Sensors and the Smart Building of the Future

beyond the grid smart building

Intelligent HVAC Systems Through Smart Building Technology

Facility Executive, January 23, 2017

So what will the smart building of the future look like? Since buildings hold a wealth of data that facility managers should track and use, the forecast includes new innovations in sensing, analytics, and real-time automation.

BuildPulse’s co-founder Jason Burt believes smart sensors will play a critical role in the future of smart buildings. As more building owners look to adopt the new technology, facility managers will have a much easier time managing HVAC equipment. Instead of having to manually adjust HVAC systems, facility managers will have HVAC systems that employ real-time weather data provided by smart sensors to automatically regulate temperature. These sensors will also help the system adjust to the sun’s movement, enabling it, for instance, to automatically turn up the air conditioning for people on the hottest side of a building.

Smart sensors also monitor building occupancy, compiling important data over time that will inform, track, and program HVAC systems. Operators will be able to use this data to make adjustments for building-wide device energy consumption, including lighting, phones, computers and other devices. Facility managers will also review occupancy data to adjust and control comfort settings in offices, labs, conference rooms and other workspaces.

Burt explains this will also provide better systems checks and balances to monitor the performance of equipment and sensors, enabling managers to more efficiently schedule preventive maintenance. For example, in many current systems, facility managers must physically check CO2 sensors to ensure they are operational. “If you have 500 sensors, checking each one can take a long time,” he says. “With the rise of IoT, more sensors are entering the market, creating more data and noise for building managers. Third-party analytics tools allow you to filter out this sea of data to focus your team and efforts.”

Often when a facility manager completes an audit, it’s typically done on one isolated system and not building-wide. With IoT and advancements in software algorithms, facility managers operating in the next evolution of smart buildings can expect to get a more comprehensive snapshot of the building at any moment in time, enabling HVAC systems to leverage data for continuous improvements in efficiency and energy savings.

Dave Karpook, strategic business consultant, Planon, believes smart building technology will produce a massive amount of data, requiring facilities’ management teams to consider adding data analysts to their departments.

“IoT smart building technology will be disruptive,” notes Karpook. “With equipment sending out alerts directly to manufacturers or repair teams, sensor makers will flourish, call centers will likely require less staff, and the tradesmen and women who traditionally took care of air handlers, chillers and boilers will need to learn new IT skills. Increasingly they will be taking care of computerized equipment as opposed to doing mechanical work.”

“We are at the beginning of an era where sensors, combined with analytical analysis, will truly change the way buildings, hospitals, campuses and schools are managed and experienced by the people who use them,” said Bob O’Donnell, president and chief analyst with TECHnalysis Research.

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