RSS

Category Archives: Customer Service

How Will Current Politics Affect Facility Management?

BY JUSTIN FEIT –

Changes are underway with the new administration – how will they impact you?

••••
President Trump’s agenda places several programs that have helped FMs in danger of being eliminated. Their survival depends heavily on the ability or willingness to push some key parts of his agenda through Congress.

After the unprecedented electoral victory of Donald Trump, the political climate in the U.S. has been in a state of flux. As the president fills in cabinet and department positions, enacts his agenda and navigates the tumultuous waters of the current political climate, the commercial building industry awaits Washington’s concrete actions and their wide-ranging impacts.

With Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the White House, budget cuts, tax cuts and deregulation are likely on the way. While some of these actions might help businesses, these actions will also have consequences for the buildings industry in the coming weeks, months and years. How will the current political situation affect you?

Information Sharing for Energy Efficiency

Michigan State University had a plan to boost its energy efficiency across the board but was in need of more information and strategies to enact changes across its portfolio of academic buildings, science facilities, parking ramps and athletic facilities. The Department of Energy’s voluntary energy program, the Better Buildings Challenge, provided these vital resources, even though it did not offer any financial incentives.

“We have saved close to $10 million over the past few years by installing energy-efficient measures across campus. We have reduced the energy footprint by 13% in the 20 million square feet included in the program,” says Lynda Boomer, Director of Planning Design and Construction at MSU.

Learning from similar universities that had undergone comparable projects, MSU found success in its energy-saving initiative. The information sharing partnership of the Better Buildings Challenge helped MSU enact HVAC upgrades, chiller replacements and insulation improvements for optimal efficiency.

Through the Better Buildings Challenge, partners commit to improve the energy use of their building portfolios by at least 20% within 10 years and lead the way in a network for peer-to-peer collaboration,” says Maria Vargas, Director of the Better Buildings Challenge. “By showing how energy efficiency has been successfully adopted – and the barriers addressed and overcome – these partners are examples for others across a myriad of building types and locations.”

Since joining the initiative, MSU has been able to achieve considerable savings in its facilities, and the program has been successful across the board in reducing energy usage in buildings.

“MSU became aware of the Better Buildings Challenge and Alliance through involvement in the International Institute for Safe Laboratories (I2SL). We had just completed the energy transition plan and were already on the path to reducing energy use on campus and becoming more efficient, so it was a good fit to join the Better Buildings Challenge,” says Boomer. “While they did not provide any financial aid, the program gave MSU an opportunity to network with other universities and suppliers that could provide ideas and opportunities for energy saving projects.”

In practice, the Better Buildings Challenge has been successful in helping participants reach that 20% goal. “Partners have saved 240 trillion BTUs in energy consumption, $1.9 billion in cost savings, 15 million tons in avoided carbon emissions, $8.6 billion in funds extended by financial allies partnering with DOE and 4 billion gallons in water savings,” says Vargas.

Initiatives that the voluntary Better Buildings Challenge has started include the Financing Navigator to help people find financing options, greater focus and research on data center energy use, water efficiency pledges that save both water and energy, and the SWAP, a reality TV-inspired web series in which property managers from two organizations look for savings opportunities in each other’s buildings.

The voluntary nature of the project allows organizations to earn recognition and share energy information with other participants, which can provide the spark for worthwhile changes. However, the future of the Better Buildings Challenge is in jeopardy due to a recent executive order and the future federal budget.

The Trump Trajectory

President Trump has targeted several Obama-era policies that directly relate to the buildings industry through executive actions and legislative proposals. One needs to look no further than the Better Buildings Challenge, which former President Obama introduced in his 2011 State of the Union address as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In his 2013 Climate Action Plan, Obama’s agenda included expanding the Better Buildings Challenge.

However, the Trump administration has taken aim at Obama’s Climate Action Plan with the Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, identifying goals of striking down energy-related regulations that executive departments have mandated in the past. This executive order could threaten the future of the Better Buildings Challenge, although it is not yet clear how or to what extent.

Executive orders have some historical precedent of being more symbolic, guiding the vision and overall policy of a presidency. Whether or not this particular executive order will on its own largely impact Obama’s Climate Action Plan is unclear at this point. But what an executive order may or may not be able to accomplish can be done so through legislation.

The budget proposal Trump will expand and hopes to usher through Congress provides more concrete plans for cuts within several departments that house energy efficiency programs. While this budget proposal will undoubtedly undergo major changes to placate the many factions of the House, the original budget presented provides insight into the trajectory this administration would like to follow as far as federal funding goes.

Two of the most important departments to look at with the budget proposal are the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, both of which would face cuts in 2018.

The DOE’s proposed cuts seem small compared to other departments with 6% or $1.7 billion in cuts having been proposed to its 2017 allocation. However, under this prospective budget, the National Nuclear Security Administration would receive a $1.4 billion boost, meaning cuts to other programs in the department – ones that might impact building operators – compound under this budget.
One of the hardest-hit agencies under the proposed budget cuts is the EPA; the agency’s overall budget would shrink by 31% or $2.6 billion. Stating a desire to cut back on regulations that hinder businesses, the president set his sights on cutting one particular program in the EPA: ENERGY STAR.

 

What’s The Right Credit Card For My Business?

gty_credit_card_choice_kb_130405_wgA number of credit card providers have been really aiming at including small businesses in their product line. For new, small businesses this can work wonders as it is a lot easier to get a credit card than a loan from a bank.

Of course, there are dozens of choices available and this can often make it quite hard to choose a specific card. The best way to evaluate the sort of card that’s best for your business is to take a look at its spending habits. Different businesses have different spending habits, depending on the sort of business they have.

Balance

Consider if you plan on paying the balance over each month, or whether you will pay it off with time and want to pay the minimum payment. If you do decide to carry the balance then you will need to take a look at the annual percentage rate, as this can end up being quite costly for business if it goes wrong.

For those that wish to carry their balance and also have good credit, take a look to see if you can get a 0% credit card, as this will mean you pay nothing back for a set period. Fixed rates can be very attractive when interest rates are rising; however this is not the case currently.

For businesses that pay all of their balance each month, they should look for cards with rewards or longer periods of grace. These businesses can benefit greatly from paying back and the rewards for being disciplined are good. However, make sure you are disciplined as the costs for not being so are also high.

Charge Cards

A good alternative to the credit card is the charge card. This card differs as it allows businesses to have a short line of credit. The card will always be paid back in the full amount at the end of the month and there are harsh penalties. However, if you do pay back in full your business will receive a number of benefits for doing so. Charge cards often also charge an annual fee and there is a similar process to the credit card application online, when applying for one.

Though, if you do need flexibility, then a credit card is a better option – just be aware of the interest charges and when you need to pay the balance.

Rewards

We’ve mentioned rewards on a number of occasions and both credit card and charge card companies issue these. These often come in the shape of air miles, cash back and discounts at retailers, hotels or for services. Access to airport lounges and hotel upgrades are also part and parcel of these benefits and perks. The main thing here is to pay attention to the fine print if you choose a card with these perks, as the costs of not meeting the criteria are high.

So, in conclusion, the best way to choose a card is to look at your businesses situation and all the financial products out there and then take your ability to pay into account. By then choosing a card around your ability to pay, you can be sure that you will avoid steep charges and gain all the benefits you can.

Cormac Reynolds writes financial articles for a variety of businesses and blogs and has done so for many years.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Small Portions of Hope for the Construction Industry

For building firms and their suppliers this week’s “Government Construction Summit” has offered some mixed messages for the future.  The summit focussed closely on government procurement policies and efficiency savings; but amidst a rash of cuts in government spending, what do these efficiencies amount to?  Both the cabinet office minister Francis Maude and his chief construction advisor Paul Morrell outlined the current position for the construction industry and their own thinking on government building contracts, strategy and procurement.  The summit had a keen focus on both saving money, with some suggestions of possible opportunities for the building industry.

Government Streamlining

Building firms, however, may be less interested in how the government proposes to streamline its processes and more on the availability of construction contracts.  The summit showed that last year the number of contracts for new schools fell by thirty per cent while for roads the figure was nearly fifty per cent.  For many this is no surprise as the government’s austerity measures begin to bite and the effect on the construction industry has been clear with big names such as John Doyle going into administration last month and the subsequent loss of 290 jobs.  Like many other suppliers to the construction industry Doyle’s disappearance from the industry is a significant indicator of the effect that the lack of large scale projects is having on the industry.

Future PFI Contracts?

The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) sector has provided a good market for construction firms in the past, however, at the summit the Treasury’s Infrastructure Unit could only announce that plans for the successor to the initiative will be made clear well before the autumn, and could be available in the next few weeks.  If this raised hopes for construction firms the statement was qualified by the statement that ‘we have had the largest successful investment in s social infrastructure since the Second World War already.  That “already” may be one that suggests there may not be much more on the PFI front planned for the near future.

It’s taking part that matters (if you’ve paid your entry fee)

Despite a cast of thousands in construction terms, the Olympian task of constructing the facilities for the Games Atkins remains the only construction company permitted to use its involvement in the project for marketing purposes.  This was confirmed at the summit, although smaller contractors were advised they could always tell prospective clients that they had been involved.  Sort of along the lines of “It was this big. Honest”.  Having paid for the privilege, it seems that Atkins intend to hold onto their exclusivity, while the smaller firms who have helped to make the Games possible will receive marginally less recognition than your average torch bearer.

Good Tsunamis

Tsunamis are not normally considered a great idea, but Terry Fuller the Homes and Communities Executive director promised one is on its way for construction firms, as housing finances are handed back to local councils.  This particular mega-wave is expected to come in the form of a flood of building contracts, according to Fuller, as councils rush to spend their new found rental income.  On the same theme Fuller disclosed that social housing landlords who fail to meet construction targets may have their funding removed and passed onto others, to ensure enough homes are built on time.

Mixed Messages

Overall the summit provided a glum picture of the construction industry at present, despite the major construction projects promised in the form of nuclear power plants and at least one high speed rail link in coming years.  While the government’s plans to rationalise its spending may not be of much interest to building firms, the changes to funding for housing could offer some hope, as could changes in the way grants are administered to social housing.  For construction firms, large or small, finding their own efficiency savings seems to be the order of the day.

For all sectors in the construction industry, from concrete batch plants suppliers to scaffolding firms, the governments summit this week has provide small portions of hope and some very mixed messages.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

SeeMail iPhone App Revolutionizes Photo Sharing and Social Media

 

Author’s note: this is something I’m not sure I would use all that often, but I did check it out and it works pretty well. Might be fun for parties, weddings, family reunion type things. I guess if you want a still photograph, instead of just an iPhone movie this would be the app.  I look forward to their adding a few more social media platforms.

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 23, 2012) — A revolutionary new iPhone app for photo sharing called SeeMail allows users to add voice notes to photographs and is now nominated for the prestigious iMedia Next Wave Start-Up Challenge competition. No other app has ever blended photos, captions, locations, and audio like SeeMail. SeeMail is not another endless stream of photo sharing. SeeMail is personal, intimate, beautiful, fun and easy and brings storytelling to social media. iMedia’s Next Wave’s competition focus is on highlighting early-stage technology companies redefining the mobile marketing industry. SeeMail was chosen from a pool of hundreds, as determined by iMedia’s Next Wave Advisory Board to participate in Phase III, (community voting) of the Challenge and voting can be completed online at http://www.imediaconnection.com/iMediaLists/2012/breakthrough-next-wave/mobile-entertainment/SeeMail/.

How it works: SeeMail creates a unique style of mobile message inspired by the idea of sharing the story behind the photo

1) Choose a new photo, or select from your library or Facebook albums
2) Record a SeeMail AudioT.ag™ – just tap the record button and record your voice or anything going on around you
3) Add a caption to your photo
4) Postmark your current location – powered by FourSquare
5) Share privately with your SeeMail friends

6) Share publicly with Facebook and Twitter

7) Play and share SeeMail on the web

 

SeeMail 1.4 is now poised as the next social media powerhouse. New features include:

Facebook Sharing: Some moments need to be shared quickly.  So now you can share a SeeMail to Facebook, even if you do not share directly to another SeeMail user.  So, you can public post a SeeMail without sending it directly to another person.

Twitter Sharing: By popular demand, you can now share your SeeMail’s to your Twitter account. If you have multiple twitter accounts set up on your iPhone, you can share it to multiple twitter accounts at the same time from inside the app.

Full Web Experience: Every SeeMail that you share to Facebook or Twitter will automatically populate to your personal SeeMail Web page.

Try It Out Feature:It’s a great way for new users to experience the app without logging into Facebook.  View a welcome message and compose your own SeeMail to be sure it’s right for you.

SeeMail can be downloaded for free at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seemail/id429509393 and additional information can be found at www.seemail.com.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The toys we have on our iPhones

20120703-130452.jpg

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I have always enjoyed technology but find something new every day. In writing my grocery list I noticed that my notepad on my iPhone has speech recognition software. Thinking myself very clever I composed a short note on my notepad and cut it and pasted it into a text message to send to my wife. Having thought this absolutely wonderful are you then cut a note and started to pasted into my WordPress blog. Much to my surprise I found that the blog site also house Word recognition software. Our iPhones grand.

You have to go through and edit some of the translations but generally this saves an immense amount of time. Especially if you are trying to type on an iPhone, I am no where as good as my kids are at that.

I always enjoyed writing blogs, but sometimes the act of typing takes longer than it takes for a thought to get out of my mouth.

With my new discovery I can speak as quickly as the thoughts enter my head and record them at the same time. People sitting next to me on the train might think I am talking into a robotic device but then after all I guess I am. This entire blog was my first attempt and written entirely on speech recognition software from an iPhone 4 ain’t excuse me. There have been no editing at all so excuse some of the grammar and misspellings but all in all I think this is a very valuable tool.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

VIDEO: Best marriage proposal ever

Isaac Lamb proposed to his girlfriend, Amy, in a very innovative way, and the video has gone viral.
Check out Isaac’s incredible proposal – set to Bruno Mars‘ “Marry You.”

CLICK ON THE PHOTO

 

When Isaac Lamb decided to propose to his girlfriend, Amy, he knew he wanted to do something over-the-top. but not even Amy was prepared for the elaborate proposal he staged with 60 of their closet friends and family members. The video went viral – and has already amassed almost 6 million views on YouTube at last count.

The video even got Bruno Mars’ stamp of approval!

Congrats to Isaac Lamb and the future Mrs.. I don’t think I could’ve made a better music video for this song. Thank youvimeo.com/42828824

 

It’s All Geek to Me

Many people earn degrees based on their interests, it only makes sense, right? However, let’s face it, not everyone has same interest and maybe your run slightly (or highly) more to the nerd side. Sure you would love to be musician or draw concept art for car makers, but that just isn’t your thing. You are far more into Dungeons and Dragons than designing buildings. If so, here are some degrees you might like.

Astronomy – If you wish you could boldly go where no man has gone before, well now you can, at least in your mind. If long night and large telescopes intrigue you then why not study astronomy?  Granted, this can be pretty intense and mind boggling at times but deep down inside, you know you would love every minute of it. You might even get lucky and discover a planet or an asteroid about to hit the earth.

Physics – Physics and any other type of physics have a lot of overlap. If you like colliding invisible particles in multi-billion dollar pieces of equipment then you should love this field.  If you know what a mass spectrometer is, or how to use one then you definitely need to major in this.  Once again, this is no casual stroll through academic America, it is pretty tough stuff to wrap your head around, but you can do it. Just don’t look too closely too quantum physics, that stuffs insane.

Math – If you are math addict then you have little choice but to major in math. For some reason, geeks everywhere seem to love this subject and somehow they actually understand it.  Teaching would be your most likely option, but if you learn your advanced stuff you could get into programming, code breaking or the exciting world of accounting. If this isn’t for you, do what I did and go for…

History – On the entirely different end of the nerd mass spectrometer you can delve into the depths of history and the liberal arts. Learn about the battles epic battles with knights and maybe reenact some of them yourself.  Antiquities, artifacts and folklore are yours to master. You can even specialize in a military masters degree. If worst-comes-to-worst, you could at least get a job at Medieval Times.

Which bring us to literature, the cute, shy sister of history. Everyone has seen a bookworm or two in their lives. You know, they are always reading. They read in the car, they read while working out, they read while they eat and they fall asleep while reading. Are all books nerdy? No, but most are. For those who love to explore the vast plains of the unbridled imagination then literature is for you.

Which leaves us to the more important and eternal question, what will you do with these degrees? Well, it is true that many people end up doing something not related to their degree at all, teaching is the most obvious choice. You can go and be an inspiring influence and younger nerds who were once just like yours and let them see just where they will end up.

Jeff Jordan lives, breathes and writes in sunny Southern California. He mainly writes about education. automobiles, navy education, real estate and pop culture.  He would write about romance and dating but sadly knows nothing about it.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: