For decades, the building service contracting industry revolved around pen and paper.
Those providers who did have access to a set of tech tools used them to perform discrete tasks. Until recently, a comprehensive suite of automated resources designed for this niche didn't exist.
As a result, labor costs were high and productivity waned as manual efforts reigned supreme.
Today, machines in almost every industry are becoming autonomous and this sphere is catching up.
Now, there are smart tools available to help with almost every facet of the job, from janitorial work to post-construction cleanup. Today, we're highlighting a few technologies that make the work faster, cleaner and more efficient.
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The Mobile Enterprise
While IoT devices make buildings smarter, they also improve the performance of the people building and cleaning those properties. Now, anyone with a smartphone or a tablet can schedule a job, order materials, check on the status of a project, and follow-up with a customer.
As such, it's not surprising to know that 77% of Americans now own a smartphone. In fact, a third of them live in a home with three or more people!
This is where mobile apps and data-driven platforms for building services shine. When you equip your teams with these tools, they can connect in an instant, communicating and collaborating over timezones, geography, and specializations.
Real-Time Digital Services
Especially in this industry, every second counts.
When a change or setback occurs, key stakeholders need to know as soon as possible so they can make necessary adjustments.
The good news? What used to take days to communicate now takes seconds, thanks to real-time digital services technology. Building software equipped with this feature notifies all relevant parties of any movement, whether they're cleaning windows on a high-rise, bidding a job in the field, or working behind a computer in the office.
Real-time shift management, task completion tracking, and job notifications alert project managers every time a workers clock-in, clock-out, changes schedules or achieves a milestone.
In the building services industry, real-time technology also allows workers to create virtual geofences around their worksite, creating a needed layer of accountability while ensuring a safe and effective space.
Making use of GPS tracking to protect vehicles and equipment from theft, monitor worker performance and safety habits, boost productivity, and reduce downtime and wasted resources is also common.
The Internet of Things
In today's digital era, IoT is an analogy and tech industry buzzword that shows no sign of slowing down. It stands for Internet of Things and it describes a network of devices, including sensors, meters, and appliances, that can share and send data.
In buildings and building services, IoT is gaining a ton of headway.
Now, there are smart features built into modern buildings that transform the traditional experience.
Smart lighting and electricity automatically adjust the brightness in rooms and help to control utility use. Smart floors generate power through an advanced step-tracking method and can even benefit hospitals and nursing homes by sensing when someone has fallen.
Smart appliances, from programmable ovens to app-controlled washing machines and water heaters, optimize usage to dramatically improve performance while reducing operating costs.
In commercial properties, technologies such as smart access control are gaining speed. These devices use facial recognition tools and analytics to recognize staff and approved guests, keeping buildings more secure.
In addition, some smart buildings are now equipped with occupancy sensors. These can direct a bank of lights to turn on when the sensors detect a presence. Yet, this is far from the only application.
For the most part, IoT devices in this industry fall into the following four categories:
- Equipment: Devices that optimize lighting and HVAC operation
- Energy: Devices that lower carbon emissions and power use, such as wireless energy consumption monitoring
- Spaces: Devices that sense people in a room, make them comfortable with HVAC and lighting, and then capture historical occupancy data
- Environmental Quality: Devices that measure carbon dioxide levels or particulate matter
Breakthroughs in Building Service Trades
Across the industry, innovations including Bluetooth-connected tools allow building service workers to fire up and fine-tune their gear before they even arrive on the job site.
Commercial clients want their buildings to be as effective as possible. In the past, this would require HVAC contractors to install heavy-duty machines that weren't only expensive, but also took their toll on the environment.
To cut costs, reduce emissions and improve performance, tech-savvy leaders in this space are embracing innovations such as smart HVAC systems.
These machines use controls that "learn" over time how much heat or air conditioning to send to certain areas of a building. Over time, this reduces costs on both ends, as there are less maintenance, adjustment, and upkeep required.
On the new construction side, this installation requires that service providers understand the intended use and occupancy of the building. In a retrofit, they must perform an extensive audit of the current system to ensure it's capable of supporting the new features.
On the plumbing side, look for digital valves to take over in the near future.
Now, workers can see a visual representation of the water temperature in a faucet, controlling it with the touch of a button. Smart shutoff valves and leak detectors also exist, controllable via smartphone.
Building operators know the first sign of water damage and can take immediate action to mitigate it. This saves plumbers and service providers the cost and labor of an exhaustive cleanup.
The Impetus on the Building Services Community
As smart tools and connected devices continue to become power players in the building service industry, leaders are working together to construct new buildings that leverage this technology.
Integrated project development (IPD) plays a major role here, bringing a wider range of stakeholders into the pre-project planning phase early on. This includes building service contractors, who can weigh in on issues, listen to important conversations and begin planning the design layout as early as possible.
One example of this collaboration at work is the Sumitomo Building in Japan. Here, the team leads modified the existing building to maximize the efforts of the on-site automated cleaner. They installed optical transmission devices in the elevators alongside a compatible device in the device itself.
Building Information Modeling
In the vein of IPD, building information modeling, or BIM, is another pre-project process that can make the overall construction and maintenance processes more cost-effective and efficient.
This technique involves using a 3-D visualization tool to help everyone involved in a project get a clearer picture of what the final product will look like. It's a big step up from 2D projections, which made it difficult to see various perspectives and angles.
Service providers are getting involved in the BIM process from the onset, helping them better understand the scope of the work required and how to design a solution around it. Overall, this cuts costs, clears confusion, minimalizes delays and streamlines efforts across the board.
Smarter Project Management Efforts
Augmenting manual work with robotics is one application of building service tech.
Another area in which automation is making a major difference is project planning and reporting.
For instance, walkthrough builders make the pre-project scope of work phase more accurate than ever before. Then, once a building project commences, managers can use the same platform to view team schedules, assign tasks and digitize the entire workflow.
They can also access software solutions to keep track of their tools, materials and work crews, ensuring against project setbacks. During the project, they can leverage mobile technology to get in touch with their workforce, eschewing traditional paper documents or even email in favor of this real-time solution.
After construction is complete, there are similar tools that help employees stay on track. These can record and report time, keep everyone on schedule, and combine all project data onto a comprehensive business management platform accessible by all team members.
This cloud-based collaboration software takes the place of a digital or paper filing system, where disparate pieces of project information can become misplaced.
Leveraging Building Service Technology to Work Smarter
From plumbers to electricians and every trade in between, building service providers are the backbone of any construction project.
Whether you're in the initial walkthrough phase of a new build or cleaning the carpet of a 50-year-old building, it pays to have the right tools on your side. As innovations become more sophisticated, these tools are becoming more tech-focused and automated than ever before.
The Internet of Things, Robots and Drones are changing the way we clean commercial surfaces while improving safety and efficiency. Smart software solutions help us gather project data points into one accessible platform.
All of these resources can help lower costs and improve productivity for building service contractors. Forward-thinking providers will leverage them to get a leg up on the competition and keep pace with innovation.
Are you ready to change how your service company operates? Are you tired of working with outdated spreadsheets, slow reporting systems, and disjointed apps? If so, we can help.
Route's walkthrough, job bidding and proposal software makes it easy to organize all of your efforts into one easy-to-access platform. From field services to property management, you can capture, track and analyze it all.
Contact us to learn more and let's take this next step forward together.