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Power to the Office Worker

Modern offices consist of variable spaces that cater to personal preferences and functional needs. The indoor air quality is typically not as adaptive to various tasks, which can lead to suboptimal worker performance and dissatisfaction. A pilot project led by Senate Properties used BIM and building data to develop an operational model that helps workers get a better grip on indoor conditions.

Around 55,000 government employees work in the 9,000 premises managed by Senate Properties, a Finnish, state-owned enterprise. For decades, Senate has been at the forefront of digitalizing construction and property management. They routinely use BIM both in new building projects and in retrofitting. Over the last few years, Senate Properties has developed and piloted the use of BIM for the purpose of maintenance and operations.

Testing BIM as a Property Management Platform

Esa Halmetoja
Esa Halmetoja, Senate Properties

“We want to improve the work conditions of office users, and consequently employee satisfaction and work productivity,” says Esa Halmetoja, Senior Expert at Senate Properties. “In this pilot project, we wanted to demonstrate how to use a building information model as a platform for locating service requests and performance monitoring in a three-dimensional environment.”

The pilot project formed part of KIRA-digi, a national digitalization program aimed at the Finnish built environment, and it was implemented in 2018. Senate Properties was joined by Granlund Oy and Cozify as data providers, and by ISS Palvelut and PolkuIO as data utilizers. Platform of Trust and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd were also involved as technical service providers.

“The purpose of Platform of Trust is to make data flow in the built environment,” says Vesa Ilmarinen, the Chief Impact Officer of Platform of Trust. “In this project, we connected the conditions data model with the building information model. The solution lets Senate Properties scale up the solution according to their needs.”

The User Interfaces

Vesa Ilmarinen
Vesa Ilmarinen, Platform of Trust

In the pilot project, Senate Properties offered the users of an office building in Oulu a smartphone web app. Each room had a unique QR code on the wall. After the user had scanned the code, a web page opened showing information about the current temperature, humidity, and CO2 level of the space. With a few clicks, the user could report back how they felt about the temperature and the air quality.

“After receiving the scanned ID of the room, Platform of Trust located the space in the BIM model. Then, it retrieved IoT or building automation data from Granlund’s Metrix system or from Cozify and posted it on the web page. All this took about 20 milliseconds,” Halmetoja explains.

“When the user gave feedback, this was sent through the system to a maintenance worker’s tablet computer. The feedback and an emoticon were displayed in the three-dimensional model, exactly where the user was at the time.”

With this arrangement, service providers were afforded a real-time view of the conditions of the property and could therefore pinpoint problems at once. Naturally, building users in turn expected a rapid response to their requests.

Scaling Up

The user feedback from the 300 pilot users was entirely positive. Hence, Senate Properties has started to equip 13 buildings across Finland with a similar system, and plans to complete this work by the end of 2019. The company aims to offer 100 buildings with 20,000 state employees the same service during the four-year strategy period.

Halmetoja calculates that a mere 1 percent improvement in employee productivity will pay back the investment costs in less than a year. He would also tolerate a small increase in service providers’ charges as a compensation for a fast-responding service. Senate Properties intends to incorporate the requirement for a data-driven service into their general agreements with service providers.

New Service Opportunities

Senate Properties is able to provide a lot of building-related, real-time data. Halmetoja points out that their aim isn’t to find out how service providers use the data; rather, they simply want to generate value for the end user. He urges their providers to create new business and new services with the newly available data.

Vesa Ilmarinen agrees: “Why not take in data from other sources—for example, data about cleaning, furniture, space utilization, or people flow. Sensors are fairly cheap and measurements are inexpensive. With Platform of Trust, making data flow has become affordable, too.”

He reminds us that platforms such as Platform of Trust are actually all about APIs. A platform is like an invisible protocol that enables the creation of new services, as Senate Properties has just demonstrated.

You can meet Halmetoja and Ilmarinen at WDBE 2019 in Helsinki in September, where they will be giving a joint presentation on the conditions data model. Halmetoja is working on a PhD embodying the same topic.

About the author

Aarni Heiskanen

Aarni Heiskanen, Construction Innovation Agent, is hailed as a Top 100 influencer in construction. Aarni has been a pioneer in computer-aided design, he has co-founded a business software company, and worked as a certified management consultant. At present, he runs AE Partners, a construction industry communication firm. Aarni holds a master's degree in architecture.

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