March 22, 2014 Meissner

Is Your Building Intelligent?

The so-called “Internet of Things” is seen as the next step in the evolution of a digital web of interconnected systems. Buildings are a natural focal point for digital evangelists who offer the promise of a technological utopia. But what does this vision of the future mean for commercial properties and their owners?

The rise of intelligent buildings seems like science fiction.  But the ubiquity of the Internet and the ever-expanding array of connected devices have created a world of interconnected systems.  For some commercial property owners, investment in building automation systems (BAS) has delivered operational efficiency, building security, and flexible management of building systems.

Over the last two decades, social and economic trends have encouraged developers to pursue projects that feature sustainable design while also future-proofing buildings. This focus has led to the design and installation of building automation systems that help with energy efficiency and “green” initiatives. A BAS plays a critical role in managing disparate building systems. The system provides vital fire and life safety, substantial energy savings in lighting and HVAC, essential security and controlled access, and overall technological ease to the building’s tenants–which is essential for attracting premium rental rates.

According to a recent report from Navigant Research, the building automation and controls industry will be radically reshaped by digital technologies in the coming years, ensuring that buildings will become even more “intelligent” as they become holistically integrated entities that can be managed on-site or even off-site via the Internet.

“Open and integrated systems, converged with modern information technologies, present both risks and rewards for industry stakeholders,” says Eric Bloom, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. “Because building control systems are usually changed only every few decades, much of the existing building stock is still dependent on older technologies – a reality that will change over time as digital controls replace outdated systems.”

Two key digital changes the BAS world has recently seen in its more sophisticated models are comprehensive, data-driven desktop support systems and the ability to access and control  your BAS remotely via  iOS®, Android™ and Windows® based tablets. Both the desktop and the tablet control vehicles offer the ability to diagnose building system performance and to look at the building’s data history. They also have enhanced graphics that provide for a better user experience  and overall navigation ease – a very important feature when faced with critical problems that need to be solved quickly. A top-notch BAS design takes into account that property owners and commercial real estate managers  must always have complete control of their buildings.

Experts in the energy world are excited about what will happen next.  There is a growing appetite for more robust building usage data, for example, which in turn reveals insights into how a building functions and how its performance can be improved over time.  Building analytics software is another development that commercial property owners should investigate.

In the next twenty years, intelligent buildings will become so prevalent that they become the social norm.

“Initially, building automation systems addressed only HVAC systems,” explains Jack McGowan, president of Energy Control Inc., an OpTerra Energy Group company. “Today, there are technologies to incorporate fire/life safety, access controls and other building subsystems. Intelligent technologies have almost become like commodities.”

The rate of technological change is inexorable.  And the emphasis on sustainability and expectations of technological comfort by commercial tenants will only add to the pressure to adapt.  Is your building prepared to thrive in an automated future?

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