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Decomposing Services

I had a very nice conversation with Bob Smith of Tall Trees yesterday about building services. Bob is one of my co-conspirators launching the Building Service Performance ONTOLOG group. Bob had just submitted the laundry list of check-offs developed by the City of Irvine for its construction process to the ONTOLOG discussion.

I was both happy and disturbed to receive this document. These check-offs clearly drive the contracting process, They are also inherently backward looking, enshrining the best practices of yesterday as we move forward. The best practices of yesterday are better than the normal practices of today, but can be the enemy of better practices going forward. They trade innovation for good enough.

The ONTOLOG (just google it) project is to define an ontology of Building Service Performance. The problem we are trying to resolve is that while people want specific services from their buildings, we always specify technologies or systems, which is something quite different. Buildings may be providing alert students, productive office workers, or regulated environments to store labile chemicals. By discussing the services rather than the systems, we can

  • Allow earlier discussion of / decisions on building goals in keeping with buildingSmart approaches
  • Move conversations about building performance to the business level where commercial building owners will get interested (we want to provide healthy office space metrics in the upper quartile while staying within energy use goals).
  • Commissioning then gets re-defined in terms of service performance effectiveness rather than in terms of system operations, a much more useful measurement.
  • Commissioning numbers that look like B are simple enough to get built in to the sales and leasing processes for commercial buildings, enabling owners to monetize improved performance.

Check off lists such as Bob provided are the opposite of this approach. Nonetheless, I agreed to try to dig up two other documents that are contrary to the goals and thinking of the new group.

One such document is the original list of nearly 50 vertical control system markets that we came up with as oBIX was launching. These systems are specified in buildings now, but only rarely with any sort performance or business deliverable tied to them.

The other document I am trying to come up with is a comprehensive list of ICC (International Codes Council) domains. It struck us during conversation that many of the ICC areas deal with avoiding the failure to perform these services. While we are trying to twist these services around into a new ontology, a list of all the services which must not fail to be provided would be useful.

I have found neither list yet. If you think you have one, please send it along.

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Reader Comments (1)

Right, we need to look forward and find the appropriate outputs that building users and owners really want. There are several ways of approaching this task, and many are similar to the old way that Information Systems were developed: Ask the Users about their needs and priorities on those needs. People typically respond in terms of what they are used to: gadgets rather than those services these gadgets provide.

I looked for that ICC list of domains. Was not especially helpful. We (City Task Force) is working thru that checklist for Gadget-Service triples. Wish us luck on getting to this holy grail and the services that grail provides....


June 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBob Smith

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