Buildings are the biggest aspiration of a society. So what happens after they are built?
Buildings are a social and cultural product, that largely influences people, their beliefs and their aspirations. New building types emerge as old ones become obsolete, but they never seize to exist, inhabit or influence.
Once constructed, these structures last for decades together. But the intent of thought that goes into ‘design and construction’ almost turns static when it comes to the functions and day-to-day operations of a building.
This is because we’ve had a walled-garden understanding of the problems that need to be solved. With IoT and Machine Learning, the dynamics of operating and maintaining a facility is changing the way we experience buildings. Here are three major areas where tech can solve the most vexing problems of facility managers, property owners and tenants.
Buildings influence energy
It’s widely known that buildings account for 40% of the world’s energy use. Much has been tried to reduce the effect of buildings on the environment since the 70s when real-estate globally boomed. A lot of progress did happen around building automation, which by itself is a great marvel, but nothing really stood out which embedded ‘sustainability’ as an everyday practice.
Massive amounts of energy data stay locked inside the numerous energy-producing machines and its associated automation systems. These siloed, unstructured data bury useful insights that otherwise can help optimize operations and accelerate energy efficiency consistently across portfolio.
In this age of smart building, and with IoT-led applications, what was previously a monthly consumption tracker on a spreadsheet can now be an instant notification on your mobile when energy exceeds baseline (of yesterday) in site A with reason as say ‘a chiller with broken pipe valves’. And even so, your facility teams are immediately assigned a work order and they tend to it, with the right set of information in hand, even before it affects tenant experience.
Buildings influence people
It’s true that commercial real estate is highly commoditized. Every property owner wants to “out-amnetize” the property next door. The competition is high, particularly in the real-estate market, where cost variance can go out of control dynamically. Finding best tenants and keeping them happy is mission critical because it directly affects investment decisions. And all of this boils down to the experiential attribute that tenants typically prioritize.
For example, a malfunctioning AHU unit can ruin a business day’s work distributing either too cold or too warm air that doesn’t correspond with the climate outside. With all guidelines in place (like ASHRAE, USGBC and more), CRE (commercial real estate) owners have zero-to-minimal mechanism to meet and support these standards. A well-serviced building has a crucial effect on both the environment and also on tenant business continuity, impacting end-user perceptions, and thereby eventually augmenting the real and perceived value of the property.
CREs have been long relying on comparative benchmarking and market trends but it’s time they started looking at software-led technology to help manage their distributed portfolio, even in scenarios where multiple FM vendors and different vendor BAS systems exist across facilities. This will not only help them improve investment economics but also ensure they provide superior tenant experience.
Buildings influence machines
In the context of buildings, technology has long existed in the form of building management and automation systems. The multiple electro-mechanical equipment and control tools in place for HVAC, lighting, fire-safety, life, security and more, has brought with it its own set of challenges. Traditionally these systems were designed to be localized and self-contained in nature. In that, they operated in closed structures with no sharing of information. For example, an issue with a AC unit would only be fixed in a routine preventive maintenance schedule which could have already cost premature wear and tear of the equipment.
The enormous amount of data generated by these siloed systems can now be constantly monitored, analyze and acted upon in real-time. With IoT-driven applications, facility teams can get ahead of the curve, know when machines are nearing threshold, identify patterns with useful insights, and work at it before they break down.
Real-time, integrated facilities management
Different building sizes, different teams, and different equipment break the flow of efficiency that lead to energy wastage, poor tenant experience, and machine failure. If we are to understand buildings and the people and environment it interacts with – of course none of which are mutually exclusive – we’ve got to start developing the ‘intent’ to deeply improve the daily functions of a building in the long run.
With IoT and ML driven applications, the ability to capture, analyse and use the massive amounts of data already existing within building systems presents a fantastic opportunity to solve the most common yet impactful pain points in facilities. Software-led technology is and will truly change the way we experience buildings.