The global building services market is experiencing a period of rapid growth. In fact, industry analysts predict that it will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 5% over the next five years.
Fueling this growth is a dedication to future-focused methodologies and technologies alike, performed by a workforce that is more equipped and capable than ever before.
Today, we're taking a look at five recent trends that are shaking up the building services sector in the best way. Though the building services industry has lagged behind others in the quest to embrace technology, these new innovations are out to help them chart a new course.
Ready to learn more? Let's get started!
1. Technology Supporting Human Efforts
Notice that this headline said "supporting" and not "replacing."
In the realm of building services, technology shines brightest when it's used in tandem with existing human efforts.
While automation can revolutionize this sector, it isn't out to replace workers or render them unnecessary. Instead, teams can use it to eliminate some of their most mundane and repetitive tasks. This frees them up to work on more mission-critical projects.
Smart Tools for Better Work
Other tools that can supplement and support workers' efforts include mobile apps, virtual assistants, and wearable technology. Let's take a look at each.
While smart tools are key players in the building services industry, their power amplifies when they're portable. This is a sector comprised of on-the-go field workers and service providers who need quick access to critical project data. This is where mobile apps like Route shine.
Take team management apps, for example.
These make it easy for project managers to see which field technicians are performing in which roles. In addition, they reveal worker performance levels and time management activities. Such apps can also help document projects, schedule equipment maintenance, improve stakeholder communication and increase back-office efficiency.
Virtual assistants can take care of the grunt work associated with some of the administrative aspects of the building services industry.
Such tasks include web presence management, customer service, recruitment and project management support. Expect to see chatbots interfacing with clients in these departments and beyond.
One of the most interesting advancements in the field is wearable technology. Some tools serve to improve worker safety while others enhance project efficiency.
From smart caps that monitor brain fatigue to special eyewear that overlays 3D building plans over an existing job site, these tools sound like something out of a science fiction novel. However, expect to see them become project site mainstays in the near future.
The Role of AI and Machine Learning
While artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are making major strides, they work best when used to augment early planning decisions. For instance, designers can use AI to identify change risk, predicting future outcomes and adjusting work beforehand to improve favorable outcomes.
On the job site, these tools can help improve project workflow, save resources and increase team safety. Such systems will take the place of physically demanding tasks that could otherwise place excessive pressure on workers and shorten their careers.
At the same time, the opportunity to use such smart machines will propel a younger, more tech-savvy generation into the building services industry.
2. Sustainability Initiatives
Research reveals that commercial building owners will spend a collective $960 billion between now and 2023 on green building initiatives. While they're looking to make their entire properties more eco-conscious and energy-efficient, they're focusing their attention on the following areas:
- HVAC Systems
This means that contractors can gain a competitive edge by procuring products from companies with dedicated green policies in place. These solutions range from simple cleaning solutions to complex industrial units.
3. Lean Building
In keeping with this commitment to sustainability, service providers can also differentiate themselves by sticking to a lean, low-waste business model.
Industry data shows that this industry lags second to last when it comes to leveraging digital technology to boost efficiency and productivity levels.
To reverse this trend, future-focused firms are looking to automation to help them reduce waste of all kinds on each project undertaken. From excess materials delivered on a job site to tasks that overlap in a given schedule, there are myriad areas of misuse. As such, they're looking at sophisticated workflow management apps to help mitigate these areas of surplus.
By communicating with stakeholders early in the design process and implementing a variety of lean strategies, service managers can help identify and cut inefficiencies associated with time and material waste.
4. Big Data and Analytics
The building services industry is like any other in that it receives and transmits a massive amount of information every day.
For decades, this data went untapped, until the Internet of Things (IoT) helped to connect disparate devices. Now, building managers can access and analyze these insights on a regular basis and mine them for value.
Looking ahead, there are three main areas in which big data holds a great deal of potential in this industry. Let's take a closer look.
The Design Phase
Building designs and models can demonstrate what a finished project will look like. However, there are many elements that can influence the probability of success.
Now, stakeholders can analyze environmental data, team member input (including that from service providers) and even social media conversations to help determine what to build and where to build it. They can even look at historical data to find patterns of risks to avoid.
Case in point? Brown University recently used Big Data to determine where to build its new School of Engineering facility to maximize its benefit to students and staff.
The Build Stage
A project occurs over multiple stages that are dependent on a range of conditions. These include weather and traffic patterns as well as other community activities.
Project managers can use Big Data to determine the timing of these phased activities. At the same time, service providers can use the data points to help improve system efficiency and control costs.
How? They can monitor system idle and usage times to determine how often they're in use.
From there, they can make informed decisions on whether to rent this equipment or buy it outright. From plumbing tools to landscaping equipment, this can be a significant way to save money and conserve resources. They can also use geolocation technology to improve logistics, find spare parts as needed and avoid downtime.
The Operation Phase
Once a build is complete, managers can use Big Data to keep track of system operability and performance. They can also track the energy efficiency of items to make sure they comply with initial design goals.
From there, they can send this data back into Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems to help initiate and schedule maintenance services as required. It also helps drive more informed and detailed inspection reports before, during and after each project.
5. The Internet of Things
When discussing the IoT, it doesn't take long to realize its vastness. Today, we can connect almost any device to the internet and access the same information every time.
Within the building services industry, this connectivity is fueling more advanced capabilities both on-site and in-house. Let's review a few recent trends.
Installation and maintenance crews don't always have their hands free to access important instruction manuals. They also work in remote locations where traditional support functions couldn't reach.
Now, thanks to technologies such as the upcoming second generation of Google Glass, they can access this documentation in a hands-free mode. They can also troubleshoot alongside support personnel who can see what they see thanks to remote monitoring.
Building Information Modeling
While the concept of building information modeling (BIM) isn't new, its modern functionality is. Workers can place sensors in newly constructed buildings that report on various metrics, including how time and weather conditions affect the quality of building materials.
They can also deliver important updates on energy efficiency levels, as well as information on structural stability, such as how a bridge bends under the weight of traffic.
RFID Replenishment Tags
When on-site workers run out of materials and resources on a job site, it can be difficult for them to relay this need to outside support personnel. This is where advanced RFID tracking comes in.
These tags affix to units of supply, which then hook up to an on-site system that counts them. When the numbers dip below a set point, the system triggers a notification to a central database that signifies it's time for replenishment.
In effect, this chain reaction limits idle times and speeds up project completion. It also supports real-time provision and controls costs by eliminating the need for companies to stock up on excess material to make sure they don't run out.
Business services personnel can also use RFID tags to label their tools and equipment. This way, they always know where they are at a given time and don't have to waste valuable project hours looking for them or ordering replacements.
Equipment Repair Sensors
Gone are the days when a service worker had to troubleshoot and test a machine for hours to determine the cause of its malfunction.
Now, most include smart sensors that transmit information about each system's status, which can help technicians perform preventative repairs and updates before a failure occurs.
Building Services is Evolving and Innovating
The future of building services is here.
From software apps to wearable technology and Big Data insights, there's no limit to industry innovation. Successful leaders in this space will be those who embrace automation and digital transformation rather than remaining stuck in tradition.
Are you ready to transform the way your building services team operates? From walkthroughs and estimates to workflows and inspections, the Route platform helps organize and streamline your team's efforts.
Register today and begin your free trial to see the benefits firsthand. You're one step away from taking advantage of these tech-centric trends for yourself. Let's take it together.