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“A platform can produce benefits beyond building automation systems,” says Mo Fahim, practice leader intelligent building technologies with Environmental Systems Design, who suggests facility managers think outside the workstation when it comes to digital solutions. For companies with bigger visions, deeper pockets, and the agility to take a leap of faith, it may be time to look closely at evolving platforms, particularly in the industrial sector.
For instance, rapid changes are occurring in how analytics are being applied. Indoor positioning is being tied into people movement and building systems to create immediate operations decisions at the edge.
Cloud analytics also does not rely only on individual building data. It also can look at dozens or even hundreds of similar buildings to identify what’s normal power consumption versus what’s not normal and extrapolate when excessive consumption happened elsewhere what the most common culprits were, giving facility managers benchmarking details for what’s normal for that equipment.
“Platforms also can be used for cross-servicing different generations of equipment and different suppliers,” says Nguyen.
“Smart building platforms don’t capture information for the sake of (information),” says Reel. “Knowledge without action is useless.” Once building data is integrated, facility managers need visualizations, analytics, fault detection and diagnostic logic, according to Reel.
“Benchmarking and scoring building performance are beneficial in both the short and the long term,” says Reel. Short-term, the overview of sudden or gradual declines in a building system’s performance allows FMs to identify improvement opportunities and optimize building operations from the platform. Long-term, data-based, portfolio wide reporting enables property owners and managers to prioritize capital investments, repairs and energy efficiency upgrades more precisely.
“Ultimately, these detailed insights and the ability to act on them reduces operating and energy costs, delivering an exceptional tenant experience while reducing carbon expenditure,” says Reel.
There can be significant obstacles to the implementation of an intelligent building platform. One drawback is the price tag for leading edge technology. Another is data acquisition. The way that data is acquired from utilities for energy management, for instance, can vary from one region or locality to another. “It could be that the electric meter that the facility manager (believes is) for the whole building actually is just a branch meter,” says Nguyen. In addition, service contracts may require specific data not be exposed.
Even after these matters are resolved and more metering is installed, there can be procedural hoops to be jumped through before data can be accessed, particularly in sensitive organizations like financial institutions. And healthcare facilities must be careful that data acquisition does not put their organization out of compliance with legal requirements for protected patient information.
Another challenge is that legacy equipment data may be locked in proprietary platforms. Or there could be some combination of open data communication protocols and proprietary protocols, making clean data comparisons difficult. Even if data could improve energy management, for example, some systems have a fixed temperature range, while the data for others may be located under 25 feet of concrete or have other physical impediments, says Nguyen.
It’s important for facility managers to understand that platforms cannot solve everything, says Fahim. “Understand your objective and solve for that,” he adds.
Another challenge for smart building platforms is adoption and implementation, says Fahim. When facility managers are making the case for a platform to stakeholders from multiple disciplines within the organization, it’s common for those stakeholders to want to see hard data on results in case study formats. However, there aren’t very many smart platforms installed long enough at this point to say, “‘Here’s the model. Here’s how it works and this is what you can save,’” says Fahim.
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