Shift in Construction Technology for a ‘post-Covid, pre-vaccine’ era

by Amy Butler, JB Associates

In 2017, McKinsey Global Institute slated construction for evolving at a ‘glacial pace’ due to its ranking as the least-digitised industry in Europe. While plenty of technological advances were pitted as ‘on the horizon’, many companies were reluctant to take the necessary steps to push forward with digitisation. Critics warned that a lack of innovation would lead to companies folding, although it took a global pandemic before this prophecy materialised and those without suitable digital infrastructure in place were shaken.

The pandemic is now considered a catalyst for industry improvement, propelling construction out of its ‘glacial’ evolution and deep into the digitised era. A recent study undertaken by Procore found that two thirds of the surveyed construction companies had rolled out new technology during the lockdown, with 94% of these seeing an improvement to productivity and teamwork. However, what exactly are these technologies and where do we go from here?

Smart Buildings

While we are all now experts in the world of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the challenge lies in returning safely to offices and various other workspaces. With many UK companies pushing for their teams to be back in work physically, how do we ensure that commercial buildings remain safe? Smart Building technology is reshaping the workplace and ensuring safety as well as energy optimisation. Buildings with integrated BMS systems and IoT sensors were already an option before the pandemic. Now, they are a wise choice for business owners.

Essential for a post-Pandemic and pre-Vaccine era, IoT systems can control air quality and ventilation. High-performance air filters and moisture controls will now be key due to Covid-19’s airborne nature. OKTO Technologies (Smart Buildings specialists) have even launched an Artificial Intelligence-led air filtration solution that is reportedly so advanced it can eliminate 99.98% of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) from the air in 10 minutes.

Similarly, density control counters and heat detection cameras can be incorporated into BMS systems to ensure that viruses are less likely to spread or enter into a facility. Airports have been trialling infrared cameras to measure body temperatures for a fever and several companies offer leases or installations for these cameras. While they are not a definitive medical diagnosis, they add a level of reassurance. This may be the aim of much of this technology; a form of due diligence in protecting staff.

BIM & VR

Technological advances are also prominent on site. Construction News reported that contractors employed for the Nightingale Hospital projects found huge value in Autodesk programs. A vital tool for tracking constant streams of updates in rapid working conditions, construction management software proved its worth in recognisably challenging projects across the UK.

As social distancing measures remain in place, it is imperative that technology is prioritised; virtual communication is still far safer than face-to-face. Software like BIM is also providing insights and tools to manage projects during a more challenging time. Even more impressively, companies are merging BIM models with the cloud, GPS and Virtual Reality software. This development means a ‘digital twin’ of a facility can be created and it opens a world of opportunities for Project Management and Design efficiency.

Remote working could even be a trend that stays long past pandemic precautions. Drones have been used previously to reduce safety hazards for technicians and now may be utilised in future remote inspections. Similarly, researchers at the University of Strathclyde have been given £35,000 in funding to create a remote inspection system. The 3D immersive building environment program aims to reduce risks by eradicating the need for Quantity Surveyors or Health and Safety Inspectors to be physically present on site.

Whether enabling remote working, improving the health and safety of commercial buildings or aiding on-site processes, technology has become a necessary tool for construction in the last 6 months. The companies that had embraced digitisation long before 2020 were undoubtedly the ones able to continue thriving in the tough lockdown period. The next step is for many companies is to streamline their management processes or workplace systems to ensure technology works for them as efficiently as possible. Breaking out of its inertia, construction’s ‘glacial evolution’ is firmly in the past and technological advances are here to stay.

This post was authored by Amy Butler of JB Associates – building consultancy specialists. The views expressed are those of the author.

BSRIA Members wishing to make a guest contribution to the BSRIA Blog should please contact marketing@bsria.co.uk

Maintenance of drainage systems to prevent flooding and water pollution

By David Bleicher
BSRIA Publications Manager

Every building has a drainage system. In fact, most have two – a foul drainage system that takes waste from toilets, showers etc. and a storm/surface water drainage system that takes rainwater from roofs and paved areas. Older buildings may have a combined system, and in some locations the infrastructure buried under the street is a combined sewer – a legacy from the pioneering days of city sewerage systems.

As with maintenance of any building services systems, the first step is to know what you’ve got. Every site should have a drainage plan, showing which drains are located where, what direction they flow in and what they connect to. If there isn’t one, it’s not hard to create one – even though the pipes are buried, there’s plenty of evidence above ground in the form of manholes.

When there is a drainage plan, it’s worth checking how correct and up-to-date it is. Sometimes, the exercise of doing this brings up evidence of mis-connections, such as a new loo discharging into a storm manhole. It’s also worth marking drain covers with the service (F for foul or S for storm) and a direction arrow.

Drainage manhole over showing 'S' arrow to indicate storm drainage and direction of flow.

In foul drainage systems, the biggest headaches are caused by things going down the drain which shouldn’t – like wet wipes, sanitary products and hand towels. So the best form of preventative maintenance is to keep building occupants informed, with polite notices and clearly-marked bins in strategic places. Then there is the fats, oils and greases (FOG) that go down the plughole in catering establishments. If these find their way into the drains and sewers, they’re pretty much guaranteed to solidify and cause blockages – sometimes known as ‘fatbergs’. That’s why there should always be an interceptor in place, also known as a grease trap. This needs maintenance – the generic frequency for cleaning out a grease trap, stated in SFG20 (a common approach to planned preventative maintenance), is monthly. But this will be highly dependent on how the facility is used.

If blockages go unchecked, they may also go unnoticed. That is until sewage starts backing up into the building, or overflowing into storm sewers, which eventually discharge into lakes and rivers. These are delicate ecosystems, and the introduction of detergents and faecal matter can be very harmful to aquatic life and of course humans.

Rain, can pick up contaminants from both the air and the land, so once it has reached a storm/surface water drainage system, it has picked up dirt, oil and chemicals from air pollution, roofs and paved areas. Traditional systems have no means of dealing with this, and also must be sized for occasional extreme storm events, so the pipes are very large and mostly used at a fraction of their capacity. Sustainable drainage systems, or SuDS, attenuate the flow of rainwater to watercourses and emulate the way natural ecosystems treat this water. But they need maintenance. For example, any tree routes that could block a soakaway should be trimmed annually, and green roofs may require weeding on a weekly basis during the growing season.

For more information on the maintenance of drainage systems, please explore the BSRIA Information Service

COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on US businesses and real estate

Zoltan Karpathy
Operations Manager, BSRIA Worldwide Market Intelligence

Nobody can predict with a high degree of certainty how long the current COVID-19 pandemic will last and what will be the full impact on the economy. We are witnessing US states, including Florida, opening up and having to tighten measures again as the virus flares up.

To contain the pandemic regulations started to push businesses towards investments to increase health safety and prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus. While necessary to fight the pandemic and speed up the recovery, businesses sometimes suffer temporary loss of productivity when the measures are implemented.

Another hike of investment as the direct consequence of the economic shock triggered by the pandemic is often related to the need of diversifying suppliers; and purchases from a variety of suppliers are often done with less favourable prices. Increasing inventory levels of critical raw materials/components/products are also becoming an issue.

Verticals served by the HVAC&R sector have been hit at various levels of degree by the COVID-19 pandemic. Venues, such as live entertainment, sports, restaurants and travel-related establishments are likely to struggle due to concerns over contracting the virus, even when they become fully open. It is expected that consumer will shift away from these types of spending to alternatives such as durable goods, which in turn can have a positive effect on housing in the future.

Nevertheless, on the residential side, housing starts plummeted by 43% in the three months from February to April, even though several US states allowed construction sites to operate. Sales of existing homes also declined, with April’s transaction level at three-quarters of the February level. Residential construction is expected to slow down in the medium term, as consumers are unable or unwilling to purchase new houses, even though mortgage rates are very low.

Economists are drawing up various scenarios and assess likelihoods of these potential outcomes. According to Deloitte the most probable scenario is that the US economic recovery will not take place at least until the middle of 2021; growth can return to the pre-COVID level by the end of 2023, but the economy will not be able to achieve full employment again until 2025.

In the context of such uncertainty, manufacturers active in the HVAC&R and Building Controls sector are facing a wide range of unknown factors:

  • customers building up stock for an eventual second COVID-19 wave;
  • concerns over debt payments;
  • increasing payment periods;
  • increasing raw material prices;
  • pressure to maintain the price of their final products/solutions.

In terms of the product mix, HVAC companies started to receive more enquires for certain types of filters, more emphasis on increasing volume of fresh air and generally an increasing focus on Indoor Air Quality.

This goes hand in hand with the fact that the current situation is also encouraging building owners and businesses to offer a safe working environment, in which employees trust and feel comfortable. Therefore, increasing investment levels can be expected to make commercial buildings ‘smarter’ and more efficient to use, with the uptake of solutions such as contactless access control, occupancy analytics, employee tracking services, proximity sensing and analytics (using indoor location mapping solutions) and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) sensing and monitoring, alongside air purification and disinfection solutions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on the real estate market, challenging the building owners and operators at unprecedented levels. According to JLL, the effects in the short term, will be the accelerated large-scale uptake of home working, leading to problems for traditional offices, but also co-working centres and flexible offices, putting a strain on the sustainability of certain flexible space business models. Social distancing considerably increase the space allocated for individuals which means that many flexible offices will record very low space utilisation rates and could even remain nearly empty.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the role of the traditional office and it reinforced the need for the office to act as a communal space which encourages innovation and collaboration, while nurturing company culture. A future solution seems to be an increased focus on technology enabled workplaces which can be used for collaborative meetings and hosting clients.

To assess the full impact of COVID-19 on the US HVAC&R sector, BSRIA will publish an update of its market studies at the end of September 2020.

To find out more about BSRIA HVACR & Controls market studies contact us at:

• America sales enquiries: BSRIA USA: sales@bsria.com ¦ +1 312 753 6803, http://www.bsria.com/us/
• China sales enquiries: BSRIA China: bsria@bsria.com.cn ¦ +86 10 6465 7707, http://www.bsria.com.cn
• All other sales enquiries: BSRIA UK: wmi@bsria.co.uk ¦ +44 (0) 1344 465 540, http://www.bsria.com/uk/

2019 China Heating Market Dynamics

China has by far the largest heating market in the world in terms of units manufactured and sold. In 2019, a little over 40,000,000 units, including, boilers, water heaters and heat pumps, were sold in China. The country also has the world’s largest network of pipes supplying gas for heating systems. China has been developing its gas network very actively over the last years and consequently the country’s total building area covered by gas pipework has more than doubled in the past 15 years. Growing accessibility of gas across the country, coupled with government’s efforts to tackle air pollution and green house gas emissions underlines the potential for continuous growth of heating in the country. To give it some perspective, the sales of gas domestic boilers have grown 10-fold in the last 11 years.

 

boilers6

Source:  BSRIA

 

Today, the heating market is shaped by three areas of sales impact, each having its own dynamic:

  1. Government policy represented mainly by “Coal to gas” and “Coal to electricity” projects

Coupled with expansion of the gas network, stronger governance, better product quality and more competitive gas prices this policy is continuing to strongly impact sales of gas fuelled products, in line with the Chinese government’s 5-year plan (2016-2020 – 3th 5-year plan.

The policy has also a strong impact on the progression of the heat pump market, mainly for water heating, although growth of heat pumps for both, heating and hot water provision has also grown in the recent years.

Compared with the vigorous “coal-to-gas” and “coal-to-electricity” projects in the domestic market, commercial boilers have higher requirements for large-scale, stable and constant fuel supply and corresponding infrastructure construction, which makes the transition from coal to cleaner energy more difficult. Nevertheless, a moderate growth was also seen in the commercial gas boiler and commercial heat pump markets.

  1. Regular project market (new build)

New build is currently driving sales of heating products thanks to the existing pre-decoration policy, which is currently supported by local government to deliver fully fitted buildings, with operational heating systems installed.

The importance of the new build market is significant in China as it delivered sales of some 1.5 million gas boilers and over 900 thousand heat pumps to the new residential dwellings.

  1. Retail market (replacement and high-end new build)

Retail distribution chain has a strong impact on sales of all heating products as it is the most common place of provision of products for clients. Those replacing old, inefficient appliances or willing to install the appliances of their own choice in the newly acquired dwellings source them in retail shops. This market is very sensitive to economic situation and changes quickly depending on the consumer confidence level. It represents a large opportunity as there are millions of heating systems in China, which are older than 10 years – the time after which replacement is normally considered. Similarly, in many new houses owners opt to have better quality heat systems than those installed by the contractor as part of the pre-decoration policy.

With regards to district heating, the market has accelerated in recent years as policies to deal with air quality have been promoted and investments have been made. There are currently more than 400 projects underway and nearly 100 enterprises engaged. The industry generally believes that the development of smart district heating projects opens attractive strategic opportunities.

However, China is in a period of low economic growth and dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19 implications. Both will have an impact on the performance of the country’s heating product sales this year.

BSRIA is preparing the updated view on 2020 market performance and short term forecast for boilers and heat pump markets that will be available in September 2020.


By Socrates Christidis, Research Manager Heating & Renewables,

BSRIA, World Wide Market Intelligence


Notes to editors:
For further information, please contact:

 

Thoughts on the COVID-19 impact on China’s HVAC industry

by Martin Li, BSRIA APAC

Some economic background data

After carrying out many conservative policies like Complete City Lock-down, China has started to recover from the COVID-19 related downturn. The economy has been opening since late March 2020 and is in wider re-opening stage by May 2020.

In the first two months of 2020, China’s total import and export value of goods trade reached 4.12 trillion RMB, a decrease of 9.6% comparing with the same period last year, with export, experiencing a particularly bad fall by 15.9%.

According to the latest statistics, both Manufacturing and non-Manufacturing PMIs slid down to the range far below 50% in February 2020, with 35.7% for manufacturing sector and 29.6% for non-manufacturing one. Manufacturing sector has been hit hard, and the central government is mobilizing companies returning to production to catch up with delays as soon as possible.

Construction industry represents a more mixed picture. According to Xinhua Finance, the total sales of residential housing by Top 100 developers dropped by 20.7% under the influence of the pandemic, but 24 among them, have achieved over 10 billion RMB sales, indicating that the competitive environment is going to become more concentrated in the coming months.. Another set of data from KERUIRC in its research on 27 Key Cities showed a decline of sales by 80%, and half of the cities in the sample pool supplied no new housing in February 2020.

2020 Prospects for China’s HVAC industry

Different impact in residential and commercial segment

Both global and domestic demand have fallen significantly in the first quarter of the year. Under severe lockdown rules, sales, installation, or integration work were not allowed and according to CICC, in January 2020, the entire domestic and overseas sales of AC fell by 34% and 28% respectively. The situation worsened in February and March, but the visible recovery has been noted in May.

Similar situation has been recorded in the domestic boiler market where during the first quarter 2020, sales remained heavily subdued with slow recovery noted from the April. Overall Chinese domestic heating sector shrank by 60% in the first quarter of the year.

HVAC products, like RAC-CAC or wall-hung boilers, belong to the “must have” category of products, hence market demand for those has mostly shifted and is expected to “make up”, in the coming months, for lost sales in the first quarter of the year. The whole year performance is expected to come close to the 2019’s sales levels, with the caveat, that there will be no second wave of the virus outbreak.

Commercial AC and Commercial/Industrial heating sectors have not been so severely affected by the pandemic, with many companies reporting successful achievement of their Q1 budget.

Strategic changes related to the offering and distribution business models

This pandemic seems to have forced transformation of conventional business activities. Owners of physical stores and off-line distributors have become acutely aware of the weakness of their business model. Many are now in the process of moving their operation to on-line platforms, which is likely to also accelerate their embrace of the global e-commerce.

From a product mix point of view, companies have become more aware of the importance of the variety of product offer and disadvantages of concentrating on sales of one product family type. An integrated shop/store, selling the idea of Comfort Home with a bunch of products delivering what is ultimately needed by the end user is expected to become a mainstream ideology. Integrating sales of Water, Air, Heating, Automation and Smart systems is where the industrial consensus is heading after the pandemic.

In summary, assuming the outbreak of COVID-19 can be contained and will not reappear in China, its impact on sales levels will possibly be limited in the overall year perspective. However, when debt, assets holding costs and opportunity costs will be considered, HVAC business owners will be looking for more options to mitigate unforeseeable risks in the future. In the short term some distribution and offering trends that have started to emerge before the pandemic will accelerate. In the longer-term higher market integration is likely.

Note to editors:

For more information about BSRIA’s research, please contact:

Domestic boiler market grew again in 2019

 

While cooling is often mentioned in the context of the impact climate change might have on its rising demand and consequently on the energy demand that growth in cooling need is likely to cause, heating is often somewhat neglected in global discussions on changes that are needed to reduce the CO2 emission levels.

It is therefore worth having a closer look at the global heating markets performance as it provides a picture worth considering in further discussions about the net 0 Carbon future.

The latest release of BSRIA heating reports with global outreach reveals that the world domestic boiler market has grown by 6% year on year in 2019 and sales of non-condensing boilers accounted for 48% of total sales across the world.

 

condensing boilers
While condensing boilers dominate in the EU markets and are making stronger inroads in Turkey and the North American market, the non-condensing wall hung and floor standing boilers are prevalently sold in European countries outside the EU and across Asia.

Gas boilers, that account for the vast majority of sales worldwide, are still considered as good news in parts of the world, where coal has been a basic heating fuel not that long ago. Gas prices, that, with few exceptions, are usually lower than the price of electricity, help retaining consumers.

Out of the total of some 15.6 million units sold globally, 68% are sold as replacement of older units and 32% are still installed in the newly build dwellings.

Boilers are usually installed to provide both heating and domestic hot water – such units accounted for some 83% of the global market in 2019. They are a convenient solution for both, end users and installers.

So, what does the future hold for this market segment? Technologies that could displace boilers in homes are already available (heat pumps) and in some parts of the world policies are providing strong support for their uptake. Overall, heat pumps accounted for some 19% of the domestic heating market globally.

Research and development are intensifying to roll out green gas solutions, that includes the use of biogas and hydrogen, with some serious challenges still to overcome.

With strong regional differences in future performance, BSRIA has forecasted the overall global boiler market to remain broadly flat between 2019 and 2024, before taking the impact of COVID-19 pandemic into consideration. The latter is likely to cause strong disruption in 2020 which will be assessed by BSRIA team later in the year.

BSRIA global research programme on domestic and commercial boiler markets allows for analysis of the market dynamics on a global, regional and country levels, with country in-depth analysis available to support more strategic decision taking process.

The studies provide a full understanding of the latest market trends in terms of sales development by product type, price evolution, structure of the supply, long-term forecast and analysis of driving forces.

By Aline Breslauer, Research Consultant, BSRIA WMI.

 

For more information, please contact us at:

  • Americas sales enquiries: BSRIA USA: sales@bsria.com ¦ +1 312 7536803 www.bsria.com/us
  • China sales enquiries: BSRIA China: bsria@bsria.com.cn ¦ +86 10 64657707 www.bsria.com.cn
  • All other sales enquiries: BSRIA UK: wmi@bsria.co.uk ¦ +44 (0) 1344 465540 www.bsria.com/uk

In industrial applications gas boilers are still important while renewables are growing slowly


BSRIA has researched the market of industrial boilers
– boilers used for industrial processes and/or district heating in seven major countries: the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and China.

Despite dynamic progress on renewables in many other heating markets, gas boilers still remain the most prominent product in the industrial segment.

The use of ground to water, water to water heat pumps and energy from waste heat is growing and they are increasingly becoming installed in a primary system. However, gas and to a lesser extent, oil or biomass boilers are used most often as a secondary source for a backup system to either provide an operational safety related redundancy level or to support the peak load demand.

Gas boilers still benefit from lower investment cost and even though technologies that use renewable energy sources are increasing their penetration in the industrial segment, current research supports the view that gas boilers will keep playing a significant role in the market in the next decade.

China, with its nearly 50,000 units sold per year is the largest among the researched markets.  Following government push towards reduction of air pollution, there is a significant shift in sales from coal to gas boilers. The country has a preference for large output boilers while in Western Europe BSRIA sees the opposite trend, with smaller capacity, condensing boilers gaining significance.

boilers

Heat networks are an important and growing segment for industrial boilers; they accounted for some 20% of all industrial boilers sold in 2018. In all seven researched countries, industrial processing in chemical, food and cement industries is also growing in prominence.

As technology progresses the value of the industrial boiler market is growing, moreover, in all countries the service and maintenance part of the business is also growing significantly. Focus on energy efficiency supports the trend towards regular seasonal check and more frequent upgrades.

In terms of technology, most industrial boilers sold in the researched countries are fire tube units.

By Socrates Christidis,
Senior Market Analyst, Worldwide Marketing Intelligence, BSRIA Ltd


Notes to editors:

 

To find out more, please contact us at:

The European BACS Market – Looking Up?

 

BSRIA’s Worldwide Market Intelligence has just published updates to its Building Automation Controls (BACS) studies for four key Western European Markets: Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The studies confirm that, while each market has some special characteristics, there are some important common trends.

As of February 2020, BSRIA was forecasting strong growth in all four markets, though unfolding events, including the coronavirus, could have an adverse impact. In the period 2019- 2024 the forecast ranges from 3.1% to 4.8% CAGR depending on the country. The strongest growth is forecast for Belgium and Spain, reflecting in part the economic recovery after a difficult period in the latter.

Forecast Growth for Four Key European BACS Markets: % CAGR 2019 – 2024

BACS market 2019-2024

Source: BSRIA Research

 

The effects of economic conditions are currently open to a lot of uncertainty, especially given the possible impact of the coronavirus pandemic which, according to some analysts, could potentially spark a serious global recession. The UK’s exit from the European Union still leaves considerable uncertainty about the long-term relationship between the two parties as negotiations for a new trade deal have started with substantial differences of opinion in many key areas.

However, there are some clear technology developments that are driving change, supporting building controls markets.

Software and analytics are becoming increasingly important and strategic. In three of the four markets, BACS software is growing faster in value than the total BACS market. In Germany and Spain, the growth for this segment is twice as fast. Since software is increasingly bundled with the wider service offering the actual importance of software to BACS is even greater than the crude sales “numbers” for software suggest. Increasingly, the quality and value of a BACS supplier’s products and services will depend on the capabilities of the software deployed to manage a building more intelligently and proactively.

While there is a move to the Cloud and more specifically to Software as a Service (SaaS), the great majority of software sold remains server-based, ranging from 75% in Spain to more than 90% in Germany, the latter figure reflecting the cautious nature of much of the German market.

Controllers, particularly DDC controllers are increasingly freely programmable, with the vast majority of all products being at least configurable. This enables controllers to be used for a wider range of applications and scenarios.

The advance of the Internet of Things is reflected in the fact that, increasingly, field devices are capable of being easily connected to the internet. This is especially true of larger and more complex devices. In all four markets, BSRIA research found that over 60% of Air Conditioning Units had an inbuilt capability of being connected to the internet. However, this capability was currently being used only in a minority of cases where there was a direct benefit in connecting to the net.

One key measure of the move towards “smarter” buildings is the extent to which HVAC, which has traditionally been the core application of BACS, has converged with other key building systems, allowing common and coordinated control. For example, to maximise energy efficiency while maintaining a comfortable working environment it makes sense to manage HVAC, lighting and blinds via a common system.

Our research showed that while convergence is increasing, in Germany and Belgium the majority of new buildings with BACS still focused purely on HVAC applications. While, BACS refurbishment or retrofit projects were less likely to be converged, a substantial and growing minority are now linking HVAC with other building services.

In key European Markets, BACS projects are showing increasing convergence

European BACS Markets showing increasing convergence

Source: BSRIA research in Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and Spain – 2019

 

In all the markets researched the BACS products form part of a much larger market embracing both other products and labour. The labour component typically represents about half the market value, in some cases more, and many of the larger BACS suppliers are focusing increasingly on the service element of their delivery.

Once labour and other products are factored in, the BACS industry is worth almost 2.5 billion US dollars across Europe as a whole and will be increasingly central to the development of both artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

By Henry Lawson,
Senior Analyst, Worldwide Market Intelligence, BSRIA Ltd

 

Notes to editors:

To learn more about these trends, please view BSRIA’s 2020 update of its well-established BACS market reports.

To find out more contact us at:

 

 

Why use Business Focused Maintenance?

Why do we do maintenance? Is it to keep our assets in optimum working condition? Do we do it to make the equipment last longer? Perhaps the main goal is to prevent failures? If it is for any of these reasons you may find that you are working to an outdated ethos…

BSRIA has recognised and employ a more pragmatic approach for today’s business needs. BFM recognises that the building services’ equipment is installed to provide a service, thereby allowing a business function to be maintained. It analyses the business needs and consequences of failure first and foremost. This ensures that business function is maintained with the minimum of intrusive maintenance to minimise maintenance induced failure, otherwise it is traditionally assumed that the built environment’s asset failure follows the bathtub curve below.

BFM

There are standard specifications for maintenance within the building services industry that have been updated over the years such as SFG20. This is used by many organisations to enable them to tender for outsourced maintenance on a like-for-like basis. The main drawback from this approach is that the maintenance delivered would be generic across the site. This can increase costs and/or reduce the availability of human resources. Couple this with the often-quoted statistic that “70% of failures are due to ineffective maintenance” and it begs the questions to be asked over purely time-based PPM frequencies.

BFM recognises that the need for maintenance generally arises from business needs such as

  1. Complying with legislation
  2. Minimising health and safety risks
  3. Minimising business risks
  4. Managing business continuity
  5. Responding to business and customer requirements
  6. Adding value as part of the business process
  7. Reducing overall business costs
  8. Maximising whole life cost
  9. Increasing asset / system availability
  10. Increasing operational up time

Users of BFM – first published as a BSRIA Guide in 2004 – have demonstrated increased system availability and greatly reduced costs. There is a structured, six-step process to follow where the client and BSRIA work collaboratively to

  1. Assess business needs and consequences of asset failure
    • The goals of the business and the needs of the end users are assessed to ascertain which assets are crucial, and therefore the impact on the business of assets failing. The structure of BFM allows for this task to be done as objectively as possible and logged on a numeric scale of 1-10. 1 is a low consequence and 10 is a high impact on business continuity.
  1. Document functional block diagrams and assess functional resilience
    • review the systems and assess their ability to continue to meet the needs of the business when a failure occurs.
  1. Assess asset condition
    • A full condition survey as per BG 35/2012 taking into account all relevant influences on an assets condition, to provide a remaining life expectancy.
  1. Calculate likelihood of failure
    • converts the alpha-numeric score from tasks 3 and 2 to a 1-10 score via conversion table 6 in the BFM guide BG 53/2016.

BFM1

5. Calculate BFM score

    • combine the score from task 1 (BC) with the number calculated in task 4 (L) to give a BFM risk score on a scale of 1-100.

BFM2

6. Review of PPM tasks and frequency

    • Apply scores to the agreed level of risk set by the organisation. From this a revised maintenance schedule can be drawn up. BG 53/2016 suggests the following;
      • 1-9 Discretionary maintenance for non-critical assets
      • 10-40 Legal compliance and sector specific requirements
      • 41-100 Maintenance to provide the greatest level of confidence in asset reliability, performance and availability.

bfm5

Whilst every job is different, an indicative timeline can show you that BFM can very quickly make it’s impact on businesses.

The business-focused maintenance methodology challenges the planned preventative maintenance frequency of building services plant. The assessment methodology takes into account plant history (age, condition, failure history, plant loading, and maintenance history), the number of standby plant items (redundancy), and the level of resources available.

Many of the intrusive maintenance tasks can be replaced by Condition Monitoring (CM) which in turn leads to Condition Based Maintenance (CBM). The actual practice of CM is far quicker in terms of man hours than time-based PPMs and often involves zero down time to the asset and therefore no impact to the business. In addition to the usual array of gauges on an asset or its BMS sensor display that can be used to monitor plant performance, common CM methods include thermal imaging, vibration monitoring, acoustic emission monitoring and lubricant analysis.

Regular use of these methods at appropriate intervals can be far more cost effective than regular time-based generic intervals, whereas for non-critical plant, the most cost-effective maintenance methodology may be to run-to-failure. By applying the BFM methodology, you can be confident that you have selected the most appropriate maintenance technique for the services in your building.


This article was written by Nick Blake – Principal FM Consultant at BSRIA.

For more information about our research on maintenance and facilities management, please contact: consultancy@bsria.co.uk

To download our publication on Business Focused Maintenance (BG53/2016):
please click here>>

BSRIA's publications on maintenance and facilities management

 

AI in Buildings – The Vision and the Reality

BSRIA’s latest research into Building Automation Controls markets (BACS) has been released in February 2020. It confirms the growing importance of software in buildings with Artificial Intelligence (AI) playing a particular role.

What do we mean by AI in buildings? The term artificial intelligence (AI) tends to rear up in almost any current discussion about how to solve human, social or technical problems. While AI is almost as hard to define as intelligence itself, it is generally seen as embracing anything that goes beyond simply following fixed instructions of an “if x / then do y” nature.Picture1

It typically involves “learning”, finding patterns and correlations and extrapolating from these. More advanced AI can formulate hypotheses which can then be validated. The results can  range from relatively simple predictions, such as when I am most likely to want the heating to be on in my home, to highly complex ones involving a whole “world view”.

While the concept of AI has been around for more than 60 years, it is the combination of cheap, intensive processing power, almost unlimited data storage (often in the Cloud) and fast, reliable transmission of data that has made it a concrete and practical presence.

Buildings and their systems are clearly obvious candidates for AI. They are often large and complex and interact both with the people and with activities inside them as well as with the wider outside world in all kinds of ways, in a manner that can change radically over time.

Buildings are also heavy users of environmentally important resources such as energy (taking c. 40% of all energy consumption), having a big impact on human welfare and productivity.

Building systems that can adapt and operate “intelligently” and with less direct human supervision are increasingly sought after.

AI can play a role in almost any area of a building and its services. In terms of energy it can identify consumption patterns that are in some way abnormal, for example in its timing or in its intensity.

Fault prediction and prevention is another activity to which AI lends itself. By collecting, correlating and analysing information about when failures occur it is possible to predict where and when they might occur in future and to identify warning signs that can prompt preventative action. Where the equipment is critical, preventing outages can make a huge difference, saving money and potentially saving lives.

Alarms and security represent another obvious application for AI in ensuring that fires hazards are identified without false alarms, and that security video data is correctly interpreted, for example by identifying individuals as trusted or as potentially a threat.

AI can also extend into areas which have not always been much associated with building systems such as the monitoring of water quality. On a day-to-day basis, intelligent building systems can also ease the running of buildings, whether it is determining when rooms need to be cleaned or by guiding visitors’ cars towards free parking spaces.

As well as enhancing building functions, AI can transform the way that building users interact with the building, the most obvious example being speech recognition which, through products such as Amazon Alexa is already transforming the way many people interact with their homes and has applications in commercial buildings as well.

It is nonetheless important to keep the present state of AI in perspective.  A first key point is that artificial intelligence, like human intelligence, will always have limits and be prone to mistakes. It is for example practically impossible to predict every failure of a building system without generating any “false positives”. The trick is to strike the right balance, but this requires the accumulation of experience.

This is compounded by the fact that the organisations and individuals that understand buildings and their idiosyncrasies tend to come from a different background and culture to those that have been pioneering the development of AI. The successful implementation of AI in buildings requires a coming together of these two traditions.

In some cases, AI is “bought in” for example by mergers and acquisitions, in other cases companies attempt to recruit and build up their AI skills. CBInsights has monitored takeovers of AI companies, and found, perhaps unsurprisingly that the five highest numbers of takeovers were executed by the five US based tech giants, led by Apple. It is not a coincidence that four of these have actively engaged in smart homes or in other smart buildings

Picture2Source: CBInsight, BSRIA – each rectangle represents one buyer, scaled by companies bought

AI potentially reduces the need for some human skills, for example by making troubleshooting of building faults a much more automated process, but also increasing the need for other skills. Apart from the system engineers who design and implement the AI based solutions, building managers and users need to have enough understanding of those systems, and have the means to respond effectively.

For example, if a warning or alert is triggered by an intelligent system then either the problem needs to be corrected automatically or someone needs to have the knowledge and means to affect the chance.

The smarter, the more complex and the more connected the building, the more cyber security is likely to be seen as a potential threat. Significantly, cybersecurity is itself one of the main applications of AI.

The best current view is that, while AI is starting to have an impact on building services, it is still mostly in its early stages. If buildings were people, they would be just starting to walk on two legs and have some way to evolve before they could be seen as truly intelligent.

To learn more about the specific impact of software and AI on building automation, look for BSRIA  2020 update of its well-established BACS reports.

Please contact us to find out more:

  • America sales enquiries: BSRIA USA: sales@bsria.com ¦ +1 312 753 6800 www.bsria.com/us
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  • All other sales enquiries: BSRIA UK: wmi@bsria.co.uk ¦ +44 (0) 1344 465 540 www.bsria.com/uk

 

This article was written by
Henry Lawson, Senior Market Intelligence Analyst, BSRIA Ltd. 

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