Higher education students sitting on the stairs in the hall of a building.

Transforming Facilities Management into Infrastructure Management

Facilities Management is traditionally defined as the “organizational function which integrates people, place, and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business” by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). However, the phyiscal buildings and assets that come to mind when using terms such as “built environment” and “facilities” no longer cover the full scope of what is needed to integrate people, place, and process with the purpose of improving.

The built environment and facilities management itself is moving rapidly into the realm of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Building Internet of Things (BIoT). For universities looking to provide competitive and connected environments for their students, staff, faculty, visitors, and surrounding communities, facilities management teams must be able to manage the traditional physical infrastructure aspects while also expanding to manage the growing digital infrastructure of a campus of the future.

The Blending of Digital and Physical

An example of this expanding picture for facilities management includes parking garages. Parking lots and garages on campus must still be monitored for safety and security reasons, and they must still receive inspections and physical upkeep. However, for campuses looking to offer smart parking features, there will be new assets, such as parking space sensors, as well as digital information points to maintain. With this feature, students who are commuting to campus can interact with their university’s mobile app to request a parking spot nearest their classrooms. A smart app using location management will be able to predict the student’s arrival, reserve a space, and provide the student with an automated and unique access code.

In order to provide a service like this, the physical layout and capacity of all the parking garages and lots on campus must still be known. The data must be accurate, available, and structured in a way that is usable. Digital models will be needed and the physical parking space must also be equipped with access technology and sensors to indicate the real-time usage of each space. These physical sensors become a new asset for the facilities management teams to manage, and so does the data the sensors produce. The campus must also be equipped with the appropriate cellular and Wi-Fi service, so that the mobile devices students are using to request spaces and indicate location can stay connected with no interruptions.

Facility Management Transforms to Manage the Smart Campus

This blend of physical and digital infrastructure management holds exciting possibilities when applied to classrooms, campus security, cameras, access, fire, HVAC, lighting, comfort control, indoor air quality, energy supply, and more.

Research and advisory firm, Gartner, Inc., explores these possibilities further and defines the “smart campus” as “a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystems. Multiple elements, including people, processes, services and things, come together to create a more immersive, interactive, and automated experience for students, staff, faculty and stakeholders of a university or college.”

With facilities management deemed the appropriate department to manage this “immersive, interactive, and automated experience” that is being transformed by the possibilities of technology, so too, must the FM profession go through a transformation, developing into, perhaps, the term “infrastructure management” to better describe the growing scope of responsibilities, both physical and digital. Ready or not, facilities management professionals must be poised and ready to embrace this exciting future of campus management.

An extensive report around this topic was recently published by Planon with a group of distinguished higher education professionals. You can also watch this video of these higher education experts discussing their research around the transformation of facilities management.

Portrait of David Karpook, Sr. Business Consultant, Planon

David Karpook

Manager Partner Program

David Karpook is the Manager Partner Program for Planon North America. In this role he is responsible for developing and maintaining the relationship between Planon and its partners, including those specializing in implementation and training.

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