CRE Tech @ The Edge: GSA/PBS Weighs in on Real Estate Technology & Innovation
Chip Pierpont is Director of Facility Technologies at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), where he oversees delivery of technology implementation for all space requirements of federal agencies. The landlord for the civilian federal government, GSA/PBS owns or leases 8,700 assets, maintains an inventory of more than 370 million square feet of workspace for 1.1 million federal employees, and preserves more than 481 historic properties. Chip and his team provide policy direction to modernize existing structures and to design new construction to the highest standards of smart building technology and automation.
What technology and business initiatives were most important in 2016?
One highlight of 2016 was the rollout of our national Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). While CMMS may not be cutting-edge IT building technology per se, the sheer magnitude of our portfolio made it unique. We incorporated a single Maximo CMMS system across 1,520 buildings; it was cloud based and was the first use of Amazon Web Services (AWS) by a federal government entity. It was also the first AWS application that was approved for federal cyber security. That's something we're proud of, because even with this size portfolio and dealing with very stringent cyber security requirements, we were able to implement a web-based solution.
In conjunction with this effort, we implemented national standards associated with work flows, naming conventions for equipment and preventative maintenance allowing us to effectively partner with our design and construction partners. As they were doing work in existing buildings (or building new buildings), we were able to integrate new or renovated equipment into our CMMS system fairly flawlessly. In addition, we fine-tuned utilization of the system by implementing some new tenant-focused functions. Those included being able to break down the data and information by specific tenant agencies—or even sub-users within those agencies—which allowed us granularity of data to discuss specific service related performance metrics.
In 2016 we also deployed a new nationwide digital signage platform. The pilot stage, totaling 50 buildings is 90% complete and includes a nationwide content management platform that works with local, interactive touch screens. To join, our clients simply purchase a digital media player and a monitor and we handle the rest, including the content management functionality, cyber security and User Acceptance Testing (UAT), resulting in plug and play at the local level. One of the key aspects of this digital signage solution is the offering of near real-time electricity usage information coming from our smart meters system. The interactive energy dashboard allows the user to see, for example, what the actual BTU count is on a running ticker. They can view what their energy use was today versus yesterday, today versus last week, today versus the same day last year, and it stays current. It also plays off that data with quiz questions that gets people interacting with the screens by showing them energy equivalencies, such as how many electric cars could be powered with the actual savings from their building.
Digital signage is not new; but for us, having a platform that's scalable across 1,500 plus buildings, and having near-real-time energy information being fed into the building is. The tenant now has accurate, near real-time knowledge of how the activity within their workspace is affecting the energy use. We're proud of that, because the scope of the ongoing project is huge, amounting to approximately 1,800 owned buildings. It's greater than 9,000 when you include leased buildings. Overall, we have more than 1,400 property managers and we serve over a million federal tenants.
Another initiative involves GSALink, our energy fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) analytics platform built back in 2012. We currently have 81 buildings connected to that platform totaling about 45 million square feet. We took the opportunity in 2016 to do more with regard to developing rules and deeper analytics around the existing platform. It was important to us, before expanding the number of buildings, to go back and identify opportunities to further leverage the platform using the analytics.
We utilized a third-party study by Carnegie-Mellon University to validate our energy savings, looking at a 12-year span of energy bills; including information that came through our smart meters platform. One of the most interesting insights from the study showed that when GSALink analytics was combined with our ion smart-meter program (our advanced-meter program), that tandem produced an average of 24% reduction in energy. We were extremely pleased to see such positive results.
What will the focus be in 2017?
One of our primary initiatives is the Facility Manager (FM) dashboard. It will sit on all 1,400 plus facility managers' desktops, pull data from multiple disparate systems, and present that on a single dashboard in a usable and consumable fashion. Most facility-related software solutions provide a tremendous amount of data and information in their own right. But with all this data coming from different sources, facility managers have to jump back and forth between the source programs and user interfaces. Some have single sign on, some don't. Some are very intuitive as far as navigation, however, some are not.
This dashboard will provide only the most critical information from the CMMS, as well as trending data and graphical representation from the smart meters. In addition, the FM Dashboard will provide access to updated visualization of actual energy bills for each building and will also have a quadrant to link to the GSA Electronic Project Management (ePM) platform used by our project managers in design and construction. This will give property or facility managers easy access to both energy and ePM information specifically relevant to their building.
A second initiative for this year is again related to the GSALink platform. We plan to leverage the analytics to provide management and verification for our Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) projects as well as provide automated retro commissioning on our buildings. GSA’s ability to validate the savings associated with an ESPC contract is vital to the success of the project and could provide a new template approach for all ESPC customers to follow.
Future Technology Trends
First, GSA is a firm believer in the Building Internet of Things (BIoT) and we have continued to build on a BIoT pilot we started years ago, at our headquarters building at 1800 F in D.C. We try to blend operational technologies (OT) with IT and have developed some innovative experiences with conference room scheduling, personal connectivity, dynamic work assignments and daylight harvesting with automatic shading. For the BIoT, I think we clearly see that more and more building equipment is IP addressable. We need to be able to embrace that connectivity to facilitate smart building operations.
In addition, we recognize that industry advancements and increased competition has reduced the cost of sensoring buildings, particularly in the area of Indoor Environmental Quality (CO2, humidity, temperature, VOCs, fresh air, etc.). These are key factors impacting tenant satisfaction and productivity. The ability to track and sensor, monitor, and perform analytics on these key areas is very exciting.
The second trend is making that data easily accessible and consumable. The use of big data, analytics, and visualization is most effective when made actionable. As exemplified through our 2017 FM Dashboard initiative, GSA wants to drive to a data-driven decision-making model. Big data has been successful, it's here to stay, and we recognize you have to make it actionable by consolidating and prioritizing the data to support our clients’ mission, cost effectiveness and our internal KPIs.
Obviously when you're talking about the future, cyber security continues to be a large and continually emerging issue for the whole property management/real estate industry. GSA IT has been very innovative, placing an IT/FM partner group within the organization that melds and works directly with our buildings operations group. I think one of the preeminent success stories for us is this true partnership between IT and FM. The fact that GSA IT leadership recognized the need to have a division focused primarily on interactions with the operations group was visionary five years ago, and now it's just standard procedure for us.
We engage with many private sector companies and encourage the development of the operations/IT partnership. Fundamentally, IT and operations people think differently, therefore working cooperatively is critically important to ensure implementation of cutting edge technology in a cyber secure manner.
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CoRE Tech 2017 will be held on Nov. 14 & 15 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The event is a unique gathering of the most proactive, visionary corporate real estate and facilities executives who come together to focus on innovative automation and technology strategies to help achieve their organization’s real estate goals.
- Global Speakers and True Thought Leaders
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- Tech Showcase Featuring the Industry’s Most Innovative Tech Solutions
UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS
CRE Tech Innovation Showcase - Uncovering the Next Generation of New Ideas - 7/12/2018
Never before in the history of the Commercial Real Estate market has technology been so prevalent. Since 2009, hundreds—if not thousands—of companies selling tech to the Commercial Real Estate Industry have emerged. Estimates now suggest there are more than 2,000 new CRE Tech companies in the space. The sheer number of new companies makes it almost impossible to keep up and organizations are struggling to establish an effective process to discover, organize, vet, test and implement new technologies. This webinar will evaluate the categories of technologies, best practice criteria, and clarify different solutions that are making their way to the top of the list.
Tom Shircliff is a co-founder and principal of Intelligent Buildings, a nationally recognized smart real estate professional services company that was started in 2004. Intelligent Buildings provides planning and implementation of next generation strategy for new buildings, existing portfolios and urban communities. Tom is a speaker and collaborator with numerous universities and national laboratories, a gubernatorial appointee for energy strategy and policy and founding Chairman of Envision Charlotte, a Clinton Global Initiative.
Chip Pierpont manages and provides expert guidance on the development and execution of requirements/solutions for building operations and technologies for General Services Administration (GSA), a Public Buildings Service (PBS) government agency tasked with managing government buildings and real estate, providing product and service procurement support, and developing policies and regulations. The landlord for the civilian federal government, PBS owns or leases 8,700 assets, maintains an inventory of more than 370 million square feet of workspace for 1.1 million federal employees, and preserves more than 481 historic properties.