- This workshop brought together estates managers and members of the developer community for this first time to explore the opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of university and college estates, and to identify some of the barriers that currently exist.The event was designed to help build links between Estates and ICT practitioners, with the aim of stimulating subsequent technical actions on areas such as interfaces and standards. This included a lively workshop session to discuss the issues and a series of presentations from the differing perspectives of the estates manager, the software developer, and commercial providers in this space.
Opportunities and Issues: Director of Estates’ PerspectiveDerry Caleb, Director of Estates, University of Surrey and AUDE President
- Caleb began by questioning where the interface between the building and IT begins. He highlighted that, as a sector, we spend £490m on energy, which is only going to go up. This means estates managers need to understand those costs and to be transparent about them in order to demonstrate how they are delivering value for money. The technology infrastructure now available allows us to do this with much more granularity.
- However, Caleb highlighted the complexity of the systems that need to integrate, many of which are traditionally held within different domains within the institution. He questioned who should hold the entity relationship diagram showing how our data systems and activity spaces are linked together and demonstrated how many links and data sources a university space database could potentially have, if they were to be mapped out.
- Caleb noted that many universities have more than one space database, but the benefits of having just one could be huge, whether it sits with the Estates Manager, the IT department or elsewhere entirely. Understanding the relationships between systems and data is going to become increasingly important, particularly as the number of systems increases.He went on to discuss the difficulties in finding the right expertise to facilitate the Estates/IT interface, which he identified as being a major barrier to greater integration between systems:
- He concluded by discussing the importance of collecting data to help analyse and plan for the full lifecycle of our buildings, and the value that historical data can have for resolving current issues and projecting future spending more accurately.
- In this short video interview Derry Caleb explains what he feels to be the key issues and aims moving forward from this workshop...
Opportunities and Issues: Estates' PerspectiveGrant Charman, Deputy Director of Estates, University of Leicester
Charman discussed the three themes that commonly cause problems: project controls, people controls and building controls, drawing on his own experiences to illustrate the issues which can arise.
He told the story of their efforts to source a project control system, which included the development of an in-house system based on SAP which didn't fulfil their requirements, and ended with them purchasing a commercial solution: Imprest. This is working well and the installation went smoothly, but he did highlight some issues. The service should have one-way integration with SAP, but their local configuration of SAP does not export all the information they require, so still wrestling with this aspect of the integration. However there have been some unexpected benefits, including a data store, which is included with Imprest.
To demonstrate the issue of people controls, Charman focussed on help desks. He noted that an in house solution built on SAP was initially a vast improvement, but still remains a flawed system, so they are currently considering whether to break the link with the finance SAP system as they look for the next solution. Whatever that solution is, Charman emphasised that integration with IT services is crucial.
Finally, Charman discussed building controls, noted that his department is lucky enough to include a former Schneider employee, who helps them to get good information from their BMS and understand where the holes are. He observed that they know a lot of their buildings do not perform as well as they could, but this is often for reasons outside of their control. However, he discussed some of their future plans for their BMS, including linking fire alarms and intruder alarms to security, and their plans for a large low-to-zero carbon building.
He concluded by reiterating the need for Estates and IT to link together.
Opportunities and Issues: Estates IT Expert PerspectiveGlyn Cash, Engineering Systems Engineer, Leeds Metropolitan University