When IBM Global Real Estate (GRE) won the Sheila Sheridan International Facilities Management Award (IFMA)¹ and the Institute of Directors Golden Peacock Award² for its sustainability-driven initiatives in September 2022—just months after gaining a Gold Accreditation as a 2022 Green Lease Leader³—they were additional milestones in IBM’s long record of environmentally responsible behavior. In a broader sense, these awards showed how IBM as a company has stayed true to the values its then-CEO Thomas J. Watson Jr. embedded in IBM’s DNA nearly 60 years ago, “to be at the forefront of those companies which are working to make our world a better place.”

With over 50 million square feet of space under management, across some 800 locations in 100 countries, IBM has a social and environmental responsibility to improve sustainability of its facilities and operations. IBM believes that responsible real estate management can be a part of the solution to the planet’s biodiversity and climate crisis rather than part of the problem.

Like other corporations, IBM is on a journey to not only reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water consumption and waste, but also to track, analyze and report its progress toward carbon reduction goals in a timely, accurate and authentic way. And also like many corporations, IBM is facing a range of complex challenges to successfully deliver this across a diverse facilities portfolio. Spread across more than 100 countries, this portfolio includes offices, research labs, manufacturing and distribution sites, and data centers—some located in freehold campuses, others in multi-tenant environments.

In the face of this once-in-a-generation challenge, IBM GRE is determined to show leadership in addressing it. Its vision is predicated on the idea that buildings and cities need to shift from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. To act on this vision, IBM GRE is leading a far-reaching transformation of nearly every facet of IBM’s real estate and asset management practices, all enabled by a broad base of IBM technology. By using its technology to track, analyze and report its progress toward carbon neutrality goals in a timely, accurate and authentic way, IBM is using the insights it generates to align its decision-making with what’s good for the world.

¹ Sheila Sheridan International Facilities Management Award (IFMA) (link resides outside of ibm.com)
² Institute of Directors Golden Peacock Award (link resides outside of ibm.com)
³ Gold Accreditation as a 2022 Green Lease Leader (link resides outside of ibm.com)

Perhaps more important, IBM sees the fruits of its own transformation and learning as a way to help guide its current and future clients on their sustainability journeys. Clients are looking for mature, real-world solutions that can shorten their path to sustainability, while helping improve the efficiency and performance of their operations. In that sense, IBM—in using its own solutions—is “client zero,” and it’s eager to tell the story.

Acting on values is something Jane Muir-Sands knows well. When she joined IBM as Vice President Global Real Estate and Operations in 2020, making a difference was top of mind. “I see my personal and professional purpose as creating a sustainable future for my children and their children beyond,” says Muir-Sands. “I see IBM as a unique company in the sustainability space, where one can be a genuine catalyst to solving a profound problem, and to helping the world work better. I am very proud to work for IBM.”

The contours of IBM’s sustainability transformation vision began to take shape within days of her arrival, first in a meeting with IBM’s General Manager of Sustainability Software, Dr. Kareem Yusuf. To Muir-Sands, the key takeaway of these discussions was the opportunity to extend the capabilities of GRE’s most integral platforms: the IBM® TRIRIGA® solution for facilities management and the IBM Maximo® solution for asset management. “The clear consensus was the need to make the sustainability and environmental impacts of decisions more transparent,” she explains. “And just as importantly, to embed them into the fabric of our day-to-day real estate, facilities and asset management decisions.”

Reduced sustainability reporting costs by

30%

by replacing multiple tools with a single, automated platform

Reduced carbon emissions by

Innovation creates new pathways to facilities optimization

Forty percent⁴. That’s roughly the share of annual carbon dioxide emissions estimated to come from buildings globally, and a huge reason IBM GRE plays such a central role in the company’s sustainability push. At a high level, GRE’s mission is to provide the right mix of buildings and facilities that enable the best and most productive experience for IBM employees around the world, whether they work in offices, manufacturing sites, data centers or any other kind of environment. It’s about managing space.

For GRE, executing on this mission involves a staggering number of decisions, ranging from room configurations and leasing terms, to capital project planning and facilities maintenance. To help optimize these decisions, GRE is tapping into a rapidly growing base of IoT sensors—from wall-mounted to equipment-embedded—to capture vast amounts of real-time data. Emblematic of innovation in this area is the application of sophisticated AI models to essentially “squeeze” more insights from the existing sensors. For instance, those occupancy sensors on conference room walls? Once used to turn lights off and on, they’re now reporting real-time room availability and will eventually help GRE predict space requirements in different facilities.

⁴ Source: architecture2030.org (link resides outside of ibm.com)

Focused female in server room, IBM Yorktown

Taking stock, the GRE sustainability solutions team recognized that for all the numerous upsides of IBM’s TRIRIGA and Maximo platforms for GRE’s operations, even further benefits could be achieved by standardizing, integrating and centralizing them. This was especially true in the area of sustainability reporting, in light of the increasingly stringent sustainability reporting requirements of the US, UK and EU, and the aggressive 2030 carbon neutrality goals they support. Together, these changes meant not only more detailed reporting requirements, but also more frequent.

Determined to meet these challenges, the GRE team began working with process experts from IBM Consulting™ to create the outlines of a plan. In their ideal scenario, sustainability and operational data would be extracted and captured automatically and in real time from TRIRIGA and Maximo, where it was generated, and stored in a centralized, enterprise-wide repository. But the team soon realized that the practical barriers to getting there were significant. For one, GRE had been relying on a large number of disparate tools—some from third parties—to extract, process and report sustainability data. On top of that, customizations that had been created in their TRIRIGA and Maximo implementations made version upgrades prohibitively difficult, thereby making the automation of reporting vastly more challenging.

The even more fundamental outgrowth of GRE’s decentralized, siloed deployments was inconsistencies in the data itself. At the root of asset and facilities management systems are naming conventions known as data hierarchies, which define both locations—say a conference room on a certain floor of a certain building—and asset classes. For the purposes of sustainability reporting, notes Muir-Sands, even slight differences in data hierarchies across different parts of the business made consolidated reporting far more complicated and time consuming. “We learned that when it comes to timely and accurate sustainability reporting,” she explains, “having a consistent base of data—a ‘single source of truth’ underlying all facilities and assets—is an absolute prerequisite.”

Setting the stage for automated reporting

That recognition led to two major developments that helped put this foundation in place. The first, says Sal Rosato, Technology Transformation Manager and a key member of the GRE sustainability team, was a close collaboration with the IBM Chief Data Office. “As part of our transformation, we worked with the office to build a new data governance program that’s aligned with IBM’s enterprise data standards and emphasizes data ownership,” Rosato explains. “For any real estate data elements to get into our data dictionary, domain data stewards need to define it and sign off on it, and it can’t be changed without all data stewards reviewing and approving it.”

The second big step was GRE’s decision to use Envizi (now an IBM company) energy and sustainability software to help consolidate sustainability data including key elements from TRIRIGA and Maximo into a single, auditable system of record. Having evaluated some 35 sustainability reporting solutions on the market, Muir-Sands and her team—in conjunction with the IBM Sustainability Software team—selected the Envizi solution on the basis of its automation capabilities, its ease of integration with core systems like TRIRIGA and Maximo, and its ability to deliver valuable dashboard-based insights. “Think of Envizi as the third leg of the stool—the reporting dimension—of IBM’s overall sustainability software strategy,” says Muir-Sands. “In terms of collecting, consolidating and reporting sustainability data from our systems, we saw its combination of flexibility and automation as a perfect fit with our vision.” IBM’s subsequent decision to acquire the Australia-based company—whose offering is now known as the IBM Envizi ESG Suite—is a strong vote of confidence in its capabilities.

Engineer in data center uses a computer connected to the to the back of the IBM z16. The z16 is featured within a row of other servers and storage racks.

While measuring and reporting sustainability impacts is a huge part of GRE’s unfolding sustainability journey, the other side of the story—the way GRE is embedding insights into everyday operating decisions—is equally compelling. There’s a well-known quote commonly associated with the management guru Peter Drucker: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” In the realm of sustainable operations, the “it” are variables like energy consumption, GHG emissions, waste and water consumption. The key to getting from measuring to managing is process design.

To that end, the GRE team worked with IBM Consulting specialists, facilities management providers and the IBM Sustainability Software Team in a series of immersive Design Thinking workshops. Through these workshops more than 450 use cases focused on facilities management, portfolio optimization, workplace experience and sustainability were identified. Using the IBM Blueworks Live solution, the teams redesigned the GRE business processes to align them with TRIRIGA, Maximo and Envizi’s out-of-the-box capabilities.

As CTO for Asset Management Solutions—with technical responsibility for the Maximo and TRIRIGA platforms—GRE team member Eric Libow played a pivotal role in the effort. He sees the practical, value-based approach of the workshops as a kind of template for IBM clients to meet their own sustainability goals. “Our clients aren’t looking to buy ‘interesting’ technology, they’re looking to get real results,” Libow explains. “What we’re doing provides them with a realistic framework—using real data—for showing the payoff of their sustainability-driven investments.”

GRE has some 188,000 assets tracked globally, so the sustainability use cases are widespread and diverse. But few illustrate the potential for sustainability-focused optimization more richly than data centers, whose power consumption (for computing and cooling) make them an especially strong opportunity. Take maintenance: using Maximo Monitor, GRE will be analyzing sensor data to move from time-based scheduling—think changing a coolant pump belt every six months—to condition-based, triggered by actual run time, excessive heat or vibration.

Data transparency brings sustainability into decision-making

As Libow points out, the sustainability benefits of condition-based maintenance go two ways. “By enabling technicians to skip unnecessary repairs, it avoids the incidental carbon impacts they cause, like travel and parts shipping,” he explains. “Alternatively, by detecting and fixing problems before scheduled maintenance would find them—anything from an ungreased bearing to a freon coolant leak—it eliminates the extra energy consumption, waste and emissions that invisibly failing parts would cause. That’s a great example of how efficiency and sustainability are interwoven.”

Here’s another. When it comes to sustainability-driven capital planning, prioritization—knowing which investments will drive the biggest impact—is essential. Leveraging its common data hierarchies, IBM is working to integrate system health assessments from Maximo directly into TRIRIGA’s built-in capital planning tool. It means that planners will be able to use real-time, dashboard-based insights to allocate scarce funding to the right investments. And it exemplifies the ability to “manage on the glass,” from strategic dashboards and analytical reports instead of from spreadsheets, which is at the core of GRE’s vision for facilities and asset management decision-making.

Bikes parked in front of IBM Munich

A more agile pursuit of sustainability goals

As GRE’s transformation continues to unfold, it’s already achieving solid results. In 2021, IBM registered a 61.6% emission reduction against base year 2010, placing the company on track to meet its goal of a 65% reduction by 2025, adjusted for acquisitions and divestitures. And with its recent investments, IBM is also improving its reporting capabilities. On the strength of automation and centralized data, sustainability compliance reports—whose months-long compilation enabled only annual releases—will soon be available quarterly, and not long after in real time. On top of that, the fact that IBM Envizi ESG Suite replaces the many licensed third-party tools used in those efforts has enabled a roughly 30% reduction in reporting costs.

Over time, as the extent of condition-based facilities and maintenance management practices grows within its portfolio, GRE expects to achieve major reductions in not only emissions and waste, but also operating costs. One big reason, says Libow, is the ability to share these sustainability-optimized practices—along with the insights and data behind it—with GRE’s network of trusted maintenance partners around the world. “The broader the scale of our data-driven practices, the more agility we gain toward hitting our 2030 carbon-neutrality goals.”

In addition to providing a model for its customers’ sustainability journey, Sustainability Manager Brody Wilson sees IBM’s role of “client zero” as demonstrating a kind of leadership that transcends conventional business considerations. “IBM has a very clear-eyed view of its responsibility—to the world and to its peers—to make all our sustainability reporting as accurate and transparent as possible, and our actions authentic,” says Brody. “Like the rest of our team, I’m proud to play a role in that mission.”

 

Solution components

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About IBM Global Real Estate

The GRE team oversees approximately 800 office locations that cover 50 million square feet across 100 countries. With such a large, global footprint, the GRE group integrates new AI capabilities from the IBM Sustainability Software portfolio to help overcome its challenge of creating a portfolio that addresses the needs of employees while helping to control costs and deliver the best value to the business.

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Produced in the United States of America. December 2022.

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