Smart FM, smarter Dubai

A tech-savvy facilities management industry promises significant cost and energy savings, and a reduction in the overall impact of a building on the environmentImage Credit: Courtesy of Emrill

Dubai is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts towards becoming a smart city by 2021. From transportation to communication and other services, different aspects of life are being given a smart makeover. This is also true for the buildings we live and work in, which are being built with smart technology and managed smartly.

PW talks to a few industry leaders at a Facilities Management Expo in Dubai to understand how the industry has adopted the smart way of doing business.

Getting smart

“Buildings today are sophisticated and have the latest technology and innovations,” says Dr Hayan Sayed, CEO of ETA Facilities Management. “They need companies to manage them. It all started in Dubai, now it is the case across Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and other countries in the region. Managing these buildings efficiently and integrating the tech within are the key challenges ahead.”

The technologies embedded in many modern buildings have paved the way for smart facilities management (FM). It’s now possible to monitor the total distance travelled by elevators, excessive vibration of cooling fans, water and air flow, occupancy rates, emergency systems, energy consumption, etc. as well as control the temperature in common areas across different floors.

All these can be done using a single integrated system, which can be accessed from a laptop or handheld smart device. Smart buildings have sensors that monitor and collect data, which is relayed to a central server on a real-time basis. It is then analysed to better understand usage and efficiency patterns. Analytics drive decision-making and eventually eliminate wastage and promote effectiveness. They also bring down overall maintenance costs and increase asset lifespan.

“In a smart building, the management system is con nected to all the controls, [so] we are able to tell how much power the building is using every minute of the day [or] what’s the temperate outside and inside,” says Jason Ruehland, Managing Director of Dubai-based Emrill. “Hence if it is cooler outside, more fresh air can be pushed within the building, a chiller or two can be turned off, the load can be shared across units. We can manage efficiency and reduce wear to the equipment.”

Environmental impact

In addition to efficiency, smart FM also promises significant cost savings and reduces the overall impact of a building on the environment. “In the UAE, we get subsidised energy and the costs go up 15 per cent year-on-year,” says Ruehland. “An intelligent building management system will help manage the energy consumption and reduce wastage. Hence, one can save up to 20-30 per cent on energy bills alone.” Drawing from this trend, Dr Sayed estimates the FM industry to be worth Dh35 billion and expects it to touch Dh50 billion over the next four to five years. The industry players are evolving and developing specialist services.

Farnek, another UAEbased FM company, has created a solution called Hotel Optimizer. This internet tool, designed specifically for the hotel industry, analyses the consumption and costs associated with energy, water and waste disposal. The firm has also partnered with Hitches and Glitches to introduce the H&G Store, which offers a convenient online alternative to traditional call-based home maintenance.

Smart FM is not just for new buildings; old structures can also adopt it. Today, most companies are willing to invest and upgrade existing systems as they can recover their money over the contract period primarily through energy savings.

Growing fast

Smart FM is gaining momentum in the UAE, but a lot is still to be achieved. “The industry is not fully ready for smart yet,” says Dr Sayed. “There are numerous technologies, platforms and software available to us. Integrating people, processes, and building and operation technologies is the next step to smart FM.

“Today we are half there and I believe implementing [everything] will take another four to five years.”

Integration is not the only challenge. Demand for talent in this industry over the next seven years will be extremely high. With the World Expo 2020 in Dubai and 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, the region will see significant growth in infrastructure. All FM companies will need to scale up significantly to be able to deliver seamless and efficient services.

“We have 6,000 employees and will need to scale up to 9,000 employees by 2020 in order to cater to the anticipated demand and growth,” says Ruehland.

Source: Ashutosh Gupta, Special to PW


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