Despite the gains facility executives have seen from implementing smart building measures, less than half say that their organizations have developed an overall smart building strategy. (See Figure 5.) By comparison, most organizations have overall strategies in place for energy efficiency and sustainability.
Figure 5. Does your organization have an overall: R=826
Among organizations that do have energy efficiency or sustainability strategies, a majority of respondents say they rank smart building strategies as top priorities for those strategies. (See Figures 6 and 7.)
Figure 6. How important is a smart building strategy to your current energy efficiency strategy? R=631
Figure 7. How important is a smart building strategy to your current sustainability strategy? R=511
Although a majority of respondents say smart building strategies are top priorities, the percentages are far smaller than the number that say smart building strategies have helped improve performance in energy and sustainability. This discrepancy suggests that many facility executives may be failing to integrate smart building planning, on a strategic level, with energy efficiency and sustainability planning.
But the survey suggests the next few years could see a significant upswing in the implementation of smart building measures. While the percentages of those who expect to take the two most common measures, lighting upgrades or recycling, decline compared to what was done the past three years (lighting upgrades down from 83 percent to 62 percent; recycling down from 70 percent to 39 percent), many smart building measures show an increase. (See Figure 8.)
Figure 8. Which of the following steps do you anticipate your organization taking in the next three years? R=775
Expect To Take Measures
The increase for “integration of building systems” is particularly noteworthy for two reasons. One is because it comes after three years of integration improvements in many facilities. The other is because integration is vital as the underpinning of a smart building strategy.
“Systems integration is central to a smart building strategy,” Zimmer points out. “By integrating individual systems and buildings into a common user interface, operational activities in the various subsystems can be monitored to detect inefficient operating conditions, allowing corrective action in order to achieve high levels of systems optimization.”
Moores believes all building systems should be accessible through the building management system and well interfaced for Internet access. Facility executives and others “should have access to pertinent information via dashboards,” says Moores.
Gerald Cotter, associate director of engineering and project management for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, believes systems integration has to make smart building strategies “as simplified as possible.”
That’s not to say that systems integration guarantees a smart building. “Systems integration is an important element but will not in and of itself create value,” says Rob Murchison, co-founder of Intelligent Buildings, LLC. “There are many high-tech, integrated systems that are set on override or that don’t use interoperability.”
“Smart building strategies need to be easy enough for everyone to understand,” says Moores.
It’s essential to have a strategy for systems integration, rather than simply integrating systems for the sake of integration. “A systems integrator may come in and offer an overlaying control system that will monitor every system and subsystem in the building through one interface,” says Andrew Reilman, associate partner at Syska Hennessy Group, a consulting engineering firm. Reilman doesn’t believe that is an appropriate strategy for every building. “The question is, why are you doing it?” Gigabytes of data that no one uses or knows how to extrapolate are useless. “The facility executive needs an easy way to extract and collate data to verify energy model results.”
Analytics is emerging as an important area of smart building technology. The survey showed that about one in five respondents are now using analytics to improve energy efficiency while another one in three are considering that option. (See Figure 9.)
Figure 9. Are you currently using or considering analytics software to improve energy efficiency in your buildings? R=797
Role of the BAS in Smart Buildings
Basic control over building functions is essential to smart building strategies. Building automation is generally the cornerstone because its aim is to optimize energy performance while enhancing occupant comfort. Employing sensors, controllers, actuators, and software, a building automation system (BAS) may serve many functions, including:
- Optimizing start/stop functions on various building systems and subsystems.
- Scheduling maintenance.
- Employing predictive fault detection.
- Detecting abnormal operating conditions.
- Alarming and preventive actions to minimize damage in case of emergency.
Depending on the BAS chosen and the preferences of the organization, decisions can be made manually by building operators, or facility staff can use embedded intelligence algorithms to automate actions.
The range of capabilities of a BAS makes it well-suited to be the basis of a smart building. And the survey shows that most facility executives do identify the BAS as the foundation of smart building strategies. (See chart below.) The University of Southern California (USC) has a smart building strategy that allows facilities management to see what’s happening in every campus building, according to Andrew Reilman, associate partner at Syska Hennessy Group.
Which do you think should be the foundation for smart building strategies? R=795
“They know what’s going on in operations and maintenance across building systems, down to the filters and their product numbers,” Reilman notes. USC’s building management system has a facilities management system layer that allows sophisticated control strategies. “But you could also treat a 50-story high-rise building as a ‘campus,'” says Reilman, to accomplish similar smart options.
Almost by definition, many BAS functions make a building smarter. For example, Thomas F. Smyth, director, facility services at Cobbleskill Regional Hospital, believes the advantage of a building automation system is “less human error. The BAS lets you create setpoints and parameters for temperature in a specific space, for instance, so that is not left to someone’s memory. It also does monitoring functions so that we don’t have unhappy surgeons in the operating room. Of course, the BAS is only as good as the people operating the system.”
Tom Walsh, chief engineer for Transwestern Commercial Services, believes another excellent use for BAS in smart building strategies is “trending data, particularly watching how and when temperatures rise and fall. This is invaluable information to use for planning energy use.”
In addition to controlling, monitoring, and trending strategies, a BAS can serve another valuable smart building function, says Gerald Cotter, associate director of engineering and project management for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. “The BAS can show others what we are doing to save energy and encourage sustainability. When people can see the benefits, they are more willing to spend money on improvements.”