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Operational building performance measurementMay 2010

So you believe you are being sustainable? You think your staff are productive?  How do you know for sure?  You really need some performance metrics, says Jo Harris.

The mere act of assessing the operation of things tends to lead to improvements in performance.  This is a useful by-product of any intervention.  When it comes to building performance, assessments need to combine the physical and the behavioural, for example energy consumption and occupant satisfaction.  The combination is vital.  After all, the ultimate purpose of any building is to provide value to the occupier.

The I3CON research project seeks to go beyond the performance of individual factors and look at the total delivered value of the building to the customer.  BSRIA's role in the I3CON project is at an operational level, the hypothesis being that maintaining standards is dependent on the measurement of performance.


Figure 1: The use of building performance metrics reported by the BSRIA survey. The results from the three building sectors have been aggregated to show the ranking of the metrics (hence the accumulated percentage axis). Each metric is, of itself, a percentage score of the ratio between use and importance (click image to zoom)
Performance metrics for the operation and maintenance of buildings have not been agreed by either the construction industry or its clients.  People tend to select those that are most appropriate for their situation.

So what does an organisation need to know to allow it to make informed property decisions?  There are many metrics that need to be available about a facility before strategic property decisions can be made, such as life-cycle costs, functionality and lease agreements.

Choosing the right metrics

There is always a need in building operation and maintenance to provide a clear and compelling case for resources. Interventions must also be able to benefit an organisation's corporate objectives.  For example, organisations need to be convinced that proactive maintenance is in its best interest, and that the measurements (the metrics) verify that maintenance makes sense from a business perspective.

In March 2009, BSRIA held a focus group meeting to develop a set of metrics in consultation with industry stakeholders.  The focus group considered the inter-relationship between measuring the performance of a building as an asset and measuring the value or effect of that measured attribute on the organisation.  The aim was to identify the important metrics, as well as to gain an initial understanding of how building performance measurements varied according to the use of a building.

Inevitably, the user group's range of perspectives made it difficult to draw firm conclusions from one meeting.  However, the results were nonethelsss developed into an initial set of operating and management metrics.  These were then tested by other industry representatives through a second workshop and a telephone survey.

The resulting metrics were grouped by BSRIA into seven key indicators:

  • Building running costs
  • Reliability of the building and resilience to failure
  • Flexibility of the internal space
  • Building and systems complexity
  • Productivity of occupants
  • Contribution to corporate image
  • Environmental impact

A telephone survey was undertaken to test these metrics on a larger sample of 28 building operators.  Respondents were categorised into types of properties that they operated.  The majority of operators (63 per cent) were running office buildings; 18 per cent were running manufacturing plants, and 7 per cent were running University properties.

When the respondents were asked which metrics they already use, the results were slightly different from those they thought important.  There is a tendency to record the metrics that are easy to assess. Metrics that are difficult to assess, such as productivity, are rarely used (Figure 1).

BSRIA took the ratings for importance and frequency of use to generate a ratio of importance to use for each metric.  This highlighted metrics that are not currently used but regarded as valuable in the future.

It is reasonable to assume that if effort is concentrated on the top five most under-utilised metrics, and workable methods are developed, the facilities management community will welcome them.  Of course, facilities managers do not all occupy similar premises or have the same needs.  Hence the individual results for manufacturing, universities and offices are separated out in Figure 1.  This reveals that the three environmental measures are used by all of the universities, but to a lesser degree by manufacturing firms.  Less than 40 per cent of respondents in offices were using environmental metrics.

User perceptions, through the use of post-occupancy evaluations or customer surveys, were less important for the office and manufacturing groups, but remain a priority for universities.

The least used measures which are not important to the universities and only of small importance to the offices and manufacturing groups are business impact from disruption, lifecycle costs, flexibility of support systems, remaining liability costs and occupant productivity.

The metric of total facilities management (FM) costs is used by a good percentage of the respondents in each group, although some universities and manufacturing respondents did not regarded the metric as an appropriate measure for their facilities.

While the survey results were interesting, BSRIA recognises that the number of responses was too small for detailed analysis.  The results are nonetheless a good indication that different performance metrics are needed for different types of building.  BSRIA is working on the further development of these measures, with a view to introducing them to Members of BSRIA's Operation and Maintenance Benchmarking Network during 2010.

For further information contact jo.harris@bsria.co.uk.  BSRIA acknowledges the support of the European Commission and in particular its NMP programme for partly funding the I3CON project.

 

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