The Freakonomics podcast, “In Praise of Maintenance,” describes how maintenance is far too under-loved. Low cost and cheap goods have taken a lot of wind out of the work of maintaining over the past few decades, but there are signs of a resurgence of importance for maintenance, and the maintainers, and I see the following three trends as part of this:
First, maintaining was often a hidden art and a well maintained piece of equipment, or building was hard to quantify, but this has and is changing because of our ability to collect and analyze data. Take tools like Schneider Electric’s Building Analytics platform, that can collect vast amounts of data from devices like Aosong’s incredibly compact and economical sensors and find patterns within them. That poor performing heating system can no longer hide in the corners, as Mary in Accounting can now provide the owner data that shows how cold she actually is and so, data will drive that building owner to bring-in the maintainer.
Case two, scarcity of space — every city that I visit, from Mexico City, to Chicago, to Montreal and London, is recycling old buildings to make use of it, as there is a dearth of new land to build new buildings, and tearing down old buildings is difficult. So, renovation and maintaining these older buildings is a necessity as cities in-fill and older buildings, like my 100 year old house, just take more work to maintain — I know that I employ a small army of tradespeople to keep my modest home in livable condition.
Finally, we are getting much better at tracking what people do, and the most significant technology that are enabling this are tablets and smart phones — not just because they are internet connected and have a screen, but also because they are jammed packed with sensors. Any given building now has hundreds to thousands of GPS devices, light sensors, thermostats, barometers being lugged around in pockets and purses via smart phones. This has created a boon for maintenance, as BuiltSpace crowd-sources these sensors and makes use of them as digital data loggers to digitize what people are doing and to document buildings — we can now make the toil of the maintainers visible, measurable and comparable and once there is data humans will obsessively seek to improve the numbers, lower energy per square foot, improve air quality, lower costs.
Do you see these changes?