Mar 31 2023
Digital Workspace

Modern Facilities Management in Schools and the Tech Behind It

Upgraded software, hardware and networks help K–12 facilities management teams work more efficiently and save districts money.

When it comes to the responsibilities of school authorities, one of the most vital is the way facilities management teams maintain and manage assets owned by the school. These teams, which include such varied departments as maintenance, health and safety, and technology, keep the school running.

“We’re trying to create great educational opportunities for our kids. The more we can do to make the facilities fade into the background to avoid impeding the learning, the better,” says Lou Angelo, director of operations and facilities at Pennsylvania’s Upper St. Clair School District.

Facilities management is often overlooked in K–12 education, despite the sector’s significant dependence on technology. The average K–12 school has many assets that need to be maintained and managed. A school must also balance the requirements of students, district board members, parents and federal regulations.

By using modern technologies — including software, the Internet of Things and networking — facilities management in K–12 school buildings can become more cost-effective and energy-efficient. These technologies can also support the efficiency of facilities management teams, which is crucial for many departments in K–12 institutions facing staffing shortages.

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What Are K–12 Facilities Management Technologies?

Facilities management teams use various technologies to help manage and maintain buildings and infrastructure. These technologies include building automation systems, computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) and IoT devices.

Upper St. Clair School District uses a Siemens building automation system, Angelo says. “That has been a longtime system we’ve been using here.”

CMMS, which is frequently cloud-based, helps teams manage maintenance activities, whereas IoT devices offer real-time data and analytics to optimize building performance and safety. Because they’re connected to a school’s network, they can also be programmed to run on a schedule or according to a certain set of criteria.

Facilities management teams also use other software solutions, including:

  • Space management software to helps teams optimize space usage and occupancy
  • Asset management software to track physical assets like equipment and furniture
  • Energy management software to identify energy-saving opportunities and monitor consumption to reduce costs

These departments also rely on mobile devices to complete work across many different buildings in K–12 school systems. “We have a central command where everything is loaded on a desktop, but in the field, our technicians use tablets to access information, and a number of them use their own phones or other mobile devices,” Angelo says.

What Are the Benefits of Upgrading School Technologies?

Technology upgrades can offer significant benefits to facilities management teams. By upgrading their technology, teams can streamline operations, reduce costs and improve safety and comfort for building occupants.

MORE ON EDTECH: IT teams can help teachers save time and focus on instruction.

CMMS solutions help teams manage maintenance activities more efficiently, reducing downtime and boosting productivity.

Building automation systems can also reduce downtime and make teams more efficient. By monitoring and controlling various building systems — such as climate-control systems, lighting, and energy consumption — building automation systems can free up facilities management teams to spend time on more complicated tasks. This also ensures building occupants stay comfortable and on task, without having to worry about fluctuating temperatures or difficult-to-control systems.

“Keeping in mind the research on temperatures and air control that contribute to better learning is an important goal for us in facilities,” Angelo says.

Because IoT devices offer real-time data and analytics, modernizing this tech helps teams make informed decisions about maintenance activities and resource allocation. This technology lets teams detect issues more quickly, respond more efficiently and make decisions that will optimize building performance.

Dr. Lou Angelo, Upper St. Clair
It’s hard for us to do anything without involving tech to some degree.”

Lou Angelo Director of Operations and Facilities, Upper St. Clair School District

Modern space management, asset management and energy management software solutions allow facilities management teams to optimize space usage, track physical assets and identify energy-saving opportunities. As schools continue to implement upgraded technologies in classrooms and put one-to-one devices into the hands of students and teachers, these software solutions become invaluable to those in charge of keeping learning running smoothly.

Upgrading space, asset and energy management software improves efficiency, cuts costs and gives teams the information they need to make decisions about resource allocation.

Why Should You Upgrade Networks in Facilities Management?

Upgraded networks are essential to facilities management technologies because they enable seamless integration and communication between different systems and devices. In facilities management, technology plays a vital role in monitoring, analyzing and managing a wide range of building systems, all of which impact educators’ ability to teach and students’ ability to learn.

RELATED: Here are five reasons to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6 in your district.

With an upgraded network, facilities management teams can ensure all these systems are connected and communicating effectively, allowing for real-time monitoring and analysis of building performance. This can help identify issues and inefficiencies, reduce downtime and optimize the performance of the building systems.

Six Ways to Improve Facilities Management Technologies

Schools can make these improvements to better manage their facilities and ensure a safe and comfortable learning environment for students:

1. Adopt Green Solutions

Implementing green solutions for facilities management in K­–12 schools can have several benefits. It can slash operating costs by improving energy efficiency and reducing water usage. This frees up budget that K–12 leaders can invest in other areas of the school.

Green solutions, such as energy-efficient climate-control systems and environmental sensors, can also improve indoor air quality, which can positively impact the health and well-being of students and staff.

Additionally, these changes promote a culture of sustainability in the school community, teaching students about the importance of environmental responsibility and encouraging them to adopt sustainable practices in their daily lives.

KEEP READING: What do tech departments need to know about green IT?

2. Enhance Data Analysis

Improving data analysis for facilities management in K–12 schools is crucial. It helps facilities teams make informed decisions thanks to real-time insights into facility operations, including asset management, work orders and maintenance activities. This information can be used to identify areas for improvement, cut costs and improve overall facility performance.

Data analytics can help identify patterns and trends in facility performance, which can be used to inform preventative maintenance and asset replacement decisions. This can help extend the lifespan of equipment and reduce downtime, ultimately saving schools money.

“The work order system allows us to prioritize preventative maintenance tasks,” Angelo says. “When you have a reliable system that people know how to work, they’re going to know what needs to be done from a preventive maintenance standpoint, no matter what. It doesn’t matter who’s sitting at the helm.”

3. Implement a Mobile Maintenance Management System

A mobile maintenance management system can enable maintenance staff to manage work orders, inventory and equipment maintenance schedules on the go. This can boost efficiency and reduce response time to maintenance issues, which is crucial for smaller or understaffed teams.

4. Monitor Ownership Expenses

The total cost of ownership is one of the most useful standards for understanding the efficiency of facilities management. A comprehensive understanding of financial management makes it much easier to create a budget and plan for future infrastructure upgrades. These financial estimations can help determine the effects of an asset’s lifetime respective to estimated repair costs.

5. Carry Out Regular Facility Audits

Regular facility audits involve a comprehensive evaluation of the physical condition of the school’s facilities, including its buildings, equipment and grounds.

Regular facility audits allow facilities managers to identify maintenance issues, safety hazards and other potential problems before they become major problems. This can help minimize downtime, reduce costs and ensure that the learning environment is safe and secure for students and staff.

Facility audits also can help school leaders identify areas for improvement in terms of energy efficiency, sustainability and overall performance. By identifying areas where improvements can be made, facilities teams can implement strategies to reduce energy usage, water consumption and waste while improving the school’s overall performance.

6. Promote Collaboration Between Departments

Interdepartmental communication is essential for effective facility management in any organization, including K–12 schools. This involves creating an environment where different departments within the school, such as maintenance, technology and administrative staff, can collaborate and share information.

“Our facilities and technology departments rely on each other. It’s hard for us to do anything without involving tech to some degree,” Angelo says. “We have a very good working relationship and good communication between departments, and that’s key for our success.”

By promoting communication across departments, facilities management teams can ensure all staff members work toward common goals and objectives. It can also help identify potential issues and areas for improvement, because different departments may have unique perspectives and insights.

LEARN MORE: How can K–12 admins improve business continuity planning?

One way to promote communication across departments is to establish regular meetings or communication channels, where staff members from different departments can share updates, discuss issues and collaborate on projects. This can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward common objectives.

Modern Facilities Management Technology Offers Immense Benefits

As a result of the upgrade process, facilities management teams can streamline operations, reduce costs and improve safety and comfort for building occupants. Software solutions can also help teams optimize space usage, track physical assets and identify energy-saving opportunities.

By embracing modern technologies, K–12 schools can create a safe and comfortable learning environment while optimizing resources and promoting environmental sustainability.

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