Getting Started With Smart Buildings
When you’re considering any type of smart building system where do you start? The first question to ask is: what do you want it to achieve? What challenges does your business face that a smart building can help to address? Do you understand what a smart building can do?
Essentially a smart building is one in which energy and operational systems are controlled and regulated automatically – or with minimal human intervention – to provide comfortable, efficient, high-performance working environments. They are buildings in which technology is used to meet the needs of its occupants, while delivering space, energy, operational and other efficiencies.
Understand your building – and your objectives
Before deciding how to introduce a smart building system into your premises, you need to have a clear understanding of the current practices and routines in your building, in relation to engineering, maintenance, energy management and space utilisation. You also need to understand what systems and equipment you have in place.
Once you understand how your building operates, and have clarified what you want from a smart building, the next step is to determine what data you will need to collect to achieve the desired outcomes.
Data is the lifeblood of any smart building system; specifically, connected data. All buildings contain systems, technology and sensors that generate data. This includes data on utility consumption, space utilisation, building management systems, weather conditions, access control, production output, air quality and much more. The process of collating, monitoring and analysing this data is the core activity of your smart building system.
All of this data needs to be brought together onto a single platform for objective analysis. This will enable you to better understand the relationships between different activities in your building. You will be able to see how data in one area is influenced by activities in another, and whether assets are working in harmony or in conflict. For example, are heating and cooling assets working against each other, causing inefficiency and wasted energy and cost?
What can smart buildings do for you?
By connecting all of your data on a single platform, smart buildings give you a single version of the truth. This enables you to make informed decisions and interventions based on accurate insights, so that operational changes, capital investments and working procedures can be implemented effectively based on a clear understanding of how your building really works. That means you can optimise your resources, save time and money, increase operational efficiency, improve employee health and wellbeing, boost productivity and reduce your environmental impact – all thanks to the insights provided by your smart building.
Smart building systems also help you manage your building more efficiently, by providing the information you need to allocate resources more effectively. By monitoring data from key assets such as air-handling units, pumps, chillers and other mechanical and electrical equipment, smart systems ensure maintenance and servicing interventions are timed appropriately. Essentially, it means you can base maintenance decisions on facts about the condition of your equipment, rather than on predetermined schedules.
Monitoring data from building assets will also help you to quickly identify when inefficiencies or faults occur, so you can rectify them promptly.
Making life simpler for everyone
The benefits of a smart building boil down to convenience. They enable you to access extensive and valuable data at any time from any device. The views available to individuals within your organisation can be tailored to their requirements, making the system relevant to each user and easy to act upon.
The usability and relevance of any smart building system to its users are key to its success. So before you begin any smart building implementation, you need to engage with all stakeholders, from the finance team to your facilities managers and people who occupy the building every day. That way you can tailor your smart building system to ensure it delivers what everyone needs from it. Working in a smart building requires a different way of thinking, and people need to be prepared to adjust to that.
Remember, at its heart, a smart building is all about connecting data in meaningful ways to achieve the objectives of your business. You need to be clear about those objectives at the outset, and understand the data you will need to achieve them.
This article was originally published in The Smart Buildings eBook by the Facilities Show. Download the full eBook from their website.