If you have been noticing that your IT department and Facilities department are spending more time together these days, you are not alone. Work order software for schools has historically been more focused on the building maintenance side of things. There are assets on the IT side, like Chromebooks and network access control points that are managed in school work order software, but generally speaking the two sides have been separate. That is until recently with the advent of building automation. According to BusinessWire, the building automation industry is expected to reach a value of $215B by 2027. Typically, building automation deals with heating, ventilation, air conditioning, security and access control. The demand for increased energy efficiency and maintaining a secure & safe environment with enhanced user convenience is only rising and the time to embrace it is now.
The Big Picture
According to the Energy Information Advisory (EIA), more than half of the commercial buildings in the US were built between 1960 and 1999. Buildings built before 1960 represent 21 percent of overall commercial buildings. These buildings incorporate various generations and levels of sophistication when it comes to building controls. Many of these buildings are hugely inefficient and represent a lot of low hanging fruit for energy efficiency. Most of the installed base of traditional HVAC systems consists of pneumatic controls and aging electronic hardware hardwired together via serial networks. Building automation and its benefits are being promoted as a priority in the new federal administration. A big part of the plan is to make these buildings more energy efficient, calling for an upgrade in over 4 million commercial buildings across the US. Building automation will play a big part in upgrading the lighting and HVAC systems to be more energy efficient and there is also a big trend towards connecting these disparate systems together to achieve a total efficiency and convenience factor in buildings that is not the norm to date.
Your School Buildings
As funding becomes available and building automation becomes more of a priority for school buildings, what will this mean for you? For one, it will mean a lot more collaboration with IT on the building systems that have historically been under the “facility” domain. We recently asked Gordon Miller, Facility Director of Central Valley School District in New York what he thought the biggest change in the industry would be over the next ten years. His answer: “I think you are going to see technology overlap with facilities, totally. Tech director and facility director are going towards the same role. Tech is going to drive facilities completely.” Some of the main advancements have come with IP (internet protocol) connected devices, commonly referred to as the “Internet of Things” or IoT. IoT is important because as more devices are connected and speaking to each other, your capabilities of managing buildings remotely increases, as does your ability to be more proactive in solving facility problems. However, you also have a new technology skill set required to manage those devices. Electronic facility records become a shared responsibility and that database is equally important for IT and Facilities to track, update and log any work, parts, information, passwords, etc. that are required to keep everything running smoothly. “Building mechanics will be required to be system specialists,” remarks Joe Magliocca, Director Facilities at Elmira City School District, “Additionally, I think that IoT will improve our preventative maintenance and predictive maintenance practices. I envision IoT providing analytics about systems before critical failure occurs.”
Facility management software for schools will be a critical component of tying all the pieces together. There will be opportunities for tremendous growth for IT professionals to learn and master IoT devices and vice versa for facility professionals to increase their technical skills to manage and maintain building automation systems. Those skills will be incredibly valuable for the future.
A Use Case with ML Schedules
At MasterLibrary, we are already seeing customers embrace this trend in ML Work Orders and now even in our facilities scheduling software, ML Schedules. Josh Prevost, Electronics Specialist at the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township in Indiana uses ML Schedules to manage access into buildings for group events. “Almost every exterior door in the township has a key reader on it. People can’t just unlock exterior doors anymore and most don’t get exterior keys because re-keying exteriors gets really expensive. I spend a lot of time programming doors unlocking for events. So if there’s an event in the performing arts center, a facility use request gets entered into ML Schedules, including what time they want the door unlocked. I go into the event details and schedule when the door will be unlocked. The doors will unlock at that time for the group requesting the space and lock at the end of the event. It’s easy to manage this through the custom fields we created in ML Schedules to include on event requests.”