The silo effect borrows its name from agricultural silos where grains are stored in separate vertical compartments. In the world of business silos refer to barriers to communication. When the silo effect is present, critical data is hoarded and information sharing stops.
Owners have left some $60 million dollars worth of OPA green incentives on the table, and incentive programs are not as effective as they should be. But the source of this disturbing trend may be the so-called “silo effect.”
The HVAC contractor, for example, may not know that the lights are about to be completely replaced by a lighting contractor, which will cause a higher drain on heating requirements. A retrofitter needs accurate information but realizes that the architectural blueprints are obsolete and don’t match the as-built structure. He gathers new measurements that have great value but those are never shared with the owner.
What these owners lack is control and organization of building information. Although they are desperately looking for ways to lower costs and bolster revenues, they continue to walk away from essentially free money like funds offered by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA). Ask them why and most will explain that they were just too exasperated by cumbersome, unmanageable, disjointed efforts to put progressive green energy ideas into action.
But while architectural technology has advanced exponentially within recent years, owners responsible for taking advantage of it are still handicapped because they use obsolete tools. Owners need to have instant access and control of information through a flexible and interactive platform such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. BIM is a user-friendly but sophisticated and centralized building database that can be accessed through multiple interfaces to make it easy to get the information that is needed while simultaneously adding fresh information to the data bank from numerous sources. It acts as a common file for all participants to view, study, and interact with for the duration of a project and the lifetime of the building.
Of course technological solutions alone are not enough to break down data silos. If you want people to act differently you have to remove their motivation for perpetuating the status quo and replace it with better reasons to do something new. To begin with, owners can stipulate that all projects are to be done using the BIM platform. But contractors also reap rewards, so BIM does not become a deterrent but it becomes a value-added benefit for them, too. Having access to BIM, for example, makes it much easier for contractors to generate accurate and persuasive bid proposals or for smaller players to team up and compete for larger, more lucrative contracts.
But the biggest incentive is money. As the logjams are removed more financial resources can finally be unleashed through lucrative programs like those offered by the OPA, the BBP Multifamily Energy Efficiency Rebate (MEER), and the BOMA ECAP Program.