FM Articles

Reduce Energy & Operating Costs Using New Technology


The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way that facility professionals operate and maintain school and hospital buildings. Facility teams are using the IoT to create smarter buildings and better physical environments for learning and healing, while at the same time giving teachers, caregivers and other staff members a more comfortable, secure and productive place to work.

These improvements are being driven by technology advance­ments and the availability of unprecedented volumes of data from individual building systems. The IoT turns this data into useful information, providing educational and healthcare facil­ity team mem­bers the in­sight needed to manage energy con­sumption and operat­ing costs, im­prove system reliability and uptime, and minimize the organization’s environmental footprint – all at the same time.

Today’s advanced building au­tomation sys­tem (BAS) platforms are powerful tools that let facility teams manage the operation of major building systems such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, fire protection and entry control. These discrete systems can be monitored and operated from a single, user-friendly dashboard that operators can access anytime and from any location with a laptop computer or other device connected to the internet.

The continuing development of secure wireless communi­cations, big data, cloud computing, direct digital controls and other innovations has been a real game-changer for building operators, who now are able to manage individual building systems from the BAS. As technology continues to evolve, systems will become even smarter, more connected and more integrated – realizing the full potential of the IoT.

Industry Adopts Internet of Things
The building automation and control industry has been an early adopter of the IoT, which is defined by Cisco Systems as “the intelligent connectivity of physical devices, driving mas­sive gains in efficiency, business growth and quality of life.”

Building system original equipment manufacturers are using direct digital controls to make their systems, products and com­ponents smarter and more connectable. They are incorporating system expandability and connectivity in their designs to pre­pare for the next generation of IoT maturity. And manufactur­ers are finding ways to enable improved decision making and faster fault detection and correction by automating the analysis of system performance data from multiple system types that historically have been separate, stand-alone systems.

The value that IoT brings to healthcare and educational facil­ity teams is evident in the area of intelligent operations and services. Fa­cility teams can use real-time data to make infor­mation-based decisions. As a result, they can de­velop more proactive, sophisticated operating and maintenance strategies that can improve building per­formance and help the orga­nization capi­talize on the value inherent in its physical assets.

These ca­pabilities enable facility teams to use predictive and reliabil­ity-centered maintenance models that help them anticipate problems and determine the optimum time to service equip­ment. For example, sensors can monitor the performance of an HVAC fan motor and alert operators if vibration levels exceed the norm, foreshadowing a potential unit failure.

A reliability-centered maintenance strategy lets the facility team align its maintenance approach with the organization and building mission, objectives and resources. This approach rec­ognizes that not all building systems are of equal importance, placing a higher priority on mission-essential equipment. Building owners and operators usually work with third-party experts to implement predictive and reliability-centered strate­gies.

Data is Essential
Intelligent operations and services offer the next step in the IoT evolution for building systems. With an intelligent servic­es approach, smart, connected pEnergyroducts and systems continu­ously collect and integrate data for the BAS to analyze, interpret and automati­cally act upon. The system also alerts facility teams when anomalies occur so problems can be addressed quickly and efficiently, before they cause system fail­ure.

A healthcare facility might set air qual­ity, temperature, humidity and air pres­sure standards for different hospital units to support its infection-control program. The intelligent services platform can continuously monitor multiple locations in the facility and automatically adjust settings to maintain stable pressure dif­ferentials, humidity levels and tempera­ture conditions for each specific location and critical area.

The school district can identify a key piece of HVAC equipment, such as a chilled water system, as mission-essen­tial because its failure would severely disrupt school operations. Analytical fault detection and diagnostic tools can be used to monitor the system’s opera­tion and alert technicians if a potential problem is detected.

A typical building’s variable air vol­ume (VAV) terminal units are commis­sioned and calibrated when they are first installed in a new building. Due to manpower costs, even the most compre­hensive service agreements call for ran­domly inspecting only a small portion of the VAV boxes each year, creating an op­portunity for inefficiencies to creep into the system.

Improved Results
There are big numbers associated with improving the performance of hospital and school buildings, which rank among the most energy-intensive building types in the United States, based on hours of use. The U.S. Department of Energy es­timates that most buildings could be 30- 50 percent more energy efficient.

Organizational leaders are starting to recognize the huge potential of better building performance. A survey of cor­porate executives sponsored by Ingersoll Rand and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 82 percent of senior leaders consider energy efficiency an important strategy for their organi­zation and more than three-fourths said sustainability would become even more important to them in the coming years.

As more organizations embrace high performance building technologies and practices, it is impossible to overstate the importance of sound operating, mainte­nance and service practices in realizing the full potential of their investment.

Sound operating, maintenance and ser­vice practices are critically important in realizing optimum operating efficiency of school and hospital buildings. The American Society of Heating, Refrig­erating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has gone so far as to con­clude that a poorly designed building operated and maintained effectively will consistently outperform a well-designed building with poor operating and main­tenance practices when it comes to en­ergy consumption, operating costs and sustainability.

As the IoT evolution continues to im­pact the building automation and control industry, it is obvious that the availabil­ity of actionable information – in the right place, at the right time and in the right hands – can mean the difference be­tween an efficient, reliable building and one that uses too much energy, costs too much to operate and puts the organiza­tion’s mission at risk.

Dane Taival is Vice President of Ser­vice and Customer care for Trane in North America.