Behind most revolutions sits technology, so often the core driver of change, boosted efficiency and productivity, environmental gains and cost savings, all key to organisational growth. In the world of facilities management, technology is instigating major change, more specifically in the realms of the smart building, where the Internet of Things has literally transformed the FM landscape.
Smart buildings have the potential to create a profusion of opportunities for facilities managers. From boosting productivity and enhancing environmental performance, to optimising energy usage and lowering costs through to improving employee health and well-being, there is much to champion about the smart building.
What is a smart building?
A smart building is one in which operating systems and energy management are regulated and controlled automatically. It’s a place where the use of space is efficiently managed and where technology, courtesy of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices, is put to full use in creating a healthy, productive and comfortable place to work.
Every building has its own assets and systems that churn huge volumes of data. Building management systems, security access platforms, emergency systems, weather monitoring stations, air quality sensors, utility meters and CCTV networks all operate independently of each other, producing their own isolated data.
The beauty of the smart building is that its technology brings all of these facets together, connecting the data via a single platform, allowing it to be analysed in-depth and holistically.
At the core of smart building technology lies artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, together with powerful analytics software. All work in conjunction to extract insightful information from the data as a whole, allowing a detailed view of the relationships between various activities and systems, how they affect each other, and the part that external factors play. This makes it possible for the facilities manager to accurately plan and implement effective building controls and settings.
According to Acumen Research and Consulting, the worldwide smart building industry is tipped to grow by 15 per cent by 2026, with commercial buildings seeing the highest growth due to the combined challenges of lowering carbon emissions, and reducing overheads, especially in light of the hike in energy costs.
How is smart building technology improving life for facilities managers?
There are multiple benefits to the facilities manager of smart building technology.
Real-time management of energy consumption
One of the most significant benefits of the smart building to facilities managers has to be access to data that has the power to inform overhead-lowering decisions whilst at the same time reducing the environmental impact of the building.
The ability to manage energy consumption in real-time has proved hugely beneficial to facilities managers. Accurate, live and considerably in-depth data from all corners of the building replaces the disjointed information pulled in from separate platforms. Information that so often didn’t show a true, current picture.
By continuously monitoring the energy and utility usage of a building, smart technology allows FMs to instantly identify issues so that a consistent supply is maintained round the clock. The property’s energy usage can also be optimised so that energy wastage can be avoided, and bills can be lowered by better management of energy consumption.
Improved servicing and maintenance efficiency
By monitoring data from a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment, facilities managers can ensure that servicing and maintenance programmes are efficiently organised. For example, rather than replacing air filters in an air conditioning system every month, regardless of whether they need it, the change can be made when the data indicates.
Such insights assist in maximising maintenance and engineering resources, making certain that servicing decisions are fact-based and centred on the actual condition of equipment rather than its age.
Smart buildings offer an intelligent way to keep track of vital assets. For example, sensors that monitor temperature and vibration can be used to collect data that demonstrates the operational efficiency of an item. Where measurements indicate patterns that are off-trend from the norm, the system can raise an alert so that an engineer can be summoned to investigate. Such maintenance interventions have the potential to prevent breakdowns before they occur, rather than dealing reactively to machinery failures and allowing them to impact productivity.
Enhanced working environment
Smart building technology is well known for its ability to enhance a building’s working environment. Using it to monitor and manage air quality has a direct impact on health, well-being and productivity.
There is nothing pleasant about working in a stuffy, hot room with high carbon dioxide levels. It makes people feel tired, lowers concentration and hinders efficiency. Generally, poor indoor air quality is associated with the spread of disease and viruses; respiratory problems such as asthma; exacerbated allergies; nausea, and headaches and dry eyes.
However, by constantly monitoring the likes of carbon dioxide levels, temperature and humidity in real-time and linking this data to air-exchange system controls, the smart building can ensure that all its workspaces are comfortable at all times. Even better, by connecting this data to room booking or space management systems, the conditions of individual rooms can be automatically adjusted in line with the number of occupants and the nature of the work being undertaken.
Advanced building management
It is possible to integrate mobile phone data into smart building technology too. For the facilities manager, this offers considerable opportunities for improving the efficiency of building management. For example, employees can use their phones as security passes to get into the building and access certain areas of it. This takes the strain off reception and security resources.
Mobile phone data can also help to efficiently manage visitors. A visitor pass can be issued directly to the visitor’s handset, and an automatic alert can be sent to their host as they arrive. Access passes can be set to only allow entry to certain zones of the building, ensuring security is maintained, again without putting pressure on security resources.
The same technology can be used to furnish visitors with wayfinding services, ideal for larger buildings. Data on people’s locations can be fed into lift management systems, allowing lifts to move automatically sent to the appropriate floors so that the whole process of moving around a building is that much more streamlined. The use of washrooms can also be monitored to ascertain the optimal cleaning regime so that resources are put to best use.
Better informed investment decisions
For the facilities manager exploring potential investment in more energy-efficient equipment or systems, smart building technology can provide critical evidence required for investment proposals.
The same data can, in turn, be used to demonstrate the impact of these changes, whilst real-time analytics can help the facilities manager to fine-tune and adapt systems to achieve optimal efficiencies. In time, the data can also be used to demonstrate return on investment.
Smart Spaces – the smart building technology that’s revolutionising facilities management
All in all, smart building technology can allow the facilities management professional to create workspaces that operate at maximum efficiency. With environmental and workplace comfort controls managed intelligently, the facilities manager is freed up to concentrate on all the other tasks on their agenda.
Smart buildings also reduce waste and emissions and improve the health of occupants, as well as boosting productivity.
Smart Spaces is an app-based Internet of Things powered smart building technology. When linked in with the building management system (BMS), networks and third-party solutions, the technology delivers highly valuable data, providing priceless insights and making the role of facilities management so much more streamlined.
To learn more about how Smart Spaces could transform your life as a facilities manager, you are welcome to request a free demo.