to think about how you're going to harness your data, where you're going to host your data, who's going to own your data, how are you going to share that data with all the various stakeholders across your organization, but also outside your organization. You're going to have to think about data privacy, data governance, and data protection.

The second thing is, you need to get some really basic infrastructure right. So this is about getting your cyber security policies right, getting your architecture right, getting your data policies right, not just trialing every bright shiny I.T. device that's in the market.

And thirdly, make sure you're looking at your existing data and your existing systems, because you already have quite a lot in your organization that you can take advantage of. And if you get these things integrated first, and start to take advantage of those, you'll get really quick early are ROI (return on investment). So you'll get those early wins, you'll get the buy in of your management and the organization, and you'll get those wins that support your program going forward.

So commercial buildings are generating more data than ever before. This is going to be a brand new lucrative opportunity for many people in the industry. But what we would say to you is don't wait. Start now.

Shannon Smith: Does A Building Have A Mission?

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Buildings need to have a mission. Shannon Smith, CEO of PointGuard says the mission of a building is not to save energy but rather to serve occupancy comfort. Smith shares how to weaponize your building management system by harnessing the wealth of data it holds and turn it into meaningful insights.


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Shannon Smith, CEO, PointGuard

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Hello everybody, I'm Shannon Smith, I'm glad to be here. I'm the CEO of Abundant Power now known as PointGuard. At PointGuard we're committed to innovative and impactful technologies for building teams to help them realize higher building performance. But I'm not here to talk about me and hopefully here to talk about something that's important to you and not often discussed. And that's a question of whether or not buildings have a mission? How many of you have mission statements? I know we do at PointGuard. Missions are important. It helps you determine where you're going, what you're all about, and what's your purpose? I believe buildings do have a mission and if building is complete their mission, they will have an amazing impact on your businesses and on the people who come to work and to live in them every day.

So this conversation we're going to have today is going to be about what is a buildings mission? What are some of the things that are keeping buildings from completing their mission, and how certain older technologies maybe are failing on the job and what new technologies, new software like PointGuard can do to help buildings complete their mission. So let's get going.

Now one of the things has always found curious in the conversation about analytics and building and building software is that so much focus is on energy analytics. But we don't build buildings to save energy do we? We actually build buildings to provide an amazing workplace experience and to last as long as they can at the lowest possible operating and capital costs. Energy costs just come along for the ride. So if your building completes it’s mission and does those things, great workplace experience at lowest capital and operating costs. What happens? Profit for the owners and great enjoyment for the occupants and the tenants. So I want to talk a little bit now about what can be done or what stands in the way of buildings completing their mission. They're really six things that come to mind to me and I want to talk about it and maybe some you know. But here listing them out can tell you a little bit about why it's so hard for building to complete their mission. And then what and why software sometimes doesn't really do the job.

What is time? It’s a tyranny of the urgent today. We have so little time we had one building manager say I have one click in one minute. The next is talent. There's a major talent gap today saying a recent study by RIBEX says that there are more people over the age of 70 in facility management than under the age of 30. The third thing and this is really builds off of time and talent, is stability. We have less time and less people. You're moving teams around more and the knowledge is embedded in the building and how it performs is being lost. There's a lot of lack of stability today. Comfort is an important aspect of a building's mission. We found at PointGuard buildings are not within three degrees a set point, one out of every five days during occupied hours. It's the one thing you can’t control in your operating of a building and it's the one thing you don't. Knowledge everyone knows in the facilities space that knowledge is reactionary, it’s static is based on the things that the vendors are telling you to do and is still visual today so little data is being used deeply in buildings to help them complete their mission.

And the last the most important thing that keeps buildings from completing their mission is action. Nothing good happens in a building unless you know exactly where to go to turn a wrench and so much of energy analytic software and software is being used a day in facility management doesn't have any idea where to tell people to go to improve their buildings. So here's your analytics, is a long way away from helping millions complete their mission. Recent Energy Star score recalibration might even tell you that even more, the average office building lost 12 points of Energy Star score in August. Energy analytics is just a small part of the data opportunity deeper building analytics is the real picture that you have today. So what can be done? How do you begin to take technology and help a building complete its mission?

We believe at PointGuard to the answers right in front of you. What you already have invested in the building, you're building management system. There's a wealth of data there that is underutilized. It may be the most important asset you have in this journey. How does that work? You start with your energy bill data, that's a very small part of it. Then you take all your BMS data. The next most important thing is having some form of software solution that can help you process said data. But it has to do the most important thing of all and lead to meaningful action. If it does that the building can complete their mission. If you take a look at all the pieces of equipment that are available and you're BMS you can begin to look at it in terms of comfort and asset health and with the right kind of software tools you can take all those pieces of equipment and move them into the highest asset life in the highest possible comfort delivery.

So at PointGuard we think that the next platform has to meet a number of goals and that’s how we designed our facility management platform. It has to maximize time, has to be intuitive, straightforward, easy to use, it has to solve the talent gap. It has got to allow one person do a lot more work than before and also attract younger talent into the facility's space. And if you're outsourcing your facility services, they're facing the same challenge. Using a PointGuard software, one person can manage over 20 million square feet. That's over 20 times the current rubic used by facility management today. It needs to remain with your building. It has to amplify local knowledge all the people that have come through all the people that know that building, that information has to be captured and algorithms and machine learning, and it has to stay with that building for the next owner and the next management team. We have to eliminate comfort mistakes. You have to be able to deliver 100 percent comfort 100 percent of occupied hours. If you do that you eliminate over half of your comfort complaints. It's an amazing outcome and it's something that building management is not doing today at all.

Instead of focusing on energy we've got to move to something bigger and more important, something in the mainstream of what real estate is all about. It's about your assets. It's about operating expenses. You want to extend your asset life. You want to replace assets when you want to replace them, not when the vendors tell you to replace them. Operating data is single most important piece of information missing from building management. They were the only asset class it doesn't replace equipment based on operating information, replacing static nameplate maintenance information that's not accurate and billions of dollars are being wasted today. Lastly it's got to be precise. It’s got to stop wasting time, tell people where to go to turn a wrench to improve your buildings and help them fulfill their mission. And those are the six points that we designed our platform around to deliver that kind of value to the people that use it. So it's time to go beyond energy Analytics. In my opinion it's time to for buildings to help complete their mission to provide maximum occupant comfort. To have the lowest possible capital and operating costs and as a result, help you have maximum amount of profit and have the occupants have the most enjoyable workplace experience possible. We can do that and PointGuard.

Shane Eten: What If Water Pipes Could Talk?

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What if your water pipes could talk? Shane Eten, CEO of Lotik discusses how water prices in NYC have tripled over the last few years and how water intelligences is saving residential developers millions of dollars each year.


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Shane Eten, Co-Founder & CEO, Lōtik

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My name is Shane Eden I'm the Co-Founder of Lotik. I'm a plumber in residence so I'm in training to listen to how pipes do talk so if we can hear them, we would understand a whole lot more. We believe that there's the ability to drive water efficiency in multifamily buildings. We believe that you could save around 40 to 50 percent on water costs in a multifamily building. But there is a lot of different reasons why this is possible and why it's important and when you first look at what the real liability is here it's not only just water cost it's water damage and there's a lot of things going on. It's amazing that we know more about the data that we use on our cell phone than we do about how much water we use. So for a multifamily building owner, surprisingly, water is their number one utility cost. This is a study done in 2005 in Minnesota. So I'm going to get to that number the 305 for water per apartment a little bit later. It's also the highest maintenance costs for a multifamily building.

In New York City, water costs have tripled since 2000. So that graph you saw earlier for the 308 water costs have now tripled which is around nine hundred dollars per apartment and none of the other costs have gone up.

We saw the same thing happening with electricity prices in the late 1970s. You see this curve right there, electrical sub metering started in 1985. So a lot of this is happening. We believe that water sub-metering is going to start to happen in New York City and it already is. It's not only expensive now but it's going to get a lot more expensive. So it's not just the water that we're using, we have quite a bit of water in New York City, but we have to then treat it. So if water is used inefficiently it then goes to a wastewater treatment system the taxpayer dollars are paying for it. We talked to a lot of building owners and they basically just think it's a tax. And what's fascinating about the building is you have a 600 unit building and you have one main meter and you have no other information. So when your water costs go up there's nothing you can do about it.

Surprisingly in California most of the water is used by farmers in New York City most of the water is used by multifamily buildings. So how do we apply something like this? We would argue that it's a lot easier to install a water submeter or do something new when it's for a new building, but 100 percent of the market right now is the buildings that already exist and the older buildings are what used the most amount of water. So what's difficult about water sub metering is that these buildings are built on stacked risers. So unlike electricity where there's one place or one panel that you can actually put a sub meter, you'd have to put it in six different locations on six different pipes so you can't just install one meter to understand what's going on. If you could understand what was happening at the fixture level, so tell me what's happening with the toilet or with the shower, you understand if there was a leak you would then drastically reduce the amount of insurance claims for a building and therefore insurance costs. And you would drastically reduce the amount of water that was actually being used.

With no transparency at all. The bar is set very low.

So how do we do this? It's almost like imagine if you could create a FitBit for a pipe.

So typically a toilet is sold to last for 20 years. What if you could embed an operating system into toilets so that you could upgrade the toilet? You could actually understand what was happening and a toilet is very easy to understand if you just listen to it. So what if you could create a Fitbit for a pipe? I spend a lot of years doing this. We've been working on it for four years.

We've been financed by Samsung and we found some very interesting findings here. Most of the time it's installed closer to the toilet so it's on the supply line. We have an accelerometer in there it's battery operated.

The key here is when you go into someone's apartment you want to make sure that you don't have to go back in and you want to make sure you're not there for a very long time. That's something that we learned over time but a leaky toilets very easy to identify.

All we're doing is tracking the amount of water that's being filled in a toilet so, when is toilet filling? And it doesn't matter how the leak occurred as long as it's basically an activity tracker and if you have an entire building you have 600 units and you know you have a leaky toilet. The research says that one in five toilets is leaking, we found that usually like two and five toilets is leaking. So just identify the places where when a pipe is talking and it's talking a lot, that's when you should definitely listen.

In the future we see embedding this stuff into every single picture. So imagine installing a building you commission the plumbing system for the first time and you have all green lights a lot of the insurance cost associated with water damage happens really really early on when a plumbing system is first installed.

So what did we learn doing this? Doing wireless in this type of environment is very very tough especially when you're in a bathroom. So a bathroom has glass, it has porcelain, and it has cabinets, so you go underneath the sink. You put a wireless system in there. You then closed the cabinet door you then closed the bathroom door. We need to figure out a way and everyone does need to figure out a way how to train how to send data a really long way in these places. We also realize that you can't have a gateway or a hub and connected the Internet in every single apartment. This has to be like to call it the silent censor. Had the building owner install it very very quickly but have a gateway that can be installed anywhere in the building. So instead of a gateway to every apartment we can now send data to twenty five floors. We did this by doing machine learning.

So in order to get data to listen to pipes we have customers but you don't want to necessarily go in there when you don't have a solution that works well. But I would suggest for a lot of building owners, letting new technology companies come in and actually collect data in the building is very important. So we looked at the numbers and Airbnb’s are very cheap so we would rent an Airbnb and sit there and hang out next to the plumbing systems which allowed us to collect all the data and then build the machine learning model on the actual sensor so that we're only sending the data that we need to and we can send it a lot further and a lot of times in certain industries. It's the language that we're talking about. So when I first started to dive into this as plumber and residence, I still do not know what a cubic foot is. I think a gallon is even hard to understand.

So instead of saying cubic feet, why is this not about time the tenant can't control how how often or or how much volume is coming out of their shower or their toilet. They can control how many times they flush and how long they turn the shower on for.

So we believe that in the future it will be based on time and so that you can actually comprehend it so someone can actually change their habits if they knew if they took a five minute less shower. And most importantly is that data when you can capture this and you can actually listen to the pipes you start to see a cadence of the buildings so you can tell when people are waking up, you can turn your heat on a little bit later. So this data is not just a real physical act. Someone has to go to the fixture and turn something on. And if someone is not there and there's water flowing we should know about it so we can stop it. Thank you very much.

Marshall Cox: Intelligent Residential Heating

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Marshall Cox, CEO of Radiator Labs discusses the problems with steam heat. He explains how using heat data can solve for comfort and lower cost.  


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Marshall Cox, CEO, Radiator Labs

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My name is Marshall Cox, the Founder and CEO of Radiator Labs and I’m going to tell you about steam heat which is always a super exciting topic. So first of all steam has a lot of problems. We all know this we we've lived in an apartment or a house in New York City in particular. And the problem isn’t with steam. Steam is actually a pretty awesome technology that has been in these building since they were built often a hundred years ago, decades at least and they’re super overheated. The problem is that it's very hard to control where steam flows from that building and you can try to do that and they were really well balanced when they were built. But then the biggest change that we've we've seen is that we've invented nearly universally retrofit, windows with a double pane insulating glass and that completely changed the balance of our buildings. And now you have apartments that are cold and need a lot of heat and people who are super hot and open the windows as a result.

Obviously people are really uncomfortable because of this so it's a problem for tenants. It's a problem for maintenance staff because these things are hard to maintain. But it's an enormous financial and ecological disaster about seven billion dollars is wasted every year in the 10 percent of the U.S. residential housing market that uses steam as a primary source of heat. in New York City alone it's one point two billion dollars and you can imagine literally taking one point two billion dollars of fuel and burning it in the streets that's essentially what we're doing every year.

I want to get some perspective on this problem so steam has been around for a long time. It's been around for a approximately the same time as the phones. This is Alexander Graham Bell invented the harmonic telegram which is here. And think about how many changes have gone through that technology in the past hundred years. We all have supercomputers in our pockets now. The amount of change is dramatic and contrast that with steam, it's not necessarily a fair comparison. We have new better heating technologies but the radiators that have been in these buildings haven't really seen anything happen in the last 100 years and this is particularly relevant here because this Alexander Graham Bell standing next to a radiator and I can guarantee you that that building is probably still here and that radiators are probably still there. These things have been stalled for literally a century sometimes more than a century and they still work which is amazing but they have a lot of issues. So I got my P.H.D. at Columbia University. I invented this technology there. My research had nothing to do with steam or radiators but I lived in a unmitigated hellhole apartment. I was super hot. The technology worked really well. We went to compete at the MIT Clean Energy Prize, won that which was amazing and was essentially the beginning of our company. We developed a full building system and iterated over the past few years and most recently NYSERDA has supported an evaluation of that technology in a bunch of buildings and I'll talk about the results later. It was very good and we were really excited about what we're doing.

Briefly, what are the things you can do to solve this problem and overheating and buildings? Most people have tried to address this from a plumbing perspective but steam is a hundred degrees Celsius gas. It's a very caustic when it condenses into water and you're talking about a two phase distribution problem that's really hard to control that kind of distribution system with a valve or other kinds of plumbing solutions doesn't really work. We've approached it from a different direction. We actually control the area around a radiator and thermodynamically manipulate the steam flow within a building by doing that. Has the benefit of being easily installed you don't have to have any contact with plumbing is especially nice not to have to mess with 100 year old pipes and it works really well. Every one of these systems says a wireless radio we communicate data in real time to the cloud that lets us learn how buildings heat up and cool down and optimize that heat generation on a building by building basis. It also lets us connect this data to people's cell phones so they can control their temperatures even setting setbacks and different time based things you can do with a normal thermostat. This is a level of control that these buildings have never had in their entire history. So it's a pretty big deal for the people who live in these buildings.

These are those results I told you about from NYSERDA. Seven buildings of the past five years. We found 25 percent average savings maximum savings was forty five percent. And I just want to point out the minimum savings over there 15 percent. That building is a LeFrak building out in Brooklyn. It is now the most efficient single pipe building in all of New York. So even in buildings that start out very efficient we can still save a lot of energy. There's a lot of waste here. To put into perspective for income for for a portfolio, if you can save 30 percent of your heating costs that translates into a net operating income increase of 10 percent because 30 percent operating costs are often in heating the building itself. So that's a big deal for for portfolios.

Now I want to transition to talk about data. The first thing, the most obvious thing is what can you do with data in real time in a room? We take temperatures and we obviously feedback that temperature into our system is pushing down to a room when it's needed that allows us to do away with the drastic overheating under heating that you get in these kinds of buildings. This is real data. You basically turn an apartment into a flat lined temperature at your set point. It's a very important and nice change. My apartment obviously has these installed.

You can get a little deeper into the data as well. So in most bigger buildings you have what's called the two pipes steam system, and every radiator has a steam trap at that point and when we installed in buildings we typically find that about 25 percent the steam traps are blown and malfunctioning which means that steam is flowing into the that line being wasted. Every broken steam trap wastes about 200 to 400 dollars a year. So you can see how this adds up very very quickly. We can use the data that we're gathering to analyze steam trap health in real time and you can imagine that maintenance programs and buildings. It's hard to measure this stuff because it's in someone's home. We can just do it in real time remotely and tell people when things break and they need be fix which increases dramatically the maintenance efficiency of portfolios.

Very quickly looking dig digging deeper into the data there are some really interesting things here. If you can look at this and the left is these are two buildings top and bottom on the left is before we installed an app on the right is after we installed each one little block in these graphs shows a apartment that's been categorized by temperature. So the red blocks are apartments that are Saunas above 80 degrees. The blue blocks are apartments that are freezing below 62 degrees and you can see that before we retrofit is a pretty even distribution of very hot apartments and very cold apartments where you'd imagine sitting in a building. After retrofit if you could see the screen here, we've dramatically increased the number of green building the green apartments. So most of the apartments now are comfortable. Of course there's still outliers on the hot side. So this is on first level to point out that our technology is awesome, it works really well but this is a very rich data set. Of the apartments that are still hot. Why are they still hot?

It turns out that we can do some some interesting cluster analysis and apply algorithms to this data to figure out what characteristics those apartments share. So maybe they're on the top floor and the roof is uninsulated maybe on the bottom floor and there's infiltration problems but they're all on on the north side and don't get sun. You can essentially figure out what's wrong with these buildings. Then no one even knew existed. And that's interesting because you can take that data. We control the boiler we know how much fuel you'll save additionally if you fix that problem. And then if you know how much that problem cost to fix you can calculate a pretty efficient pretty accurate return on investment. And that basically will unlock a significant amount of capital. People want to fix their buildings. But the capital to do so is not really available because no one knows how long they're gonna take to pay back. No one knows how much it’s going to cost to fix. No one even knows what the problems are. So what we're trying to do here is take the data that we're gathering to figure out what those problems are to go how much going to cost to save and unlock that capital to fix the big problems in our infrastructure which is primarily located in our older buildings that no one has the time or money to evaluate properly. We have a big grant from the National Science Foundation to do this. So we're pretty excited about we're doing. Thank you so much.