I attended the Campus FM Technology Association (CFTA) Conference for the first time last year and came back feeling that I had found a wonderful community of friends that shared my passion for the facilities world. This year proved no different.

I got to stay in the Marriott Columbus University Area hotel in Columbus, Ohio. 

Within minutes of having arrived in Columbus, Ohio, I heard my name called out from across the parking lot of a convenience store as I went to pick up some things. It was a colleague that I had met the year before — someone I hadn’t talked to for a year talking to me as if we were lifelong friends. It was a wonderful experience, that repeated itself a dozen times in various ways as I reunited with people I had met the year before.

The conference is small enough in size that we all get to know each other very well; as opposed to other conferences which are much larger, 130 members attended the CFTA last year which grew to 175 members this year. The intimate size provides an opportunity for every member to get know each others’ strengths, successes, and challenges, and to provide meaningful feedback throughout the duration of the conference. Surely, though, the growth of the number of members points to the efficacy of the conference. Michelle Ellington, the president of CFTA, began with a statement on how the conference has grown; over the past five years it has grown from 30 members to 175. It is obvious that the CFTA conference has superbly strong leadership and relevance to today’s growing FM world within the global university sphere.

I was privileged to take one of the five tours available. We toured the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBEC) Building on the Ohio State campus. This was the first building on the campus that was managed through a BIM process. This process allowed stakeholders and maintenance crews to visualize the building prior to occupying and building the premise. Because of this, strategic decisions could be made to more efficiently use the space. One of the most commonly recurring comments in regards to using this process was, “I never thought that I would ever build a building by playing a computer game.”

The Unconference is always the highlight of the week for me. This meeting is held on Friday morning of the conference, and despite attendance being lower because it is the  last day of the event, there was still a healthy 110 to 120 person attendance. 

During this part, a list is made of several discussion topics, then everyone breaks into groups; this time there were four tables. Each table takes a topic, and we all sit together as professionals and colleagues and discuss facets of the topic. I sat in on the BIM topic, and the discussion led to standards, implementation, ownership, and adoption. We all discussed life safety assets, how to manage space, automatically adding square footage, who updates a BIM model and how, and what is maintained. 

The second session I attended was about new technologies.  We discussed using sensors to determine utilization and realization of occupied spaces: options from cameras to movement sensors to sensors on chairs and the pros and cons of each. We discussed using drones with infrared for condition assessment of buildings. We discussed monitoring valves through a central control system. We discussed the ethics of using security cameras in relation to privacy, and many many more topics.

As usual, the CFTA Conference was the highlight of my year. I renewed friendships with colleagues I had met the previous year. I  had stimulating conversations during the conference and was able to expand my knowledge and passion for the FM world. I am excited to see what next year brings, and I highly recommend that all who can attend this conference.

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