Page B1.1 . 20 September 2000                     
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    E-Commerce for Facility Managers

    by ArchitectureWeek

    Electronic commerce is penetrating every niche of the notoriously conservative field of architecture and construction. Architects are using the Internet to collaborate with consultants; builders are placing on-line orders for equipment and supplies. But what about the professionals who manage facilities after construction is complete? Are they reaping full benefits of the available technologies?

    Web-based project management for the construction industry, as provided by vendors such as Cephren, Buzzsaw, and Bidcom, has grabbed the interest of venture capitalists, who have poured tens of millions of dollars into each of these startups and others.

    The potential savings, and thus the profits, are staggering. The construction industry worldwide is thought to be worth $3.2 trillion annually. Savings resulting from Web-based information services have been estimated at nearly 20 percent on large projects.

    E-commerce could offer facility management opportunities of a similar magnitude. Like design and construction, facility management has a history of inefficiencies due to antiquated information management. An integrated approach to facility management may be able to provide 10 to 30 percent cost reductions.

    Opportunities for radically rethinking facility management lie in outsourcing common tasks, facilitating strategic partnerships with facility services, and automating routine transactions. E-commerce can be applied by streamlining purchasing, managing project information, delivering training materials, and even purchasing energy on the Internet.



    ArchWeek Photo

    Graduate students at Texas A&M University have developed prototypes for e-commerce and Web applications in facility management. This "move management" application provides an interface to scheduling and costing information for use by project manager, subcontractor, and space occupant.
    Image: The CRS Center, Texas A&M University

    ArchWeek Photo

    The move management prototype also includes a visual directory of room occupants. As one moves the mouse cursor over a room, the occupant and room information appears.
    Image: The CRS Center, Texas A&M University


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