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August 2, 2017 - Building Automation
By John J. “Jack” McGowan
Buildings of today differ from facilities of the past in many ways. Innovations in architecture, construction techniques, and building materials are changing how we create these physical structures. Yet little has changed in the business processes used to acquire and maintain these hubs of human experience.
Occupants of these buildings — we humans — continue to evolve in use of digital technology. Internet-delivered products and services are making our lives easier, more productive, and more enjoyable. Enterprises are also profiting from the increase in productivity through online tools such as ERP and CRM, as well as innovations such as supply chain, social media, and e-commerce.
A new blog site will examine what it calls the New Deal for Buildings. The New Deal is a key missing part of this picture. Those involved with the site believe that the relationship between building owners and building vendors is currently broken, especially in the area of how building automation systems are used to improve the value and utility of facilities. In fact, these concepts apply to not just BAS, but to Big Data, analytics, the Building Internet of Things, and waves of new technology driven products and services being offered to facility managers every day. We believe that by enhancing this relationship, both enterprises and people who occupy buildings will reap significant benefits.
Authors contributing to the New Deal are not naive about the complexities of building a modern facility. Approaches proposed by the New Deal recognize the reality of today’s construction process. The goal is to improving the construction process, as well as the process of operating the building throughout its lifetime.
We believe that it’s time for vendors and owners to take collaborative action, and demand the type of products and services that can unlock the full potential of buildings for the 21st century and beyond. This collaboration is what makes the New Deal unique. It is time to look for mutually beneficial solutions and for professionals on both sides of the table to work together for optimal results. Again, this may sound naïve, but this model was how authors with the New Deal have built highly successful businesses as facility managers and vendors.
The three building blocks of the New Deal are interconnected by design, each magnifying the contribution of the others. They collectively provide a huge boost to the value of buildings for their owners, and improve the ability of vendors to increase the value of their products and services.
1. BACnet open standards: While there have been many open standard initiatives related to control systems, only BACnet has been focused on buildings. BACnet was created by building industry professionals and designed around the type of information, complexities, and nuances of building systems. This makes device selection from multiple vendors easier, since many common types of devices are now plug-and-play commodities. The richness of information from BACnet devices uniquely enables the model-based analytics core at the heart of the New Deal. The widespread acceptance of BACnet has created a large base of industry professionals globally, providing owners the flexibility to choose based on attributes such as the transparency of their offerings.
2. Model-based analytics: There is a great deal of hype today about big data and analytics from the technology sector. The New Deal’s focus on model-based analytics is based on a deep understanding what is needed for analytics to succeed with building systems. Model-based analytics can only succeed at scale by using BACnet, including the ubiquity of BACnet devices, along with the richness of their data. A core feature of the New Deal is that these devices and data can be used to create a “digital twin,” or a software representation of building equipment and systems. The next generation of facility managers and systems integrators will use these digital twins with analytics technology to troubleshoot building systems, optimize building operations, and determine corrective actions to improve buildings collaboratively and transparently.
3. Service transparency: Transparency is a cornerstone of the Internet-enabled consumer services that are now common from Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and many others. Given the complexity of buildings, transparency is a compelling proposition, but it is not possible without open standards, like BACnet. These standards must also be combined with transparency provided by model-based analytics monitoring buildings. Service transparency turns BACnet devices, coupled with the digital twin created by the model-based analytics, into a powerful accountability tool, holding vendors accountable for their products and services.
Those who have been involved in owning, or operating, large commercial facilities know that the term “owner” can be misleading. The term “owner” is used to loosely denote the stakeholders on the buying side of the vendor-owner relationship, namely the owning, construction, leasing, management, operation, and maintenance of commercial facilities.
Below are a few roles we consider more prominent for understanding the New Deal.
• Corporate owners are focused on getting the most from investments made in facilities and people. While costs of the facility, energy, and other services are important, maximizing the productivity of their employees and other assets are their highest priority. Under the New Deal, owners are informed about issues that impact their business and ideas to help them manage buildings, with full transparency, so they can plan their business accordingly. The New Deal is also an ideal way to assist with regulatory compliance, especially in health, pharmaceutical, oil and gas, and other highly regulated industries.
• REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) are focused on the capital and lease value of their buildings. New Deal ideas can help REITs to ensure that their properties are well maintained and that tenants get the promised value from their lease. REITs with a large and geographically diverse portfolio will benefit from the New Deal as they work to create consistency across their facilities, and to aggregate service and maintenance to increase the profitability of their assets. New Deal content can also help REITs address environmental issues, such as securing LEED accreditation, which in turn enhances the value of their properties.
• Commercial tenants are focused on getting the most, from their lease, for their business. Similar to corporate owners, tenants are keen to increase the productivity of their operations and their employees. Tenants in retail situations value how buildings can enhance the happiness and patronage of their customers. The New Deal tenets also provide transparency on issues like service and maintenance, and can significantly reduce energy and other utility costs.
• Institutional owners (government, schools, religious groups, etc.) are typically focused on their purpose and mission. They desire facilities that work as specified, and that any issues are addressed as rapidly as possible. On the economic front, they need to show restraint and cost-consciousness to the community they serve. Open and standard-based products, along with “open book” and such buying models, provide these owners a solid base of flexibility to choose future vendors, and transparency gives them visibility and accountability to their stakeholders.
• Facility managers are responsible for the day-to-day operation of buildings. The use of open standards provide facility managers the flexibility to choose products and services that suit their needs, without locking them into a specific vendor. Model-based analytics provide facility managers a powerful tool to identify and track issues to their satisfactory resolution, while transparency enables them to get visibility of the vendors and hold them accountable for their services. The openness of the New Deal allows for the use of innovative products, services and buying models as they come to market.
• On-site engineers are tasked to monitor and resolve issues with their buildings on a day-to-day basis. Their work is typically underappreciated, few people understand what they do, and most of the interaction with occupants occurs when something goes wrong. The New Deal provide tools for engineers to transparently identify issues, work with vendors and hold them accountable to resolve them and to provide a way to show their activities to building occupants and business managers relying on the facility.
Participants in this New Deal sincerely believe that the buildings industry is at a critical juncture, and that it is time for new and collaborative interaction between vendors and the owner community. Armed with a new perspective and content from the New Deal, these vendors and owners will be positioned to redefine the best ways to buy, sell and support both technology and conventional building products and solutions. Facility managers are encouraged to join this New Deal community and benefit from this exciting development in the building industry.
For more on the New Deal for Buildings, visit http://newdeal.blog.
Jack McGowan, CEM, is principal with The McGowan Group, a corporate board director of New Mexico Gas Company, and a contributing editor to Building Operating Management. His perspectives on the buildings are the product of three plus decades working with energy, technology and smart facilities. He is author of articles and six books including Energy and Analytics, Big Data and Building Technology Integration, The Fairmont Press, 2016.