NIKA Raises More than $15K in Breast Cancer Fundraiser

Breast Cancer Awareness at NIKA – Together We Are Stronger

Did you know that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States? Each year, it is estimated that over 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,500 will die. Here at NIKA, we want to help change that.

This October, we once again partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to raise funds for breast cancer awareness and research, as well as provide funding support for those facing this all too common disease. This year, NIKA staff donated a total of $7,531, which was matched by NIKA corporate for a total donation of $15,062, beating last year’s fundraiser by more than 40%!

In addition to our fundraiser, we’ve been “thinking pink” with a calendar full of themed activities, giveaways, and commemorations designed to raise awareness and show all people affected by this disease how much we care. Thank you to all who donated and participated – we know that TOGETHER, WE ARE STRONGER!

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NIKA Creative Lab Named to the Top 25 in Australian Design Competition

Architects and Engineers from Rockville, MD Design Team are Shortlisted for LAGI 2018

Rockville, MD, July 23, 2018/ —  The NIKA Creative Lab’s “Sol Tower” was named as one of the one of the top 25 shortlisted designs for the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) 2018 design competition. This year’s competition brief required teams to design a renewable energy infrastructure “woven into the fabric” of the St. Kilda Triangle in Melbourne, Australia.

Architects and engineers, led by NIKA Creative Lab’s Tae Jung, developed a creative approach that stood out among approximately 300 entries from around the world. Featuring a beautiful solar updraft tower at its center, NIKA’s design embodied the idea of art with a purpose, harvesting energy from natural, renewable sources with a net-zero effect. In keeping with the spirit of this popular tourist area, the tower would feature a vertical drop ride where fun seekers cheer as they drop down through the 36-meter-high shaft overlooking the vista of St. Kilda. The bridge would connect various parts of the St. Kilda Triangle, adding an element of connectivity and mobility.


According to the LAGI website: “The goal of the Land Art Generator is to accelerate the transition to post-carbon economies by providing models of renewable energy infrastructure that add value to public space, inspire, and educate—while providing equitable power to thousands of homes around the world.”

In addition to the solar updraft tower, the NIKA Creative Lab design featured bladeless wind oscillators and photovoltaic panels. These technologies would combine to not only generate enough energy to fuel its own ride, but also to feed energy back into the grid.

NIKA’s design will be prominently featured in the LAGI exhibition, the HIRMER publication, and will be noted in LAGI’s media communications. The exhibition will open on October 11th at Fed Square in Melbourne, at which time the winning entries will be announced.

 

ABOUT THE NIKA CREATIVE LAB

The NIKA Creative Lab is a unique architectural research and design studio working to solve real-world problems through innovation. Our creative team understands that architecture is about more than just aesthetics. Rather, our approach puts people first, focusing on the impact of the physical structure on its inhabitants.  Different from the conventional A+E work studio, the NIKA Creative Lab is an incubator for out-of-the-box ideas and fresh perspectives that will enrich our world. Our team works to develop a strong understanding of the needs of our evolving society, and then fields a wide variety of ideas and concepts that are nurtured, tested, and refined. This dynamic and flexible process fuels innovation, ultimately leading to design that has the power to transform lives. The NIKA Creative Lab is continuously reimagining architecture to push the boundaries of what is possible.

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Will EO 13834 Impact Ongoing Sustainability Efforts at Federal Agencies?

Today’s sustainability challenges are similar to the energy and pollution crisis of the 1970s that resulted in the invention of catalytic converters and fuel-efficient engines. Innovation born of necessity helped the United States become successful in producing cheaper fuels and environmentally safe cars. Fast forward to the 21st century and we have seen the nation’s federal agencies employing innovative strategies for reducing energy consumption and increasing efficiency. Many of these strategies have resulted from compliance with 2015’s Executive Order (EO) 13693 “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade,” which was intended to guide the federal government to become leaders in driving national greenhouse gas reductions and supporting preparations for the impacts of climate change.

A New Mandate

On May 18, 2018, the new EO 13834, “Executive Order Regarding Efficient Federal Operations” was released that provides new guidelines on implementing efficient federal operations, including energy and water efficiency, solid and toxic waste management, and greenhouse gas reductions. With the new EO in place, many are wondering what the impact will be on ongoing sustainability-focused activities. This article addresses those potential impacts and recommends strategies that should be implemented prior to dismantling any ongoing energy, water and greenhouse gas emission control efforts being pursued by federal facilities.

How is EO 13834 Different?

EO 13834 imposes a net burden on the facility energy management strategies currently being promoted by facilities. For example, at present, in compliance with previous EO 13693, facilities are fully invested in and are working hard to implement projects that will enable long-term energy consumption reduction (2.5% over 10 years based on a 2015 baseline) and potable water consumption reduction (2% over 18 years based on a 2007 baseline).  However, the new EO requires only minimum compliance with statutory guidelines without stating targeted goals, leaving it up to agencies to determine them.  Moreover, the EO lacks critical criteria related to timelines, percentage reductions of energy/water/solid waste, and percent goals related to renewable energy production. This means that facilities, especially hospitals and data centers, will struggle to assign appropriate resources moving forward.

EO 13834 also appears to allow the head of the agency to use his or her discretion in the implementation of proposed requirements. Given previous successes in this area, agency leaders will hopefully recognize that opportunities for infrastructure efficiency and cost savings are plentiful at installations where utility rates may be high, and a wide variety of renewable energy measures are abundantly available.

Although EO 13834 encourages use of energy service performance contracts (ESPCs) at installations, it does not mention the effective life cycle cost (LCC) approach, which enables rapid implementation of low-cost/no-cost short-term sustainable measures.  It’s important to note that the use of an LCC methodology would allow ESPCs to implement sustainable strategies and operations without compromising cybersecurity.

‘Fixing’ What’s Not Broken

If our end goal is to reduce energy/water use intensity (EWUI) and increase renewable energy generation, we are presently on course. Federal agencies are seeing success in their efforts to conserve resources and generate renewable energy for the future. Furthermore, market forces are driving companies to try to innovate and manufacture cheaper bio fuels, solar panels, and wind turbines – and they are delivering! Agency leaders have the latitude under the new EO to elect to continue efforts that reflect this progressive path.

Our nation is built on continuous innovation and measures that help fuel sustainable growth are a part of that long tradition of practical creativity.  As such, NIKA’s energy engineering experts recommend performing a careful review of the new policy recommendations and a thorough evaluation of how current sustainability practices may be leveraged under the new executive order.

Bookmark NIKA’s blog for reviews of future directives/clarifications related to EO 13834 and other sustainability issues, as well as informed analysis and predictions. In the meantime, readers are encouraged to contact author Alok Kumar, PE, EMP, Director of Energy Services, at akumar@nikasolutions.com with questions and comments.

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NIKA Announces New Industry Speaker Series

NIKA is pleased to announce that we are introducing a new Speaker Series designed for facilities industry professionals. Thought leaders and subject matter experts will share their ideas, explore hot industry trends, demonstrate new technologies, and more. Attendees will have the opportunity to connect with other industry peers and experts in a great networking environment, while taking valuable information back to their organization.

The first event in the Speaker Series, “Finding Hidden Opportunities Using the Value Methodology,” will be presented by Jeff Rude, a consultant, facilitator, and value specialist who helps organizations in the public and private sector manage and improve the value of their projects and ongoing operations. He is experienced in design and construction, product and service innovation, strategic investments, and cash flow optimization.

The event will be held on May 10th from 5:30pm – 7:00pm at our NIKA headquarters in Rockville, MD. Seats are limited, so register today by emailing events@nikasolutions.com.

Download event details for more information.

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Is Your Facility Vulnerable to a Cyberattack?

By Elias Zeilah

As technology and connectivity continue to grow and integrate into our daily lives, cyber security threats also increase. While most people are aware of the risk to their sensitive personal information, the general public is just now being made aware of attacks on institutions, including infrastructure and facilities. In March 2018, the U.S. intelligence community issued a security memo detailing a series of Russian cyberattacks targeting energy management control systems (EMCS) at U.S. and European nuclear power facilities. These attacks staged malware, conducted phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks and small commercial facilities’ networks. This news should give pause to owners and facility managers of other public and commercial buildings, which could be at risk in the future.

A report published in Harvard’s Journal of Strategic Threat Intelligence suggests that most hospitals, for example, do not have a comprehensive understanding of their information technology (IT) infrastructure. This gap in knowledge allows for vulnerabilities to develop as upgrades and updates get delayed, devices become misconfigured, and unused legacy systems remain connected. Furthermore, cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated, making them harder to detect and mitigate.

A breach of a facility’s building automation system (BAS) or energy control management system (ECMS) can be catastrophic. If an attacker were to successfully breach the system, they could go as far as rendering all mission critical equipment (e.g., power systems, surgery med gas, backup generators, etc.) inoperable for an undetermined length of time. In order to prevent these breaches, it is important to understand the way in which a facility may be vulnerable.

Why are Facilities Vulnerable to Cyberattack?

There are a variety of cyber intrusion points at a facility, the most concerning of which is the BAS, which provides automatic centralized control of a building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning, lighting and other systems. Similar to the energy management systems targeted by the Russians, BASs have become more intelligent and more connected in recent years. A wide array of networked components are required to effectively manage a facility’s various sub-systems. As the BAS infrastructure becomes more complex, the attack vector and cyber vulnerability associated with that system increases.

Though the majority of cyber threats are related to systems connected to the internet, vulnerabilities also exist on local systems, with no connectivity outside the perimeter of the facility, as demonstrated by the Stuxnet worm. BASs are especially vulnerable as they are a form of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and are typically not designed with security as a primary requirement.

While guidance like Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) 4-010-06 describes the requirements for addressing cyber security of facility-related control systems, this is only applicable when a building is being originally constructed or undergoing renovations. There is nothing that requires ongoing survey of these systems over time. Since BASs are often required to run 24/7 without downtime, they may not receive the appropriate updates needed to address the ever-growing list of security vulnerabilities.

How to Gauge Your Building’s Vulnerability

As cyberattacks increase and evolve, the need for the technologies and security methodologies to prevent them also grows. Because BASs can vary greatly from facility to facility, they need to be examined and addressed individually. Relying on the facility’s IT security alone is not sufficient, as the requirements and slew of devices and protocols present in BAS networks differ from that of IT security implementations. Conducting a comprehensive cyber security risk assessment is a critical first step in gauging your building’s risk factors. In a paper published by the U.S. Department of Energy, it is suggested that an effective cyber security risk assessment can identify “threats and vulnerabilities, impacts that threats may have on the organization, and the likelihood of adverse events occurring.” Only then can informed decisions be made on the security posture of the facility control system.

An experienced facility life cycle solutions provider like NIKA can help facility owners take the first step toward facility “cyber health” by identifying key personnel for the effort, defining objectives and priorities, and giving you a better understanding the status of any at-risk inventory.

For more information on innovative technologies designed to better manage your facility portfolio, contact the NIKA Enterprise Technologies group.

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NIKA Takes Top Honors in Architectural Design Competition

Architects from Rockville, MD Design Firm Win First Prize in the Sydney Affordable Housing Challenge

Rockville, MD, March 19, 2018/ —  NIKA, a global provider of facility life cycle solutions, was named the winner in the Sydney Affordable Housing Challenge, an international architectural design competition sponsored by Bee Breeders. Competitors were challenged to design a pilot-phase concept for affordable housing within Sydney, Australia, which could be easily rolled out to increase capacity of housing stock, and was minimal in its use of land and materials.

Architects Tae Jung, Pauline Sipin, Hazel Ventura, and Diana Lopez from the NIKA Creative Lab delivered an innovative design solution that not only addressed the need for affordable housing in Sydney, but also offered an beautiful space that would blend seamlessly with the aesthetic of the city. Said team leader Tae Jung, “Our entry, titled ‘Bridging Affordable Housing,’ uses a modular design approach that is both flexible and scaleable, promoting inclusivity and sustainability in its concept. We wanted to create a unique plan that would allow young professionals to continue to live, work, and play in a city that has become increasingly unaffordable for most. ”

According to the jury, NIKA’s winning entry succeeded in “…offering Sydney both a new housing network and a network of green spaces. ‘Bridging Affordable Housing’ is comprised of a simple module: a structural bridge pier with decking that contains prefabricated housing units topped by a green roof. The proposal recalls the re-purposed railways that have become NYC’s successful Highline or Paris’ Coulée verte’. One can imagine this new elevated linear housing/park snaking through Sydney organically, growing from multiple locations and eventually merging like connective tissue within the city.”

The work is a product of the new NIKA Creative Lab, which is NIKA’s dedicated research and design program formed to promote the firm’s innovative and imaginative approach to solving complex architectural challenges. NIKA’s architects and engineers work to develop a strong understanding of the needs of our evolving society, and design creative architectural solutions that enhance the world in which we live. Different from the conventional A+E work studio, the NIKA Creative Lab is a rich testing ground for out-of-the-box ideas, fresh perspectives, and unique approaches that will serve as a springboard into the future.

Kabir Chaudhary, NIKA’s President & CEO, commented: “We are all incredibly proud of the creative and innovative work being done by our team. Winning the Sydney Affordable Housing Challenge is just the first step in showing the world what we can do to marry form and function in an artful way.”

 

About NIKA

NIKA is revolutionizing how businesses and governments design, build and manage real property. By combining architecture, engineering, enterprise technology, and facilities operations management services all under one roof, we are able to provide unparalleled value to our clients. With two decades of experience serving organizations across the world, NIKA provides exceptional client service that is designed to enhance operational excellence and readiness while meeting mission objectives.

For more information about NIKA, please visit http://www.nikasolutions.com.

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Missing Data? You Can Still Get Great Analytics!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an analyst with a data set must be in want of a protocol to deal with missing data (my apologies to Jane Austen).  In our work analyzing data related to buildings and facilities, NIKA’s analysts often find that the facility managers are missing information that we would need to help them better predict equipment failure or develop maintenance schedules or manage inventory.  If this sounds familiar, don’t fret – there are several ways to deal with missing data, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Option 1: Only Analyze Complete Data Sets
While this would be analytically pure, it is extremely limiting.  Perfect data sets are only slightly less rare than unicorn sightings, and only accepting complete data sets may mean that there is questionable data that should be excluded that isn’t, such as when there is an expenditure or cost that’s out of range with the rest of the data.

Option 2: Ignore Incomplete Records
This is a valid option, provided the data set is large enough and the number of incomplete records is proportionally small; statistical literature normally limits this to around 5% of the records. There may be cases, however, where this is a poor fit, such as a building’s energy consumption reported on a monthly basis. For example, if only the hottest months are missing, then your analysis is not going to take into account all the air conditioning that’s used in those months.

Option 3: Use Estimates
This option has the advantage of making the data set complete.  However, there are many different ways to make an estimate and a particular philosophy or reasoning must be chosen. In general, you want to treat each instance of missing data the same way.  When you choose a method for using an estimate, you will have to defend it.  An experienced data analytics expert can help you use proven estimation methodologies and calculations, like regression analysis, to fill in the blanks and get a more accurate picture of your overall facility health.

If you’ve thought about turning to data analytics to help improve facility operations, but were worried that your data isn’t accurate or complete enough, there are options available to you. Data analytics is a complex field requiring diverse expertise, including business, mathematics, and technology. These disciplines all come together to create a holistic view of your organization’s facilities. The Enterprise Technologies team at NIKA has extensive experience turning all kind of data into actionable analytics. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you increase the useful life of buildings and equipment in your facility portfolio.

 

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NIKA Men Support Movember for Men’s Health Awareness!

During the month of November 2017, NIKA staff members participated in Movember, an annual event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.

At the end of the Movember event, the best mustaches took home top prizes, earning a donation in their name to the charity of each winner’s choice. The first place winner, Elias Zeilah, earned $1500 for his charity. Second place winner Javier Oliu earned $1000 for his selected organization. Third place winner Tom Williams and all the runners-up each earned $500 for the charity of their choice. All donations were contributed by NIKA in support of the event.

 

 

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NIKA Teams with Manna Food Center to Defeat Hunger

Throughout the month of November, NIKA staff members have donated a wide variety of canned and dried goods for Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg, MD.  By November 17th, NIKA had collected more than 461 pounds of food to help Manna meet their mission of eliminating hunger in Montgomery County, where NIKA is headquartered.

Since 1983, Manna has worked to fight hunger, feed hope and transition recipients from a place of scarcity to prosperity. Manna stands as the premier food bank of Montgomery County, providing food to 40,000 individuals each year and helping distribute rescued food to soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters county-wide. Nearly every social service organization in Montgomery County relies on Manna to provide food to their clients, and we are honored to play our part in the strong social safety net. Also operating as a food pantry, Manna directly reaches into the community through a network of distribution sites in every quadrant of the county.

For more information about the Manna Food Center and how you can contribute, please visit http://www.mannafood.org!

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NIKA Donates More than $10K to Help Fight Breast Cancer

NIKA is excited to announce that we have met and exceeded our goal of raising $5,000 to help fight breast cancer! More than 60 people donated $5230 during our #Pinktober Susan G. Komen fundraiser and NIKA has made their own $5000 matching donation, for a total of $10,230!

As the world’s largest and most impactful breast cancer organization, Susan G. Komen supports more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit, while providing real-time help to those facing the disease.

We’re sending out a special thank you to the more than 50% of NIKA employees who made donations for this very worthy cause.

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