Building management: A playground for EAM

Although the digitalization of building management operations is only just beginning, the enterprise architects organized in CBA Lab have already developed an integrated approach for digital building management systems.

Enterprise architecture management (EAM) can be used to design digital business processes and create efficient IT landscapes. However, CBA Lab has also determined that EAM can form the foundation for the development of a digital operational platform that can be used to manage a physical building complex. EAM needs to be combined with product lifecycle management (PLM) and systems engineering in order to make it possible to manage a building throughout its entire lifecycle. If such an approach is adopted, it becomes possible to plan and construct buildings in a more efficient manner – and also very much in line with the principles of sustainability.

From planning to deconstruction and demolition

Digital tools that support building management from the planning phase straight through to deconstruction and demolition do not yet exist. In order to develop such tools, you first need to have a digital twin that can depict the entire ecosystem involved here. This building ecosystem includes not only “dead” things but also the people who use or depend on them. Owners, maintenance and repair workers, insurance representatives, and tenants all need different types of information when they perform tasks within or relating to a building. An approach that focuses on the provision of information – for example through the use of a digital twin – makes it possible to redesign business relationships between these building stakeholders and make such relationships more effective than before.

In addition, it is no longer necessary to prove that a building with a lifecycle of 40-100 years can be managed more efficiently and in a more sustainable manner (e.g. in terms of energy consumption) with a digital operational platform. This has already been demonstrated by the smart office building known as The Edge, which is located in Amsterdam and consumes approximately 70 percent less energy than a conventional office building – thanks to the more than 28,000 sensors that are linked to its state-of-the-art building management system. When you consider the fact that heating and hot water alone account for half of a building’s operating costs, it becomes clear that smart energy management can accomplish a great deal just by itself.

A digital operational platform can do more than just manage energy consumption, however, as it can also help digitalize facility management operations and provide support for everything from accounting to repair processes. Unlike a conventional building management system, a digital operational platform is utilized right from a building’s planning stage.

That’s why two versions of a digital building twin are needed here – one that depicts analysis results, planning data, and other data from the virtual building model and a subsequent “real building twin” that uses the design data of the physical building, as well as sensor, performance, and access data, and maintenance information.

Digital twin + digital thread = digital operational platform

The second key element of a digital operational platform is the digital thread. The digital thread is something like a common thread that can be used to retrace the previous lifecycle of a building. This makes it possible, for example, to obtain information on energy consumption on certain days and then identify and analyze the factors that led to the particular level of energy consumption in each case. What’s more, the digital thread can not only show how the building “behaved” in the past; it can also use the associated historical data to simulate future developments. For example, it can show how much more extensively elevators will be used if changes to the tenant structure should lead to a 20-percent increase in visitors to a building – which can be very valuable information in terms of setting maintenance intervals and controlling costs.

Combining modeling standards

Various modeling standards have to be combined in order to design and implement a digital operational platform. CBA Lab is demonstrating how such a digital real estate lifecycle management system can work with the help of EAM using the TOGAF architecture framework as a basis, along with artifacts from a model-based systems engineering (MBSE) approach. The goal here is not only to create a digital operational platform for one or more buildings but also to come up with an answer to the question as to how independent subsystems can be digitally managed as a complex system – or as a so-called system of systems.

Still no integrated PLM approach

The fact that an integrated systemic PLM approach has yet to be developed was another reason why CBA Lab decided to address this issue. Product lifecycle management today primarily involves systems for mechanical and plant engineering, and the associated elements generally only cover phases up to commissioning. PLM is virtually non-existent in the real estate sector, however.

Instead, companies in the sector generally employ the building information modeling (BIM) approach, which usually doesn’t function seamlessly, is still not used as a standard throughout the sector, and in many cases is only utilized rigorously until a building has been completed. It is also not used with multiple buildings – for example in industrial parks or commercial zones.

The lack of an integrated approach in the real estate sector leads to the following problems:

  • A lack of interfaces and standards
  • Fragmented markets
  • Inefficient cooperation between different building trades, maintenance groups, etc.
  • An inability in most cases to make rapid adjustments in order to meet the requirements of new user groups.

CBA Lab plans to address these weaknesses by using both proven and new methods to determine exactly which capabilities are needed in order to be able to develop and utilize an integrated PLM approach for buildings. CBA Lab is relying here on EAM with TOGAF. It is also utilizing the capability based planning approach developed by military organizations, as well as model-based systems engineering (MBSE) methods (models, demonstrators). Approaches used for the Semantic Web will also be employed in order to create a common language for the various disciplines involved. The digital twin and digital thread will ensure that users will be able to digitally depict ongoing operations and simulate the effects of any changes that occur.

ADM is the basis for sprints

CBA Lab was able to design a digital operational platform as described here (combination of a digital twin and digital thread) in four sprints over 50 calendar days – and this despite the fact that TOGAF is generally not considered to be a particularly agile technique. The tasks performed in the various sprints were based on the architecture development method (ADM) from TOGAF.

The participants in the first sprint, which was given the name “Vision,” used virtual design-thinking workshops to determine which requirements and user stories need to be considered in the field of building management. A total of seven use cases were developed. Here are three examples:

  • Collection of IoT and IT data from various units and departments responsible for IT, IT monitoring, and IT management
  • Optimization of the interior climate for all people in a building from a facility management perspective
  • Establishment of an optimal standardized information system for all stakeholders in order to automate decisions or enable people to make completely fact-based decisions and implement corresponding measures

MBSE can lead to better hardware

The second sprint (“Detailing”) involved the use of MBSE to complete the requirements management and capability based planning phases in order to more precisely specify the various requirements. Participants in the working group employed systems engineering methods here, which improved their descriptions of complex systems in a building.

One of the advantages of MBSE is that the information about a system it provides is no longer based exclusively on documents but instead also on models that describe hardware and software and other elements, such as electrical systems. “This allows us to focus on the relationships between the subsystems,” says Uwe Weber, who is a Managing Partner at Detecon and is also responsible for the “Digital Real Estate Lifecycle Management” workstream at CBA Lab. Weber also points out that system engineering focuses more strongly on physical systems than EAM does, as the latter mainly addresses software.A total of 200 requirements were formulated. CBA Lab utilizes the CATIA NO MAGIC modeling solution from Dassault Systems in order to maintain an overview of the different aspects involved. This makes it possible to determine the effects the various requirements will have on the different subsystems in a building. For example, if an office is to be spontaneously used as a conference room, the software can depict the effect this will have on subsystems such as electrical, IT, and heat and air conditioning systems, as well as their dependent elements, such as sensors, computer screens, thermostats, etc.

This sprint also led to the identification of the basic capabilities that the digital twin should depict in order to achieve the functionality described above. Here, participants used the reference architecture for a digital twin that was developed in a previous CBA Lab workstream.

Uwe Weber
Workstream Coordinator and CBA Lab Ambassador

EAM is not a component of IT departments or specialist and technical departments; instead we bring together all of these departments with all of their different goals and objectives. This improves the results that can be achieved, which ultimately leads to greater business success.

The third sprint focused on a feasibility analysis – i.e. the question of how the entire setup would need to be structured. The participants in this sprint used an MBSE simulation, a Raspberry PI, various sensors (e.g. for measuring temperature and humidity) and several LEDs to develop an architecture for a demonstrator that would simulate the operating principle of the digital twin.

This demonstrator was then built and put into operation in the fourth sprint. The unit provides a simple demonstration of how an optimal interior climate can be created, and it also shows the requirements for the subsystems, as well as the impact various factors can have – for example, how an open window affects temperature and humidity and the climate control system for the room in general. “Our demonstrator still focuses on requirements management, but it does make it easier for us to identify overall requirements and specific requirements on a more detailed level,” Weber explains.

The first run-through with ADM showed that all of the various requirements were taken into account and were then used as a basis for the creation of a lean and efficient portfolio of measures. In other words, planning is now more stable than would be the case without the use of this approach. In addition, no requirements were forgotten and the effects of the requirements in terms of the specific construction project phases in which they would have an impact were also identified. There will be no more surprises regarding the effects that the “digital trade” will have on the traditional trades, including those relating to technical building equipment. In addition, traditional planning processes will improve because the model views will make relationships and interconnections more transparent and also make it possible to explicitly plan impacts and dependencies. This in turn will have a positive economic effect in the form of more precise cost and price models, fewer delays, and improved implementation quality.

Summary: MBSE facilitates planning and management and increases the quality of planning processes. EAM/TOGAF is geared toward increasing stability and also facilitates planning adjustments.

“Our experiment for putting various methods and approaches from different disciplines to use for EAM multiplies the benefits that EAM can offer,” says Weber, who also serves as a CBA Lab ambassador. “We are thus now able to describe physical systems as well, and also make them transparent. In this sense, we are establishing the foundation for the development of new digital business models.  EAM is not a component of IT departments or specialist and technical departments; instead we bring together all of these departments with all of their different goals and objectives. This improves the results that can be achieved, which ultimately leads to greater business success.”

Detailed work results are available exclusively to CBA Lab members.

This article appeared in a similar form in Computerwoche online.