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Focus on human element emerges as main topic in latest industry discussion

05 February 2020

The recent breakfast briefing organised by PFM, in partnership with Lutron, emphasised the need to place people at the centre of all FM operations.

Attendees at the recent PFM breakfast briefing at the Lutron Experience Centre in central London expressed their appreciation for the wide-ranging areas of interest covered within the course of the event.

This ranged from presentations, explanations and strategic discussion with Lutron personnel to an in-depth discussion on the various issues and benefits of engaging with smart technology in areas ranging from lighting to the managing of buildings and estates.

Lutron marketing and technology manager Miguel Aguado opened the proceedings with a presentation on smart buildings and lighting controls.

In addition to presenting a number of verified statistics to show that the cost of employees is by far the largest expense for any business, he also discussed the concept of human centric lighting and the emergence of intelligent lighting systems to assist with the implementation of this.

Not only can adjusting lighting levels help to improve building occupiers’ wellbeing, he said, but this can also help to reduce energy bills and emissions by ensuring that the correct levels of light will be delivered for all areas and may mean that more lights can be switched off or dimmed.

With legislation increasingly seen to be driving the need to provide healthy work spaces, Mr Aguado said this will see significant changes relating to workplaces within the next five years.

Lutron experience centre leader Matt Jacks further explained to delegates that the growth in controls to manage buildings of all types is set to continue.

Advancements in technology are continuing, with the potential to manage entire estates or large clusters of buildings.

He further advised that luminaires in many commercial buildings were frequently over-specified, which provided considerable potential to make savings by dimming these by 20%.

Another positive development for managing facilities has been the emergence of wireless technology and sensors, leading him to explain to delegates that “the power of wireless is incredible, if you do it right”.

Mr Jacks further advised that although smart fixings had been shown to be highly effective in a number of settings, it was not possible for these to provide all the necessary requirements.

Having set the scene to begin the discussion on the wider picture of the challenges and benefits involved in the application of smart lighting technology, opening comments included the need not to regard buildings simply as bricks and mortar structures.

Each facility should allow all those using it to do this in the most effective manner, the delegates agreed, and included the statement that they should enable workers to be as productive as possible.

Following the well-publicised focus on wellbeing in all areas of FM and throughout business and industry, further comments included the view that the role of lighting should be recognised within this.

With modern lighting systems proving to be more effective and cheaper to run, details of these benefits should be shared with colleagues to gain buy-in and capex funding for additional projects.

Comparing data pre- and post-project completion was suggested as an effective means of showing return on investment (ROI), which could include comparing levels of absenteeism and energy use.

Following the installation of lighting that improved the workplace while reducing energy use, the use of modern controls was seen as a natural progression to continue to increase efficiency levels and deliver savings.

Legislation and higher levels of awareness of environmental issues were seen as providing additional support to continue the journey of energy efficiency, but the need for both landlords and tenants to work together was emphasised to ensure that projects would succeed in delivering the best results.

The necessity to be aware that technology is constantly changing was emphasised, as this is “constantly changing the conversation”.

One of the common issues emerging was the lack of people with sufficient understanding of the correct way to apply the latest technology, it was stated, which was seen to be having an increasingly worrying impact on the FM sector.

Although there has been considerable coverage of the skills shortages in all areas of business and industry, the view was expressed that more training on the correct understanding and application of new technology is now an urgent requirement.

Greater levels of expertise would allow companies to appreciate the true value of design and gain the most value from their systems, which also relied on an effective procurement process to be in place.

In order to gain the best results from the implementation of both smart lighting and building solutions, ensuring these requirements were in place at the start of each project would allow all those involved to take ownership, another essential element that would address the issue of systems being designed and installed with insufficient effort or support for users.

It was also stated that a number of clients could be seen to have been confused by agile working solutions within their workplaces and each office should be designed to suit the needs of the client and allow its staff to achieve these in the most efficient way.

There were too many examples of buildings constructed for the lowest price and maximum profit, leaving clients and FMs to then make them fit for practice afterwards.

In order to change this practice it was necessary to show greater understanding of how buildings will be used in the future, which included the need to see the best smart technology being available within the workspace.

With increasingly more people enjoying access to advanced technology in their homes and leisure pursuits, there is a growing expectation for this to be seen in the office.

As a result, clients and building owners needed to be aware of the need to take ownership of meeting the expectations of clients and their staff, which involves working with all stakeholders as early as possible in the construction, refurbishment or fit-out stages.

This would avoid the frequently expensive requirement of retrofitting buildings to meet the requirements of users and provide benefits to everyone by ensuring that access to the best technology was available as soon as they moved into the building.

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