Mitchell Britto, Director, Smart Building Services, TDIndustries
While there are many ways to define a “smart” or “intelligent building,” the most universal understanding is to think of these facilities as highly energy efficient, sustainable in their operations, and proactive in recognizing and reacting to occupants’ needs in terms of comfort, health, indoor air quality, and safety.
Over the last few decades, our use of technology has increased significantly along with the landscape of intelligent buildings. We welcome technological innovation because it improves performance, simplifies and increases efficiency, and provides easy convenience. Our cars can drive themselves, our refrigerators can create shopping lists, and our cell phones allow us access to an unimaginable amount of information and connectivity. These smart technology advantages continue to improve our lives at an ever-increasing rate. Intelligent buildings are following the same trajectory.
Building systems technology improvements have begun an evolution toward increased integration, and an ability to access usable data to positively impact organizational performance. This method has prompted new ways of thinking and design, introducing the possibility of transformative change in the near future.
Solving Data Overwhelm
A prime example of this evolution is recognized in the transformation of the Building Automation System (BAS), an integral part of facility operations. In the late ’90s, these systems began producing a tremendous and overwhelming amount of data, resulting in difficulties for building operators to leverage and manage that data to draft impactful prescriptions and policies.
In 2008, implementing data analytics, the industry began optimizing large Central Plants by analyzing BAS data to produce effective energy conservation strategies, improve equipment life, and ensure no offsets to environmental comfort. As utility increased and the price point for these systems declined, it became obvious that analytics could also improve other facility systems and operations. In addition to generating data, these useful analytic strategies foster problem-solving and informed decision-making on how best to prioritize faults.
The algorithms and models are mature enough today to be combined with Building IoT equipment and devices, to drive data-driven decisions. These abilities will be transformative to our industry over the next three to five years. The need for this data now takes waste out of an antiquated system to enhance productivity operationally.
This transformation will be integrated into greenfield buildouts and large retrofits in addition to existing buildings. Data analytics, including Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) and Energy Information Management, will be a game-changer during the startup, commissioning, and turnover process to help operators stay within their design intent.
“The construction of a more intelligent building and using aggregated data and data analytics is the future of the building industry.”
Performance Beyond Sustainability
The construction of intelligent buildings and the use of data analytics have been primarily driven by energy conservation strategies. Today, the use of an increasing number of new algorithms and models have permitted the analysis of building data to also improve business operations. Hospitals are using building data to interpret and improve surgery outcomes, enhancing cost efficiency and productivity, and increasing patient satisfaction.
Additionally, manufacturing plants are using smart analytics to adjust workflow and to increase production. Stadiums are building IT infrastructure to track and improve the customer experience.
As you can see, Intelligent buildings are becoming even more sophisticated and offering us greater insights into their operation, and our use of them.
The construction industry is quickly adjusting to the increased consumer expectations of intelligent buildings. Building owners and designers are recognizing that the demand for easy-to-access and actionable data will continue to influence building optimization and operational performance. Yet challenges remain.
A Time of Transition
As with many construction processes, new product competition breeds a variety of solutions rather than a universal standard, and building owners are often forced to choose from such platforms early in their development for building upgrades or new construction.
A brand agnostic solution, or an adaptable system that works well with multiple software options, may prove to add more value and flexibility for the future of intelligent buildings.
Challenges common with the BAS also still remain. For existing buildings with a siloed approach to equipment age, sophistication and connectivity, a simple solution can still be elusive for those disparate systems. And as all mechanical building systems offer more ways to gather, track and analyze data, it becomes increasingly important that the data be aggregated and analyzed with a high degree of accuracy to ensure actionable and positive outcomes.
The Future of the Building Industry
The industry is already beginning to implement these best practices to assess the value of this utility, from both a cost perspective and account for the life cycle impacts of intelligent building benefits on facility usage. Planning foresight influences the design of the IT and OT networks to account for future bandwidth requirements.
As algorithms and models continue to improve the understanding of facility operations, the positive role data plays in building performance will increase drastically. Anticipating and constructing the infrastructure necessary for the future use of data and for the applications to use it will become commonplace.
The construction of a more intelligent building and using aggregated data and data analytics is the future of the building industry.