Reaping Benefits of Smart-Building Capabilities, Including Digital Credentialing
Among the applications of automated building systems is the use of digital credentialing through mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, says Kurt Karnatz, president of Environmental Systems Design. But despite the advantages of smart-building capabilities, obstacles remain to their wider use, including concerns over cost.
In addition to standard building subsystems operations, digital credentialing allows for traffic management, security, and even guidance because it’s possible to know where everyone is in the built environment.
Digital credentialing allows those who are supposed to be in the building to pass through it seamlessly and securely, explains Karnatz. Practically, it eliminates the need for elevator call buttons, as the elevator can be activated in response to digital credentialing. When no one is in a specific section, or additional security is warranted, building sections can be opened up or locked down.
“Today, we see smart options embedded in everything from towel dispensers to fire extinguishers,” says Klann. “Now, we need ground rules on how these devices are going to be procured and how they are going to communicate with each other. The data is and has been there, but the ‘uses cases’ for how to leverage this data among all systems has been missing. Start with getting access to the data, but don’t stop there. Develop a plan for how you can proactively use this data.”
As powerful as smart-building capabilities are, obstacles remain to their wider use. As Wilts points out, “Smart is not in everyone’s design vocabulary. People are still using return on investment as an excuse not to build smart, high performance buildings. They do not understand that it often can be done for the same first cost, if you know how to do it. In some cases, the building automation system’s capabilities are just sitting there, waiting to be tapped, especially in existing buildings.”
In other words, getting a smart, high-performance building should not cost more. “The idea is to get that data exchange between building systems working together to achieve the highest performance possible,” says Wilts.
Indeed, gee-whiz technology isn’t the place to start thinking about smart buildings. “It’s more about developing a comprehensive strategy that will determine the order in which the technology puzzle pieces will be assembled,” says Klann. “The strategy needs to consider your prioritization of sustainability, energy, and occupant experience goals.”
Ehrlich observes that when smart building approaches are applied in existing buildings, energy savings can be substantial. A large airport is undergoing a major retrofit, integrating many building subsystems, including power and Btu monitoring, jet bridges, and cooling systems across all its terminals. According to Ehrlich, “they are expecting to see benefits in energy savings, as well as operational advantages and enhanced comfort of occupants and tenants.”
Ehrlich sees changes in the ways high-performance buildings interact with utility electrical grids. “When the grid and buildings work together for demand response situations, high-performance buildings can cycle up or down more frequently and quickly,” Ehrlich says.