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Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM)

CAFM, or computer aided facilities management, differs from EAM (employee monitoring) and IWMS (asset monitoring) to the extent that it focuses on the facility as a whole, and is meant to plan every aspect of daily operations. It relies on data gathering, on bringing together in one place all the aspects of facilities management from architecture to business admin, and thereby allows for data-based decision making to optimise overall efficiency.

One of our main concerns is the need for integration in digital infrastructure, and CAFM allows for this. Often in a “smart” built environment there are many different technology siloes operating independently but building performance cannot be optimised that way: instead, CAFM links to H-VAC, to lighting, to access control, and allows data to be extracted and analysed (often live) in the one place. And this in turn means that efficiency gains are possible from, for example, more accurately scheduled or even predictive maintenance.

If assets can be monitored remotely, then other efficiency gains are possible. Remote operation of windows can be used, where appropriate, to improve ventilation without recourse to air conditioning, and this can reduce energy consumption without distracting employees from their work. Thermostats can be adjusted, as can lighting, to maintain the optimal environment for occupant wellness, and patterns in historic data mean that efficiency improvements will manifest over time, as machine learning works to optimise energy use and reduce the overall carbon output of the building. (It should be remembered as well that remote monitoring, diagnostics, and repairs reduce the need for on-site visits, and this in turn reduces the operational carbon output of engineers driving to site.)

Aside from carbon-savings, labour-savings, and all the attendant cost-savings, CAFM software can also be used to register when someone has parked in their allocated space, for example, and order their preferred morning coffee, or tea, from reception. A minor example, perhaps. But it helps to illustrate the wider point that efficiency gains and occupant experience are often closer than they might appear, and employee satisfaction is closely linked with one of the most pressing concerns in integrated facilities management – worker attraction and retention. A building that attracts the best workers and keeps them happy is adding value over the course of its operational life.

CAFM also stores vast amounts of data in a central location – data on the operational efficiency of the building, for example, is something that the UKGBC is asking building owner-operators to volunteer at the moment to qualify their buildings as ‘net zero compliant’. But there is every reason to suggest, as we have argued elsewhere, that these voluntary submissions will soon become mandatory to ensure that net zero targets are met (2050 in England, 2045 in Scotland). With all information easily accessible on construction, design, and energy use, as well as relevant contacts, the use of CAFM in building certification could hardly be clearer or more pertinent.

Without even mentioning space optimisation, or room allocation, or hot desking, the uses of CAFM are obvious to anyone with an interest in optimising efficiency: most importantly, CAFM represents one important step away from technology siloes and towards integration, an important cognitive shift in the journey towards fully optimised buildings.

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