It is an all too common problem for buildings; hundreds of windows are cleaned then a dust storm hits the next day, or the roof is scheduled for maintenance but it starts raining just as work starts. Then the question for facility managers is when to restart maintenance or how to anticipate weather to adjust the cleaning schedule, but there’s no way to predict the weather that accurately, or is there?
Facilities management company Farnek is the first facility manager to partner with hyper-local weather forecasting services provider, ArabiaWeather, to increase its efficiency and redirect resources across its building projects in order to adapt to weather conditions.
“Weather conditions can change significantly between areas, therefore, timely and accurate information is very important in the weather forecasting industry and only precise forecasts can accurately detail these changes,” says Mohammed Al-Shaker, CEO of ArabiaWeather.
The Middle Eastern firm’s advanced forecasting system LandWatch, applies unique algorithms to generate accurate and hyper-local forecasts on developing weather patterns at any location globally. Their dashboard interface allows users to access captured and processed data in order to adjust their activities in relation to the weather.
“Primarily LandWatch allows us to make informed business decisions when confronted with adverse weather. Many facility management professionals are well aware of the havoc that random and isolated weather conditions can have on building maintenance and cleaning schedules. This is often compounded by just how changeable and localised weather can be,” said Markus Oberlin, CEO of Farnek.
General weather forecasts, as we all know, are not all that accurate, but this is primarily because they are general. If the weather-person warns of rain in your city or region, more often than not there is rain, but that rain may fall in other areas, not necessarily on your building. A 50% chance of rain does not mean there is a 50% chance that there will be rain, but that there is a 50% chance that rain will fall on you. This form of forecasting is fine when your making the decision to take an umbrella with you or not, but it is not enough to make business decision with.
“Hyper-local forecasting is very important when forecasting weather, for example, one area can differ significantly compared with the adjacent area, hour by hour. The ability to monitor hyper-local weather around specific areas creates a win-win situation for both facility management companies and building managers,” Oberlin adds.
Hyper-local weather forecasting is not just good for scheduling cleaning and exterior maintenance, it can also be used for the benefit of seemingly interior systems. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, for example, have exterior elements that can be affected by certain types of weather. Knowing when such conditions are immanent allows facility managers to react in order to enhance or protect such systems.
“It is not just exterior work where building owners will profit. If a sandstorm is forecast, one major advantage is that the fresh air intake of rooftop HVAC units can be closed and switched to recycle existing air throughout the building until the storm has passed. This protects the filters and reduces the amount of sand and dust not only in the A/C unit itself but also getting into the building. This preserves indoor air quality and keeps the A/C working efficiently, presenting significant savings to building owners,” Oberlin explains.
Buildings aren’t the only ones taking advantage of advances in hyper-local weather forecasting. Industrial facilities such as power stations, factories and plants can gain from all the same benefits, often to a higher degree than an office building. For predominantly outdoor facilities, such as mining sites, oil rigs and agricultural complexes, hyper-local weather information can be even more valuable. The Total Lightning Network by Earthworks, for example, warns such sites about the possibility of lightning strikes which can harm human and physical assets.
Gaining the most benefit from hyper-local weather forecasting may well be utilities, whose assets like transmission lines and sub-stations could be distributed over hundreds of miles. “Inaccurate weather data can make it hard for utilities to accurately predict outages across their service areas, leading to ineffective restoration efforts, frustrated customers and potential health risks to crews or customers. With the right information, however, outage prediction can be highly accurate and localized so utilities can call up the right number of crews and position them correctly, as well as smartly invest in infrastructure to better prevent storm damage,” says Jim Foerster of Schneider Electric.
As much as we may think that buildings and other facilities are built to be immune to all weather conditions, we still have doors, windows, vents and outside areas, that add vulnerability to the elements. By gathering hyper-local weather we can protect our building systems and other assets, while also increasing the efficiency of our cleaning and maintenance schedules. What may sound like a bit of extra water and dust to the layman, is efficiency and cost reduction to the facility managers’ bottom line.