Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
The building of the future
Firstly, the building of the future has already been built. In today’s economy, new construction has slowed to an all-time low and corporate budgets are being strained. Companies will seek to leverage their existing real estate holdings through the use of retrofits and re-commissioning.
In order to create intelligent buildings from existing ones, the built
environment must be updated to provide energy efficient, healthy and
productive workspaces for a diverse and increasingly mobile
workforce. Companies will seek to maximize their ROI, by
leveraging their existing building technologies rather than replace
them. This can be challenging based on the age of the various
systems in the building, some older systems may be obsolete or may not
be able to share its data. Any retrofit replacements must promise
a reasonable ROI to be considered. That said, traditionally ROI
was linked exclusively to energy savings, but today the ROI may be
expanded to look at the enablement of new use cases that drive space
management and productivity gains. As an example, once LED light
fixtures become the norm, it will be hard if not impossible to justify
the additional cost of the lighting controls. However, newer
lighting control systems can produce a wealth of data that enables new
business processes to be defined. These new business processes
can be much more valuable than just energy saving. The ability
for companies to gain insight into how their buildings are performing,
not only from an energy prospective but more importantly from a
utilization perspective, will allow them to manage risk and save
significant amounts of money.
“Understanding the Value Proposition”
In order for companies to move forward with updating their buildings,
they must first gain insight into the value proposition. This can
be accomplished by providing two pieces of information, one is the
building capability portfolio and the other is a use case analysis.
“The Building Capability Portfolio”
The building capability portfolio is essentially a study of the
existing building systems and their current capabilities with regard to
granularity of control and ability to share data. The portfolio
study should not be limited to only building systems but should also
include business data systems and external systems. Systems such
as Active Directory and Human Resources can allow you to obtain
information about occupancy. Card Access systems, cameras and
others can also provide valuable data for understanding use
patterns. Once integrated with building systems this data can be
used to write new operational rules and provide valuable context when
you’re looking at energy efficiency.
One of the goals of this study is to define energy zones. Energy zones are the overlapping functional areas of each building system. These zones will typically be defined by the least granular system. For instance, the HVAC system is usually the least granular and so it becomes the energy zone and all other systems will fit into this zone. How many offices and lighting zones are feed by a common HVAC system? This sets the limits of control for the integrated area.
“Use Case Analysis”
The use case analysis uses the information learned from the portfolio
capabilities study and from interviewing key stakeholders to define the
value proposition of the integration of systems. When and where
does it make sense to integrate systems in order to facilitate new
polices that drive energy efficiency and productivity? Each use
case should have its own ROI model and risk assessment so the owner can
pick and choose which ones they want to implement.
“Presence Based Automation”
Presence based automation will drive the building of the future. The mantra for this is, “if you don’t need it, don’t use it”. For most buildings, people have the largest impact on energy consumption and therefore buildings must be responsive to its occupants. Through the use of data produced from many different sources, facility managers can start to understand use patterns throughout the enterprise and make better decisions about their operations. It may seem far-fetched today, but the ability to track where people are within facilities will become commonplace. The value of knowing this information far outweighs the perceived invasion of privacy. Everything from providing just in time HVAC to informing first responders of where potential victims are in an emergency will provide the needed value proposition. Geo-fencing, utilizing cell phone GPS and radios will allow buildings to understand when occupants will be arriving and set their spaces to the desired setting just in time.
“Intelligent Buildings and the BOS”
Intelligent buildings will require an orchestrated response to
constantly changing conditions. Occupancy, scheduling,
emergencies and other situations will require normally siloed systems
to work together in harmony. System controls must first and
foremost defend their mission but be programmed to accept signals from
other external systems as required. This orchestrated response is
not easy to accomplish, systems must be loosely connected, such that a
failure of one or more external systems doesn’t cause a cascading
failure across multiple building systems. This is why it will be
important to have a single system responsible to organize and control
when and how systems are required to deviate from its normal operation
in order to provide a higher level of control. A new term for
this type of system is “the building operating system” or “BOS”, the
analogy to the computer operating system is appropriate. Just as
a computer operating system orchestrates the function of computers, the
BOS will orchestrate the function of systems in buildings. The
BOS will allow new operational rules or policies to be defined and
published as a service for individual systems to use.
Applications where system operation is tied to higher level systems will enable Enterprises to put their energy use into context with their work product. Simple energy use intensity per square foot is rather meaningless until it’s tied to the business. As an example, an airport might look at kW/sqft/take offs and landings. A hospital would want to look at kW/sqft/census as the true measure of efficiency. Mixed use commercial real estate might want to look at kW/sqft/leased % and foot fall. All of these KPI’s require information from multiple systems to function.
So, if the key to intelligent buildings is data, then where is the data going to come from and who’s going to manage it? Let’s take a look at some of the many data sources in today’s buildings.
LOW LEVEL BUILDING SYSTEMS
MID-LEVEL IT SYSTEMS
HIGH LEVEL IT SYSTEMS
All of these systems produce data for their own internal use, but when
integrated, they now represent a rather large volume of disparate set
based and runtime data. All of this data is connected to
systems via wired or wireless networks. These networks may be
daisy chained serial communication for device to network controller or
they could be native IP level communications riding directly on the
building IP network. In any case, the value comes from
integrating, normalizing and contextualizing some of this data into a
single repository that turns it into actionable information. This
system will be the “Building Data Management System” or “BDMS”, you can
think of it as an ETL system for buildings. It will provide some key
benefits over an adhoc integration approach. One, is that moves,
adds and changes are handled in a single system. The BDMS will
also be a key component to the success of the Internet of Things and
Big Data as they apply to buildings. It will provide Enterprise
wide taxonomies for data so that buildings and their data are
represented in a unified manner. Imagine being able to GoogleŽ
your building to find anything from published reports, inspection
certificates all the way down to individual sensor values. It
will also allow lower level systems to be replaced at will without
being locked in to a single vendor. For that matter entire
buildings can be added or deleted as the business needs change without
the risk of having a stranded asset.
The BDMS will enable cloud based applications for maintenance management, automatic fault detection, constant commissioning and energy analysis to connect to a more holistic and preformatted data source. This will lower the cost of implementation of these systems and provide consistent data across all systems. A more holistic data set will enable these vendors to create new application features that add even more value. Data sharing across these systems will enable even more capabilities. Over time a convergence of these systems will take place and vendors will offer all of these applications as modules of a single platform. The question is which vendors, traditional BAS vendors or will it be new vendors from the Enterprise IT space?
With more holistic data sets, predictive fault detection systems can
implement more sophisticated algorithms to provide more accurate
results. Fault algorithms tied to the work product of a facility
will provide businesses with a true measure of the cost of these faults
in near real time. The ability to proactively manage risk will be
the key value proposition for these systems. These systems will
also have to incorporate fault data generated independently by
equipment and devices. As hardware costs drop more and more
manufacturers will build in compete fault analysis into their equipment
By enabling these systems to connect in real time to building systems
from multiple vendors and multiple facilities, they will be able to
provide better analysis and control. Once these systems are
exposed to occupancy data they can start to proactively adjust the
control setpoints to fine tune systems. Having access to holistic
data will enable artificial intelligence to become a reality.
Control points based on number of occupants, type of work being
performed, evaporation rate of moisture off the skin and others will
allow for very fine tuned control of facilities.
As mentioned before, the ability for these systems to apply context to
their results will be very important. Better and more accurate
KPI’s will provide the detailed information required to run efficient
facilities. Even more important, these systems will predict
energy consumption so facility managers can proactively manage
costs. Being able to know several days in advance when new demand
peak will occur allows time to change operations to avoid it.
It’s common today that Computerized Maintenance Management Systems are integrated to the BAS to facilitate using actual runtime of the equipment as the preventive maintenance triggers. However, fully integrated they now can provide maintenance information for more than just the traditional mechanical equipment. They can start to understand how the use intensity affects things like flooring materials and other physical resources used by occupants. Better financial metrics that expose the cost of maintenance per person instead of simple square footage will allow more accurate accounting and budgeting.
“New Use Cases and KPI’s”
Today the key performance indicators between management groups aren’t
always the same. Converging building and IT data allows all
groups to see data in a format that’s appropriate for them but still
relative to the core mission. Sending building energy use
intensity data to a CFO has little meaning, but sending that same data
with its impact in dollars does. An added benefit of getting this
information to key executives is that it can create a fundamental shift
in responsibilities of the other groups below them. As an
example, most building engineers are keenly focused on occupant comfort
because they get direct feedback from the occupants -- once the
building energy costs are normalized and put in context for executives
they will provide direct feedback as well. This causes a
fundamental shift in the way building engineers think about their
responsibilities and how they handle comfort issues in the future.
Buildings will be required to respond automatically to external signals
from, community alerts, demand response and transactive energy
markets. These alerts will be subscription based encrypted
messaging transmitted across the Internet from multiple sources.
Buildings that have the ability to respond to these signals can provide
a safer and more efficient work environment. One roadblock to
wide spread adoption of this is that the majority of the building stock
in the United States is 100,000 square feet or smaller. Many of
these buildings do not have sophisticated control systems for HVAC,
lighting and others. This represents a huge market opportunity
for technology vendors in that space. In the past few years there
have been some companies starting to focus on this underserved
market. New, lower cost building control systems utilizing
wireless communication for sensors lowers the installed cost, thus
making it cost effective for these smaller facilities to
implement. With computing power dropping in cost, it now feasible
to have POE/IP based multi-sensor devices deployed throughout
facilities. These low cost sensors will enable applications that
were not even conceivable just a few years ago. These lower cost
systems and sensors will also make centralized management of
geographically dispersed facilities possible at a reasonable ROI.
In summary, the building of the future will be dynamically responsive
to its work product through the use of data acquired from many
different internal and external systems. Buildings will be
required to respond in near real time to signals generated from these
systems. Data platforms that can manage and organize the vast
amount of converged data related to buildings will provide companies a
way to become technology agnostic. Building Operating systems
will provide new applications to manage risk, publish new operational
policies, provide predictive analysis for building performance and new
productivity tools to all stakeholders. Information about these
buildings will be online and readily available via well-established web
technologies. Security of these converged data sets will be
handled just as online banking. As has been the case thus far in
the building technology market, IT technology will lead the way to the
enablement of the online intelligent buildings of the future.
About the Author
Greenwell, Founder and President, CEPORT LLC
John Greenwell has 20+ years of leadership experience in the electrical construction industry, specializing in low voltage building controls. John has extensive experience in low voltage control systems, BAS, Lighting, Security, Energy Savings, Software Development. John is responsible for the overall product strategy and direction of the company. Prior to Ceport, John oversaw major controls projects for Continental Electrical Construction Company.
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