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The use cases for smart buildings are clouded in mystery, as most of them are presently only concepts yet to be implemented and proven. Hence, the proverbial chicken-and-egg problem. Without public awareness of use cases, enough knowledge isn’t available to encourage investment of money in the technology, and without that investment, there are no use cases with which to educate the world.
Generally speaking, the benefits of a smart building can be broadly broken down as follows: track more assets; monitor more assets; integrate more systems and data; control assets tighter and with more efficiency; drill down from big picture to detailed data; find important information quickly; troubleshoot events with greater speed and accuracy; comparative and predictive analysis for better decision making. Smart building use cases must be the starting point of a smart building project because they substantiate the need for investments and budgets. Implementing smart technology alone won’t translate to an intelligent building.
Enter the Division 25 contractor
Though there are few Division 25 contractors today, they are a critical element to making a smart building a reality. Division 25 contractors are essential to the development of smart buildings, so it’s important for building owners to understand what they manage on a smart building project and how they close many of the gaps that exist in today’s contracting delivery methods. They are responsible for:
• Hardware support: management, installation, and support of any manufacturer’s devices, any networks (IT or OT), and all low voltage systems (building automation systems, audio/visual systems, security systems, fire alarm systems, mass notification systems, intercoms, digital displays, broadband, WiFi, cellular and public safety distributed antenna systems, and indoor positioning systems).
• Software support: development for, installation of, and support of building operating system, desktop and smartphone applications, application program interfaces (APIs), programming, firmware, databases, protocol conversions, and user interfaces and graphical user interfaces.
• Data management: management, installation, and support of sensors, end devices, and rates; data nomenclature; data transport; data storage; data computations and analytics; data presentation; and data security and access.
• Process development and management: management and development of program, project, and vendor management; owner program requirements; scopes of work; and Lean Six Sigma and Scrum practices.
• Integrations: develop, test and implement integrations for any and all low voltage contractors, systems, and devices; and owner IT and OT networks.
Division 25 contractors also perform functional testing by providing commissioning, troubleshooting, ongoing service, and maintenance.
The Division 25 contractor is an integrated solution provider and technology general contractor all in one. They manage all facets of the low voltage and technology trades end-to-end to ensure that the value promised by the use case is materialized in practice.
All bark and no bytes
Today’s smart building market is arguably at its pinnacle of hype, driven by an explosion of B-IoT technologies and an unrelenting pressure to do more with less in the operation of buildings. Nevertheless, there are remarkably few physical examples of what is possible in the built environment. This is particularly true in the United States where governance and antiquated processes present considerable barriers to these technology-driven projects and solutions.
The smart building market at this point is a lot of bark and almost no bytes in terms of completed, truly smart buildings. In the absence of a unified smart building index, the definition of a smart building is left to the interpretation of each individual contractor and consultant. Projects too often begin woefully under-funded, based on poorly written owner program requirements and shallow use cases that don’t drive business results. Without regulated industry standards, solid use cases, and qualified Division 25 contractors the roar about smart buildings will continue to be only noise and hype, not the roaring wave of the future it could be.
David Quirk (DQuirk@dlbassociates.com), PE, LEED AP, CEM, is vice president and managing principal, DLB Associates. He provides a variety of engineering and facilities services including building management systems, commissioning, and design services for energy and building management supporting the commercial building industry worldwide.
SIDEBAR: Smart systems vs. smart buildings
Building controls and building-related information systems have advanced tremendously over the past 10 years, thanks to gains in areas like computing power, software, artificial intelligence, and data science. Today, there’s very little within a building that can’t be monitored and reported on, and building owners can choose from an array of smart systems. But there’s a difference between smart systems and a smart building. No single manufacturer offers all the elements needed for a truly smart building, and tying disparate systems together presents many challenges. A building that installed an array of separate smart systems might well be energy efficient. And it would certainly be technology-rich. But it wouldn’t be a smart building. The intelligence is in tying everything together and bringing all the data back to a single source that uses all data points to make decisions and recommendations.