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Options for building operations software.

A fundamental key to tenant retention in a competitive market is a well-operating and well-maintained building. However, pressures to reduce operating expenses continue to make this task more difficult. Computerization of building operations may offer one alternative to enhance current building standards without incurring additional costs.

The bad news about software for building operations management is that, in the context of property management (PM) or standalone systems, there is not very much available. The better news is that if you look in the direction of facilities management (FM) systems and building automation systems (BAS), you might find something very useful.

Options in property management programs

Within property management systems, building operations capabilities are directly addressed by only a small, but growing, number of programs. The approach is simple and straightforward-provide for generation of work orders, then add degrees of sophistication.

As I mentioned in the November/December 1990 JPM, some of the work-order-system implementations should be scrapped in favor of the user's own alternative methods. For example, one program allows you to generate a work order, period - no report, no record of the work order, nothing. The end result is that it would be better, faster, and easier to type a work order on your word processor The benefit of this "work order system" is not for the user; it is for the vendor, who can claim the capability in trying to sell it to you.

At the other end of the scale, one or two programs have work order systems that tie in with.the accounts receivable and accounts payable systems. And that can be very useful when implemented well.

Facilities management software

If you need building operations capacities beyond property management systems capabilities, you can explore the possibilities available in facilities management software.

While property managers and facilities managers perform some of the same functions, property management and facilities management software programs are very different computer applications. In fact, there is almost no overlap.

A major difference is that facilities management programs in general are oriented toward corporate real estate with all or most of the space occupied and managed by the corporation. A few FM programs are designed specifically for management of specialized properties for such uses as industrial processing, government, public utilities, or the military. Property management software, on the other hand, is oriented toward the management of investment real estate occupied primarily by nonowner tenants.

While "building management" occurs in both PM and FM environments, the orientation of the two functions differs. FM systems focus on occupants instead of tenants and are aimed at space utilization rather than income optimization.

These differences in orientation are reflected in the two types of software. FM software is usually inventory based, with the resources on one side and the requirements on the other PM software is transaction based, with the income on one side and the expense on the other In PM, the first focus is on recording transactions for accounting purposes. In FM, the primary need is for sophisticated manipulation in searching, selecting, ordering, and otherwise working with data. Because of this need, FM software applications are generally more technologically advanced than PM programs.

Components of FM software

Three principal tools provide the foundation of FM software: databases, CAD graphics, and specialized hardware. "Database" has several meanings and contexts. A key distinction is between formalized database structures, including "relational," "network," "hierarchical," and other less formalized collections of data that are also called "databases."

In the world of FM software, "database" usually means a formalized relational database. This provides the user with much, much more flexibility and power in working with the data than unformalized data structures provide.

Relational databases are not widely found in PM systems. Many PM programs look like relational databases, because of such things as the organization of data on input screens, but are not. A principal indicator of database type is reporting capabilities. if you can easily generate almost any kind of report you want by merely choosing the data, you probably have a formalized database structure under the program. if an ad hoc "inquiry" function is available, you almost certainly do.

Another indicator is programming language. Programs written in BASIC are unlikely to provide the benefits of relational databases. On the other hand programs that are written in some "database languages" - for example, dBase - provide database benefits, but incur operating efficiency costs.

You cannot explore FM systems in 1991 without considering the branch of computer graphics known as CAD (or CADD), for "computer-aided design and drafting." CAD software is graphics software that is specifically developed for the needs of architects, engineers, and other design professionals. It accommodates floor plans, wiring plans, and other similar construction components quite well.

The first level of CAD software usage is to store and use the various drawings associated with the tasks of facilities management. The second, more powerful level of CAD software usage is to associate it with a database capability. For example, the dimensions of plan elements, such as rooms, are not available for inquiry or as searchable data in a CAD system. You can see the dimensions on the drawings, but you cannot have the system search for, say, spaces greater than 10 feet by 20 feet in which to place the mailroom. With a relational database of facilities information tied to the CAD system, you can easily do that and much more.

The ability to combine the two forms of data can substantially enhance and coordinate the work of project managers, construction managers, maintenance managers, space planners, engineers, architects, and anyone else involved in physical building operations.

Fundamental tasks of gathering, organizing, maintaining, analyzing, utilizing, and presenting information are made much easier and more valuable. For example, these programs permit you to develop and monitor a comprehensive preventive maintenance system, from listing equipment serial numbers and capacities to creating work schedules and useful-life analyses. Higher-level tasks of inventorying, planning, designing, allocating, and maintaining space, fixtures, and building environments are also enhanced. The complex tasks of solving problems and communicating with others are also facilitated.

Auxiliary equipment available for input, output, and processing can substantially enhance an FM system. input devices such as scanners and digitizing tablets with electronic stylus make it easier to translate building plans into computer data. With the proper systems, drawings and other graphics can be scanned or input by merely tracing. Area takeoffs and counts of furniture and equipment can be automated from floor plan drawings. Output devices such as plotters allow for more complex re-creations of facilities plans.

Other advanced systems incorporated in some FM systems include imaging pictures and catalogs of furniture and equipment, video, and bar-code strips on furniture and equipment.

Building automation systems

Building automation systems (BAS) include hardware and software that works with physical systems of the buildings. Building data comes from connections to thermostats, time clocks, smoke detectors, alarms, and other sensors and equipment. The system uses this information to monitor and control temperature, pressure, humidity, and lighting. A building automation system may also include security and fire protection controls.

Building operations software

Software for building operations includes programs for maintenance and repair, cleaning and housekeeping, security, environmental systems, utilities, communications, equipment, parking, and other needs of the building manager Some programs are available only in connection with FM or BAS systems. And some are available as separable or independent software.

None of these four alternatives in computerizing building operations - PM systems, FM systems, BAS systems, or standalone programs - offer enough options to achieve the best functionality and configuration for your situation. In FM systems, just as in PM systems, building operations software is not the first order of business. BAS systems are not generally structured so that their data can be easily accessed for property management purposes. Many of the standalone programs are focused on industrial production situations rather than on real estate management.

Among the components and functions commonly found in building operations software are:

Maintenance and repairs. In comparison with the PM work-order systems, FM and independent maintenance and repair software is generally much more sophisticated and comprehensive. The primary focus is usually preventive maintenance instead of breakdown maintenance and repair. Program elements of a typical maintenance-management system include:

* Detailed inventories of maintainable and repairable buildings components, spaces, and equipment.

* Specifics of labor and contract resources, parts and repair materials, and vendors.

* Detailed preventive maintenance requirements, schedules, and repair histories.

* Automatic and manual work-order generation and management.

* Purchasing, cost analysis, and budgeting.

Some systems also incorporate bar-code technology options. For example, each space can be assigned a code number translated into a bar code label. A supervisor could then use a hand-held reader/computer to automatically access stored information and inspection standards for the space and work through an area-specific computerized quality checklist.

Some integrated FM systems will provide CAD drawings with work orders and other maintenance-related elements. Some environmental control systems incorporated in building automation may be extended to be useful in maintenance scheduling. Detailed data on monitored systems operations may be analyzed with the software to project and schedule needed maintenance.

Tracking conditions to determine the need for maintenance can be aided by specialized database programs that perform calculations and select equipment, building areas, or other repairable items based on age or data values. The software then produces reports in a tabular or graphic format, which can be used to determine needed updating and repair cycles. Required materials and repair costs for the job can be analyzed.

Security. FM security systems can include access control, video-image display, closed-circuit television, guard tours, elevator control, alarm monitoring, system reports, audio, and floor plan graphics. One system offers a device-independent set of options that allows for mix-and-match of different systems including biometrics identification, remote control, and many other features.

Environmental controls and utilities. The primary domain of building automation systems is environmental systems and utilities. The components of comfort systems continue to become smarter through the use of microelectronics. As this trend toward distributing intelligence in microprocessors throughout the systems of sensors and environment-conditioning equipment continues, the control systems become both more flexible and more powerful. One example is enhanced ability to bill individual tenants for off-hour costs.

Communications and other building operations. In addition to these major program types, you can find special programs for other functions, such as laundry operations, cleaning and housekeeping, cabling and wiring systems, and parking control. Looking at the many aspects of a sophisticated wiring program, for example, will demonstrate just how complex some building management problems can be - and how much help the new technology can provide.


Property managers seeking building operations software can look to four sources:

PM software vendors. So far there is very little available other than work order modules.

Building operations software not associated with FM, PM, or building automation systems. There are some of these programs, but many are not well suited to PM needs.

Building automation systems. This is one way of the future. As the building's physical systems installed at birth or retrofit become ever smarter, you will be able to communicate with them through your own computers. As you begin to do that, you will be able to expand to such things as bar-code technology.

Facilities management programs. Facility managers seeking software for building operations have more options than property managers do. Comprehensive FM software systems include many elements that are useful in building operations such as plans, drawings, inventories, and assignments.

The prices of FM systems are about parallel to the prices of PM systems. For example, an FM program with 100 screens costs about the same as a PM program of similar size. A fundamental justification of FM systems is that many different members of the firm can benefit from it. The marginal costs of adding extra building-operations features to an FM system is relatively low compared to the costs of building operations software that is independent of an FM system.

The extent to which building operations and FM type software becomes viable for the property manager will, of course, depend on its value to an owner. One possible future development would be for drawings to be provided by design contractors, in CAD files, to the property manager. As links between the designers, property managers, and building systems become more computerized, the improved functionality-for-price of building operations software will make it a more reasonable investment for investment real estate.


CAFM Systems and Strategies by Eric Teicholz and Michael Sena Facility Management Systems by Jeffrey Hammer The Intelligent Building Sourcebook by John Bernaden and Richard E. Neubauer

Michael J. Hanrahan is president of Real Estate Software Test Lab and Real Estate Software Advisors in San Francisco. He has been a software review consultant for JPM since 1987 and has independently evaluated more than 50 property management software programs.

Mr. Hanrahan has been in the real estate business for more than 20 years. His academic background includes advanced studies and bachelor's and M.B.A. degrees in real estate, urban economics, applied economics, and international business. Prior to his current activities, he was director of research of Questor Associates.

Mr Hanrahan speaks to, writes for, and advises real estate companies, trade associations, and publications about real estate software for property management, investment, and other real estate applications. He also maintains the Real Estate Software Information Bank.

The Benefits of Facifities Management Software

Apart from the building operations aspects, there are many other elements of facilities management software The foundation of an FM system is its data files - for example: * Space database. Building data includes several tables of attributes such as location, physical characteristics, lease terms, and so forth. * Tangible re-sources database. Usually this is furniture and equipment. Detail can include descriptions, location, operating requirements, related documents location, and so forth. * Personnel database. The FM-related data includes working relationships, work schedules, and so forth. * Requirements/needs database. Group relationships and any resource-related requirements, such a proximity to other groups.

In addition to the current data, some FM software maintains histories, which can be very useful for analyzing, projecting, planning, and managing space needs.

With a full FM system, you could accomplish many things: * Long-range facility planning. Personnel and space needs forecasting, user needs analysis, building use optimization. * Annual facility planning. Vacancy analysis, space utilization-rates analysis, space programming, floor-use and adjacency analysis, stacking plan, and blocking plan. * Facility financial forecasting and budgeting. Cost of ownership analysis, cost-per-square-foot analysis, capital planning. * Real estate acquisition and disposal. Space acquisition analysis, real property inventory, lease terms and conditions, rent payment schedules, lease options. * Interior space planning. Workplace specifications, furniture and equipment installation, and:space management. Space standards applied and modified, furniture standards applied and modified, space inventory, space accounting and allocation, furniture and equipment inventory and tracking. * Architectural and engineering planning and design. Existing conditions analysis, space requirements analysis, layouts and design, drafting, cost estimating, presentation of drawings. * New construction and renovation. As-built plans of architecture, furniture and equipment, and building systems; specifications; drafting; cost estimating; bid package preparation. * Maintenance and operations management. Energy audits, budget planning and control, coordination of moves and construction, work order issuance, project reporting, project management. * Telecommunications integration, security, and general administrative services. Systems inventory, systems management, purchasing, regulation, and code compliance.

Some Facilities Management Software Programs

These programs are only examples of FM software. They are not listed here as recommendations, nor do they represent a complete list of all available programs.
Accugraph Corporation Facility Management Systems, Inc,
5822 Cromo Drive 8145 River Drive
El Paso, TX 79912 Morton Grove, IL 60053
(915) 581-1171 (800) 553-1234
FM systems Security, safety systems
Advanced Graphics Systems InnerVision, Inc.
9717 E. 42nd Street, Suite 100 4608 South Garnett, Suite 409
Tulsa, OK 74146 Tulsa, OK 74146
(918) 663-1455 (918) 664-2955
Drawings system FM systems
Advantage Group, Inc. Innovative Tech Systems, Inc.
P.O. Box 2006 589 Bethlehem Pike, Suite 1200
260 Riverside Avenue Montgomeryville, PA 18936
Westport, CT 06880 (215) 997-2711
(203) 454-2515 FM systems

Lease administration
American Auto-Matrix, Inc. 1920 West Corporate Way
One Technology Drive P.O. Box 61022
Export, PA 15632 Anaheim, CA 92803
(412) 733-2000 (714) 533-8910
Building automation, FM systems CAD, cabling management,
 FM programs

Brighter Images
936 Dewing Avenue Jung/Brannen R&D
Lafayette, CA 94549 177 Milk Street
(415) 283-3340 Boston, MA 02109
Database to editable graphics (617) 482-2299
CADworks, Inc. FM applications
222 Third Street Landis & Gyr Powers, Inc.
Cambridge, MA 02142 1000 Deerfield Parkway
(617) 868-6003 Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
CAD/FM applications (312) 215-1000
CASI-RUSCO Building systems
552 NW 77th Street Massachusetts Institute
Boca Raton, FL 33497 of Technology
(407) 997-9660 Office of Facilities
Access control, safety monitoring Management Systems
 Room E19-451

Computer-Aided Design Group
4215 Glencoe Avenue 77 Massachusetts Avenue
Marina del Rey, CA 90292 Cambridge, MA 02139
(213) 821-2100 (617) 253-6148
FM systems FM systems
Creative Management Systems Omniversal Inc.
400 Riverside Avenue 5200 W Century Boulevard,
Jacksonville, FL 32202 Suite 800
(904) 355-2745 Los Angeles, CA 90045
Maintenance systems (213) 670-3131
 FM applications

Decision Graphics
Two Westborough Business Park Palette Systems, Inc.
200 Friberg Parkway 6 Trafalgar Square
Westborough, MA 01581 Nashua, NH 03063
(508) 970-5900 (603) 886-1230
FM systems CAD, spatial database
FaciliTech Planimetron
32500 Telegraph Road, Suite 205 873 E. 25th Street
Birmingham, Mi 48010 Upland, CA 91786
(313) 645-1400 (714) 982-7962
FM systems FM programs
Facilities Management Systems, Software House
Inc. 1030 Massachusetts Avenue
81 Main Street Cambridge, MA 02138
White Plains, NY 10601 (617) 661-7023
(914) 686-8939 Security systems

Space management
FM: Systems Spacesaver Software Systems, Inc.
5922 Six Forks Road, Suite B 155 Executive Drive Suite 104
Raleigh, NC 27609 Brookfield, Wi 53005
(919) 870-9800 (414) 782-5130
Space management Maintenance system

Acronyms in Building Operations Software

AEC: Architecture/Engineering/Construction AM/FM: Automated Mapping/facilities Management (used in the context of infrastructure facilities and their mapping) CAD: Computer-Aided Design CADD: Computer-Aided Design and Drafting DBMS: Database Management System FM: Facilities Management FPM: Facilities Planning and Management PM: Property Management RDMS: Relational Database Management System
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Title Annotation:includes related article on facilities management software, a list of vendors, and a list of acronyms
Author:Hanrahan, Michael J.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:May 1, 1991
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