Five steps to smarter buildings

by FM Media
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The software and analytics integrated into a smart building provide facility managers with the insight they need to provide better energy management. RICK VAN DRIEL, IBM facilities management solution executive, shares five tips on how to make creating a smart building a whole lot easier to tackle.

In fewer than 15 years, buildings worldwide will become the biggest energy hogs on the planet. In a typical office building energy usage represents about 30 percent of its total operating costs. Here’s the thing about buildings: because they’re up and operating and built based on how we used energy and resources in the past, reconfiguring them to meet today’s climate challenges seems daunting.
Technically, however, it’s not. Most of the systems and technology needed to transform buildings are often already in place. Layering on analytics and figuring out how to share information provides the daily insight needed to make a building smart.
So, what is the biggest obstacle to making these projects happen? The biggest obstacle is figuring out how to manage them, because making a building smart isn’t simply about technology – it’s about humans, and people’s expectations and reactions to a project like this.
How do you mesh teams of technology folks with facility managers? How do you make sure that you get the most out of the information you collect? And, when’s the right time to make an investment? A few basic notions can make creating a smart building a whole lot easier to tackle.

Smart buildings are the first real convergence of technology and building infrastructure management. This means learning how to leverage information technology and communications technology to improve efficiency, sustainability and energy use, as well as gain lower operating costs and better usage of space. Much depends on the software and analytics to give facility managers and building operators the insight they need to provide better energy management. The users of a facility need to be prepared for these changes and buy-in must be obtained to reap all the benefits of smart buildings.

Businesses can’t afford to wait in the face of pressure from stakeholders, governments, employees and customers to reduce their costs and carbon footprints. In addition, it is possible to obtain energy cost savings without making big investments, because there has been a proliferation of smart sensors within lighting, cooling and heating, and security systems through routine equipment upgrades or repairs during the past decade. Right now, these sensors turn off lights or change temperatures at set times, but, with analytics, they can do much more, such as track how many people are in a building at night, so it can be decided where to shut down lights.

The best way to innovate is through collaboration. This is especially true of buildings, which are made up of complex systems from different manufacturers that are installed over many years. In order to make sure that all of these old and new systems work together, collaboration between manufacturers and the people responsible for installing and managing these systems is key.

By including building occupants in the process of making a building smarter, you push improvements further. People live in buildings and want to make a difference, and they know which lights are needed and which aren’t. They can also assist in coming up with new ideas of how to apply technology to save resources.
Building operators and/or facility managers must be included in the decision-making processes, and the technological folks rolling out the changes must understand the facilities teams’ duties. Moving to digitalised process platforms will require new skills and role redefinitions on both sides.

What we’re able to do with buildings is profound, but doing something that’s transformative means giving people the training that they need to make the most of these changes. End-to-end data, for instance, makes it possible to find the best performing building on a campus or the worst air-conditioning system in a building. This kind of information makes it possible to decide which project will provide the biggest efficiency boost and/or cut the most costs.
Making a building smarter creates an entirely new way to think about urban renewal. In a way, you’re actually creating a whole new living organism. Listen to it and learn from it – that’s how you’ll cut costs, save energy and create more sustainable communities.

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