Information technologies include the entire field of computer-based information processing (i.e., hardware, software, applications, and services, telecommunication links and networks, digital databases, and the integrated technical specifications that enable these systems to function interactively). Information technologies are a major force in the U.S. economy and new applications are being developed and deployed into the marketplace on an 18-to 24-month cycle. Government, industry, and academia are investing millions of dollars and thousands of hours researching and developing information technologies to serve a wide spectrum of purposes. Available and emerging information technologies are changing business processes and practices; how products and services are manufactured, purchased, and delivered; and how people live, learn, work, and communicate.
The architecture-engineering-construction (A-E-C) industry, is also a major force in the U.S. economy. The sector is comprised of about 1.25 million companies, generating about 6.7 percent of U.S. employment. New construction accounted for about $705 billion of the Gross Domestic Product in 1999, $1.07 trillion if repair and maintenance expenditures are included.
Information technologies have the potential to transform the A-E-C industry and facilities management in the twenty-first century by changing the processes through which buildings are created, operated, and managed. It is estimated that more than $600 million was invested in dot.com and technology-related ventures in the A-E-C industry in 1999, with an additional $600 million invested in the first nine months of 2000.
Buildings, in contrast to software applications, take 2–5 years to design and construct and are built to last at least 30 years, although many are used 50–100 years or longer. The federal government owns more than 500,000 facilities worldwide and spends upwards of $20 billion per year on building design, construction, and renovation. It spends additional billions on information technologies and the salaries of the 1.9 million people who work in federal facilities.
Available and emerging information technologies hold the promise of enhancing the quality of federal workplaces; supporting worker productivity; improving capital asset management, programming, and decision making; reducing project delivery time; and changing how buildings are constructed and operated. Federal agencies, however, face a significant challenge in identifying technologies that will justify the investment of time, dollars, and resources, will have the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances over the longer term, and will not be obsolete before they are deployed.
PURPOSE OF THE SYMPOSIUM
To begin to address these challenges, the Federal Facilities Council (FFC) sponsored a symposium entitled “Emerging Information Technologies for Facilities Owners: Research and Practical Applications” at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., on October 19–20, 2000. The symposium featured speakers from academia, the public, non-profit, and private sectors. It was attended by some 175 people representing 27 federal agencies, private sector firms, local governments, and professional societies. The FFC is a cooperative association of federal agencies having interests and responsibilities in all aspects of federal facility acquisition, operation, and management. The mission of the FFC is to identify and advance technologies, processes, and management practices that improve the planning, design, construction, maintenance, management, operation, and evaluation of federal facilities.1
The purpose of the symposium was to bring together building industry stakeholders from government, the private sector, and academia to begin to identify:
information technology trends;
the potential impacts of information technology on facility planning, design, construction, and operation processes, and the people involved in those processes;
issues facilities owners should consider when planning and purchasing information technologies;
issues facilities owners should consider in managing the impacts of information technologies on people and processes;
information technology initiatives being developed by government, academia, and the private sector to support various aspects of facility management; and
research needs and opportunities for additional collaboration.
Neither the speakers nor the members of the audience were asked to arrive at a consensus on emerging information technology issues for the A-E-C industry or the federal government or to make recommendations for resolving such issues. Over the course of the two-day symposium, however, a number of recurring themes and issues emerged.
Information technologies and applications promise to transform facilities design, construction, and management but are still in the early development and adoption phases. Computing power is increasing exponentially; one speaker projected that by 2015 microprocessors will have one million times the power they have today. Computer memory, bandwidth, storage capacity, and graphics processing technology will see similar increases in capacity over the same period, and advances will be made in display resolution. Digital cameras that can capture images and geometric data simultaneously will be developed. Wireless technologies, such as Palm Pilots and cell phones, will link into computers and thus provide mobility by allowing people to input or access data from the field. Ongoing initiatives in data standards include interoperability (defined as the development of object class libraries to enable integration at the application programming interface level) and aecXML, a computer language that supports the use of the World Wide Web as a giant database by tagging information so that data can be shared, moved around, and used in intelligent applications.
For the A-E-C industry, some application developers are stating they will have computer-aided drawing applications on the World Wide Web by 2003. In the longer term, advances in processing speeds and new display technologies will help enable designers to move from modeling and then rendering to rendering while modeling: Software is being developed that will transform an architect’s sketches into preliminary drawings and simulations that can then be reviewed and ultimately turned into working drawings and construction documents. The next generation of digital cameras will allow designers working in an urban environment to take pictures of the surrounding buildings and have the information automatically become a database that can be used to design in context. New display and projection systems will allow architects to immerse themselves in the space they are designing. A number of these new technologies are being developed, tested, and used in academic settings today.
A government-industry consortium is considering development of cost-effective technologies for collecting, compiling, and maintaining field data for actual representations of buildings. Advanced sensing and scanning tools would be used to collect the data, wireless technology for moving the data where they are needed, visualization software for providing meaningful representations of the data, and analysis software for verifying the results. High-quality, interactive simulation tools would be used for developing three-dimensional models of facilities, checking out operating procedures for new facilities, and gauging the impact of introducing a new technology. A design team, owners, and contractors would immerse themselves virtually in a proposed design to determine whether the design meets their needs.
Traditional computer-aided facility management (CAFM) applications (lease management, maintenance management, space inventory, asset management) are all migrating to the World Wide Web to be joined by new applications, designed for energy management, e-commerce, and assessment of facilities for portfolio management. The objectives are to provide for information integration and improved facilities management.
By 2002 most CAFM applications will be offered by application service providers (ASPs), a third party that provides the telecommunications infrastructure and operates and maintains a database that users can access via their browsers for a fee. For data users, contracting with an ASP can eliminate some costs for computer hardware, memory, data management, and training. The financial models for such application service providers, however, have not been well developed, and there are few profitable ASPs in the market today.
Interest in developing e-commerce, e-business, and e-process applications for the A-E-C industry is high because of the size of the industry and its potential market. E-commerce was defined as conducting business communications and transactions among companies over the Internet. A survey of Fortune 500 companies focusing on the impact of e-commerce on facilities management practices found that the use of business-to-business e-commerce is just emerging. The top uses of e-commerce were purchasing supplies and materials from a specific vendor or through an Internet service that connects buyers and sellers; accessing facilities manuals; publishing static project information; and taking interactive courses. There is a pattern of increasing use of the Internet to do more traditional facilities management activities, but purchasing seems to be a core use that is providing payoffs. About one-quarter of the responding companies reported that e-commerce will change their facility management departments “a lot” by 2003. One of the biggest issues and barriers to implementing e-commerce is integrating existing legacy systems into newer, Internet-based applications.
Internet portals, or extranets, offer the opportunity to integrate technology services and information that professionals can use to design a building, manage a geographically dispersed project team, bid on and procure building materials and services, access building product specifications from manufacturers, and manage completed facilities. Project extranets—defined by one speaker as project management and project-specific Web sites that encourage interdependence, flexibility, and partnership—are in the early stages of adoption. The speaker cautioned that the first generation of extranets is so pioneering that users should carefully consider a range of issues, including data security and trusted content, process, business relationships, mobility, linkage with legacy systems, customer support, and the ability to customize interfaces, before contracting for an extranet service.
Information technologies have the potential to seamlessly connect facility management processes and practices and to enhance productivity, but barriers remain to the realization of these objectives. There is a growing gap between an architect’s design and its realization during construction because of the large number of
complex systems and processes involved in creating a building. Fully integrated and automated project processes—the seamless integration of information flow throughout a facility’s life cycle—from concept to design, construction, operation, maintenance, and dismantling—is a vision supported by stakeholders in the building industry. The technologies for such systems would be characterized by one-time data entry; interoperability with design, construction, and operation processes; and user-friendly input and output.
The projected benefits of fully automated and integrated systems include reduction of design changes and rework; improved project scheduling and control; improved supply chain management; improvements in construction safety; development of accurate as-built information for future operation, maintenance, and renovation processes; and a reduction in the total life-cycle costs of facilities. However, a significant number of obstacles must be overcome before the vision of seamless connectivity with a concomitant increase in productivity can become a reality.
One obstacle is the nature of the A-E-C industry, which is fragmented, local, and lags behind other economic sectors in the introduction of technology. In the United States, there are 1.25 million companies in the A-E-C sector, the majority of which operate in a local or regional market. Ninety percent of these firms employ 10 or fewer people, and a typical firm has only one computer. The average life of a subcontracting firm is less than three years, thus firms are entering and exiting the industry on a regular basis. For those reasons and others, productivity in this sector has actually declined since 1965. At this time, there is no common, single voice for the industry or a roadmap for developing fully automated and integrated project and process systems, although a consortium of public- and private-sector entities has been established to take on these responsibilities.
The development and deployment of new technologies requires substantial investments, but few A-E-C firms invest in research and development. Most operate with a short-term outlook and are susceptible to downturns in the economy. The research and development that is taking place is primarily funded by the government and is occurring in academic settings or is being funded by private-sector technology firms seeking to market their products to the A-E-C industry. Even when an innovative technology or process is developed, it is difficult to get people to commit to it because of the high degree of risk and uncertainty associated with changing long-standing processes and practices.
The development of fully automated and integrated applications requires substantial bandwidth, which is not yet routinely available. Interoperability standards—to promote compatibility among various computer platforms, languages, and applications or that will allow private-sector individuals and companies to build proprietary technologies on an open platform—are still in the early development stages. Although standards are a fundamental requirement in developing fully automated and integrated systems, only a few organizations are investing time or money in standards development.
Integrating technology infrastructure with the social and physical infrastructure of an organization presents major challenges. Today, information technology infrastructure is typically in one part of an organization, human resources in another, and facilities operations in a third, with little interaction among them. To reap the full benefits of information technologies, organizations need to understand where these functions overlap and to systematically design for them as an integrated whole.
Managing the impact of information technologies on an organization’s processes, people, and culture will require new skills and training on the part of facility managers. An organization or manager first should understand the nature of the work and then determine how information technologies can help and when they can hinder interaction and understanding. As organizations employ technologies that move information from “stove pipes” owned by individuals to the World Wide Web, where information is shared, managers need to understand that traditional relationships among people and offices will change. If managers do not anticipate and plan for these changes, they are likely to encounter resistance to adopting the new systems and even the undermining of such initiatives by individuals who view the systems as a threat.
To use new technologies effectively managers should consider who will be using them, where, and how they will be used. For example, research is finding that people spend much more time in solitary work than in teamwork. Procedural work (such as status checking, report writing, schedule coordination) can be done indepen-
dently at any time by individuals, and information technologies can be useful in these activities. One key factor in using information technologies effectively is to network people who work independently with those who work in teams.
Information technologies can also enhance collaboration processes, but there must first be a reason to collaborate. Collaborative, interactive processes themselves require interactions and debate that is often better done face to face than electronically. Face-to-face social interactions involve eye contact, gestures, body language, and other senses that allow one to judge how people are reacting to an idea. Such social interactions allow team members to build relationships and establish trust. Electronic interactions, in contrast, are very task focused, lack a context, and have less accountability. Work is being done in universities and elsewhere to add social and emotional context to electronic interactions.
Understanding how to use information technologies to leverage and manage institutional knowledge is a significant challenge for organizations. The essence of information is that it can be readily translated into bits that can be detached, moved around, and transferred across time and space. For transferring information the Internet is ideal. Knowledge, in contrast, is connected to a person. Knowledge is cognizance or understanding gained through relationships, communication, mentoring, and experience. When an organization fails to recognize the differences between information and knowledge its people will spend too much time exchanging bits of information (because it is easy to do so) and insufficient time analyzing the information to understand what it means to their work.
Organizations are seeking to develop ways to capture and institutionalize the tacit knowledge that resides in their people through the use of information technologies. The objectives of knowledge management systems include leveraging experience by interaction among peers; retaining knowledge in anticipation of retirements; facilitating customer support, improving response to calls for information; enhancing decision support; and improving linkage with operations. Knowledge management systems that limit access to sensitive information can create conflicts between those seeking to collaborate and those striving for security of sensitive information.
ORGANIZATION OF THIS REPORT
Summaries of symposium presentations are contained in the following chapters. Chapter 2 provides an overview of emerging information technologies for facilities owners. Chapter 3 looks at how information technologies may change the A-E-C industry. Knowledge management is the focus of Chapter 4. Chapter 5 provides a sampling of new information technology tools that support the development of fully integrated and automated facilities management processes.