Buildings never sleep. They’re running at all hours of the day, night, and on weekends. Smart buildings change how they run based on what’s happening within them, but knowing what to change and when to do it isn’t as simple as it may sound.
Technology’s involvement in the running of our homes and buildings has taken on new levels from our thermostats and security systems to playing music, just ask Alexa. However, while the integration of technology into commercial buildings has taken a slower path, that doesn’t mean these buildings are by any means unintelligent. Complex buildings actually create so much data that those looking for information may be overwhelmed. You may be wondering just how much data and the answer is, quite high.
While the amount of data in 2020 was estimated to be 37.2 zetabytes, what may be even more important about this chart is the exponential growth curve. There is approximately 30 times more data created by buildings now than there was just 10 years ago and almost a 30% increase within the last year.
The truth is that this is much too much data if facility managers (FMs) are ill-equipped to utilize it for its maximum effect. Every time a new sensor is put into a building, whether for IAQ or occupancy (which have grown in popularity in the past year) or anything else, there is a new stream of data to track, analyze and manage. FM teams are already busy and now have new requirements and standards to meet as buildings strive to be safe and comfortable for occupants while meeting energy efficiency standards.
Due to the quantity and type of data available about and generated by buildings, it can be confusing as to what is necessary and what is above and beyond or simply a “nice to have.” The type of data FM teams need really comes down to three different themes: operations, performance, and occupant-centric.
As buildings become more complex and connected, the days of operating everything with a wrench in hand, manuals in the basement, and hand-written logs of checks and changes are becoming further behind us. One of the most common challenges in the operational realm of FM is that data is siloed. Siloed data is unable to interact with the data from other systems and, thus, leaves FM teams to check multiple systems, platforms, apps, and more to get the information they need. Not only does this require more time but also creates more room for error as data must be replicated, moved, and integrated with other data sets.
One place and dashboard that un-siloes data and brings it all together is a must for FM teams. As the previous chart shows, data will continue to grow as more capabilities become connected in the IoT and operators will be expected to manage it. This operational data doesn’t just mean electrical, water, and HVAC like one may traditionally expect but can also include access management, reservation systems, and more.
As buildings strive for and/or are required to meet upgraded and enhanced energy efficiency levels for certification, legal, or ESG reasons, FM teams must have historical data about a building’s performance as well as real-time information. With real-time data, FM teams are able to make just-in-time changes or notice issues as they start instead of hours or days after the fact. As buildings run nonstop but don’t necessarily need to have the same temperature holds or air circulation standards on the weekends as during the week, cloud-based systems are important as they can alert remote workers to less-than-ideal settings or systems that aren’t operating as expected.
Empowering FM teams to the performance of their buildings without needing to be on-site all of the time is an important purpose of data-rich and smart buildings. If adjacent zones of a building are being simultaneously cooled and heated, that is both inefficient and wasteful. Today’s building standards are higher, as occupants expect more out of their buildings as well as growing ESG-related responsibilities.
As people venture outside of their homes and return to the office, it’s done so with a bit more caution than before. Now, we’re all more aware of our surroundings and the health risks that could be there, even if they come in a form smaller than what we can see with the naked eye. After a year or so of isolation, social distancing, and wearing masks, the majority wants to slowly reintegrate with public spaces and only when they’re proven to be safe.
Building data that supports the health of occupants is nothing new. Air circulation in HVAC was done, in part, to keep air fresh and reduce stagnation in spaces. Access management has also been a way to keep those without credentials outside while allowing those who are known and approved to come in. In addition, platforms that support cleaning schedules and reserve desk spaces or rooms allow occupants to know where they’re going and that it’s clean and safe. By supporting contact tracing and maybe even integrating information about vaccination, building systems can provide the proof that occupants need to feel safe and secure.
All of these concentrations lead to better buildings, smarter buildings, and happier occupants. Without data, FM teams lack the information they need to do their jobs right and do what they need to well. Being proactive instead of reactive is a pillar of smart buildings.
This article originally appeared in the April issue www.automatedbuildings.com. See the article in its entirety at http://www.automatedbuildings.com/news/apr21/articles/reza/210319081501reza.html.