Building Automation Trends: Beyond The Building

There are many ways managers can facilitate a smarter physical infrastructure. By collecting and analyzing data, managers can discover opportunities for efficiency within and around their facilities.
There are many ways managers can facilitate a smarter physical infrastructure. By collecting and analyzing data, managers can discover opportunities for efficiency within and around their facilities.

Building Automation Trends: Beyond The Building

Building Automation Trends: Beyond The Building

The U.S. Air Force, the single largest user of energy in the world, has adopted smarter buildings software to improve the efficiencies of all its buildings, runways, vehicles, and other infrastructure across 170 locations worldwide

By Dave Bartlett
Published in the June 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Today, buildings account for 42% of the world’s energy use and are forecast to be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet by 2025. Buildings also emit more harmful carbon dioxide emissions into the environment than cars do. And, energy costs alone represent about 30% of an office building’s total operating costs. There’s no question that the impact of buildings on the environment and on a company’s bottom line is enormous.

For most organizations, cutting costs around buildings can be a daunting task. Buildings range from traditional four walled structures to less traditional ones such as airplane hangers, telecom towers, and even entire campuses.

Buildings are also impacted by what’s within and outside their four walls. There are assets around facilities that require additional maintenance and optimization such as runways, roads, and vehicles. Clearly, the physical infrastructure that facilities managers (fms) have to optimize is vast—sometimes spread across acres if not hundreds or thousands of miles.

Optimizing each of these assets improves the efficiency of the entire physical infrastructure. By connecting all these elements within the physical infrastructure under one holistic view, fms can connect their physical and digital worlds.

What Does The Data Say?

By collecting, managing, and analyzing data, organizations ranging from schools and museums to industrial complexes can gain intelligence and create smarter, more sustainable physical infrastructures. The trick for fms is to listen and analyze the data in order to squeeze out inefficiencies and create a more sustainable, cost-efficient infrastructure.

It starts with building automation systems to help lower energy costs. According to a recent report from Pike Research, the market for commercial building automation systems will double over the next decade, increasing from $72.5 billion in 2011 to $146.4 billion by 2021. [Source: U.S. Green Building Council, Green Building Facts.] Combine automation with other smarter building solutions (such as real-time monitoring, analytics, space management capabilities, and advanced dynamic dashboards), and fms can manage all the physical assets.

U.S. Air Force Takes Off Towards Greener Pastures

An example of how diverse a buildings project can be is the U.S. Air Force, which recently embarked on an initiative to maximize energy efficiency and automate the management of its physical infrastructure portfolio.

Presidential Executive Orders require executive branch departments and agencies to establish asset management plans, install performance measures, and ensure effective management of Federal real property assets through their entire life cycles. Additional orders require agencies to improve energy efficiency, reduce natural resource consumption, and decrease waste production to reduce carbon emissions.

With a portfolio including more than 626 million square feet of real estate, over 100 million square yards of airfield pavement, and 10 million acres of land, facilities professionals within the Air Force knew it would be no small feat to meet these orders. Consequently, the Air Force Office of the Civil Engineer began using building automation software to handle real-time monitoring, event management, and analytics. The goal was to gain greater visibility and control of the organization’s physical assets.

The software provides the Air Force with a standardized, powerful technology platform to analyze data about real property assets, streamline work orders and suppliers, and reduce energy use across thousands of its buildings.

With this software, the Air Force will strengthen its IT infrastructure by removing redundant systems and optimizing core processes. This will enable fms within the organization to make better decisions about how they manage their resources in order to reduce operating costs and energy consumption while increasing return on budget.

The Louvre: Painting The Bigger Picture

Looking at a completely different infrastructure than the Air Force, the world renowned Louvre Museum in Paris is also working to protect its facilities—and most importantly, its priceless art.

At the Louvre, the facilities team handles more than 65,000 annual work orders.

The museum covers more than 650,000 square feet, making it one of the largest museums in the world. As Europe’s most visited museum, the Louvre aims to keep the majority of its galleries open daily. To meet that goal while managing more than 65,000 repairs and maintenance visits a year, the facilities team at the museum sought to make its corrective and preventive maintenance more streamlined and efficient.

Prior to this project, the Louvre’s staff managed its facility related repairs and maintenance work by paper, involving hundreds of vendors. In order make its maintenance more efficient, the museum upgraded its software in order to create a single information database and shared repository for the museum staff.

The software solution aggregates data from individual systems within the museum to provide real-time information on each asset along with visualization for each process, including cleaning and maintenance for facility systems such as air conditioning, elevators, lights, and the locking system for more than 250,000 doors.

Additionally, the software provides a predictive view into the performance and reliability of the facility equipment and systems, allowing museum staff to determine more effectively which assets need to be repaired or replaced before they break.

Schools Improve Their Energy Report Card

Tulane University in New Orleans is an example of how a community of buildings—with a number of physical assets outside four walls of a traditional structure—can make impressive strides in improving its sustainability and efficiency with automation and analytics software.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, Tulane’s facilities department made significant advances in rebuilding both the community and its own campus in more environmentally sustainable ways.

Tulane began its smarter physical infrastructure project with the home of its School of Architecture, the century old Richardson Memorial Hall. Like many century old buildings, Richardson Memorial Hall’s heating, cooling, wiring, and water equipment had been installed up to 20 and even 40 years ago.

Tulane is now using smarter building technology to bring together this data so it acts in a more holistic fashion for better results. By bringing these elements together, the building will have the intelligence to monitor itself and communicate how it should be efficiently operated, significantly reducing the natural resources it uses.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is taking a slightly different approach to greening its infrastructure. LAUSD is the largest public school system in California and the second largest school district in the United States. It includes more than 14,000 buildings spread out over 710 square miles.

In order to improve and simplify the maintenance of the school district, the facilities team developed a program that would enable students, faculty, and administrators to use smartphones to report facility issues on campuses. By deploying this type of crowd sourcing, the facility management (FM) department is using the students and staff as human sensors.

The program enables service calls to be made by simply sending text messages and photos whenever students and staff members see maintenance issues (like leaky faucets, graffiti, or broken toilets). All issues that come from mobile applications also contain GIS information to pinpoint locations. Then they go to a database to be reviewed; once the service call is validated, it is routed to staff. This application allows LAUSD to leverage the collective knowledge of people on campus and reduce the lead time of getting service calls into the system.

Prior to this crowd sourcing app, LAUSD relied on faculty and staff to report maintenance issues with the campus plant manager, requiring the manager to decipher and pinpoint each issue before the appropriate personnel could be sent to solve the problem. Now, reports are submitted directly to the service desk. This has allowed the school district to reduce the time, money, and energy it is spending on locating and reporting problems; consequently, the FM departments are able to fix problems across the campus more quickly.

By taking advantage of the growing connectivity of the population and using the data collected by people, LAUSD is creating a smarter, more efficient school district.

These examples illustrate how the next step in efficiency and cost cutting will work to improve the physical space used every day—beyond the traditional building. By connecting the physical and digital worlds, fms can help people to listen and understand the data being produced by physical spaces so that they can find new ways to squeeze out inefficiencies. And really, the ultimate goal of almost every FM team is to create buildings, bases, campuses, industrial complexes, and even museums that are more efficient and productive.

Bartlett is vice president of the IBM Industry Solutions Smarter Buildings initiative, which helps clients create more green, cost-efficient cities, campuses, corporate offices, commercial sites, casinos, hospitals, and neighborhoods worldwide. As IBM’s “Building Whisperer,” he is a vocal advocate for using data analysis to improve how buildings function and tame wasteful energy practices. Follow Bartlett on Twitter at @davebart, and read his posts on IBM’s Smarter Planet Blog


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