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Don't let your building get the Millenium Bug!

Undeniably, the "Millennium Bug" has become an infestation, but there is one Y2K-related problem that is still overlooked: When all is said and done, Y2K-compliant businesses may not be able to get into their offices, anyhow.

Modern buildings - in fact, most large buildings, regardless of their age - are controlled and run by computer-based systems that are likely not to be Y2K-compliant. This means that on Monday, January 3, 2000, there could be no elevators, no HVAC, no telephones or no life safety systems.

Miller Freeman, a publisher serving the facility design and management field, in a survey conducted with Software AG Americas, reported that with fewer than 350 business days to go (as of August), only 21 percent of U.S. companies have certified all of their mission-critical software as Y2K-ready.

Sharp corporations are monitoring all their mission-critical hardware and software for Y2K-readiness. They are also making sure that any building they own, control or occupy is prepared to receive their workers when the Millennium arrives.

Realizing that buildings needed to be made Y2K-compliant along with other computer-driven systems, Lilker Associates Consulting Engineers formed a special Y2K group last year to help clients prepare their facilities for the turnover. based on our experience with all kinds of installations, we offer the following advice to building owners, managers, and tenants on what to do:

First off, you must assess the extent of your exposure to this risk. You will need to bring on board three parties to make this happen: your building's operating engineers; an outside MEP engineering consultant; and representatives from the firms that manufactured your building's systems equipment.

Make an exhaustive inventory of the building's systems and use the information to generate a complete list of equipment vendors and manufacturers.

Ask your engineering consultants to develop and send a questionnaire to each manufacturer to determine whether their product is Y2K-compliant, or if they have already planned or taken steps to comply. At the same time, determine the presence of embedded technologies not easily accessible for testing purposes. We have found, for instance, that late-model boilers often contain embedded control chips.

Responses provide important information about complicated equipment and also contain the manufacturer's claim of Y2K compliance for its products. In a best-case scenario, the manufacturer will say, "Go ahead and test it. There won't be a problem." Thus, if the system fails during testing, liability has been established.

Have your team prioritize your building systems. There may not be enough time remaining to test everything, so the criticality of a particular system will determine whether you schedule testing. Because uninterruptible power supplies, generators, HVAC systems, elevators, fire alarm systems, lighting controls, security and building management systems are vital to basic operations, they must be thoroughly tested, regardless of how manufacturers have responded to your queries. Your motto must be "Trust no one."

Make sure that engineers carefully discuss ambiguous test results with manufacturers before pronouncing success or failure. However, once a failure has been determined, correction and re-testing must be swift and thorough.

We tested the elevators in a 40-story office building for one of our clients, even though the manufacturer, one of the world's largest, claimed they would function adequately. The results revealed what is at stake in an office tower. While all the elevators ran on all tested dates, the manufacturer-supplied 486PC locked up at the year 2028. Lost in the lock-up were the elevator locations, and loading and movement information.

The glitch did not affect the operation of the elevators, because elevators are controlled by sensors that determine the weight in each elevator. The system then knows when to send more elevators to a busy spot. Clearly, the bottom line for the manufacturer was that the elevators did function as designed. The bottom line for our client, however, was quite different, because anything short of 100 percent performance is unacceptable.

it may be inconceivable to individual business owners that they will collectively spend an estimated $560-$600 billion to become Y2K-compliant. It is absolutely certain, however, that every business will be inconvenienced, many will be disrupted, and some will fail.

To succeed in the face of such a daunting estimate, the best advice is "Leave no loose ends."

(Serge Budzyn is a principal at Lilker Associates Consulting Engineers. The firm will be publishing a newsletter on Y2K preparedness in early October. For a copy, contact Mr. Budzyn at 212-695-1000.)
COPYRIGHT 1998 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Focus on: Energy, Technology & Conservation; Year 2000 date change problem
Author:Budzyn, Serge
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Sep 16, 1998
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