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Smart building technology has made numerous changes to facility and building management, and the Internet of Things helps this sector go one step further. Commercial buildings are the top market for IoT devices, at least until consumer devices reach the one billion mark sometime in 2018. As the IoT market matures, property and facility managers gain many ways to improve efficiency and overall building operation. These three smart building trends are worth looking out for in the near future.

Air Quality Measurement and CO2 Level Management

The building’s air quality can have a substantial impact on productivity. Environmental Health Perspectives reports that cognitive scores improved by up to 101 percent when workers went from a conventional building environment with high VOC concentrations to one with better indoor environmental quality.

IoT devices measure the air quality and CO2 level management through a variety of interconnected sensors. Since these devices can connect to the rest of a building automation system, they proactively address any problems. The ventilation system can therefore maintain an environment that keeps everyone healthy and productive. The push for green buildings and sustainable practices receives a boost in light of the cognitive scores found in the research study, with many organizations looking for ways to optimize indoor air quality for maximum productivity.

The health issues associated with air pollution represent another significant cost for companies. Worker absences cost approximately $226 billion in the United States, with even more indirect expenses associated with employees who come to work sick. IoT air quality and CO2 level management can help reduce this figure.

Facility Management and Predictive Maintenance

Facility managers have many challenges to overcome with building maintenance. Preventative approaches can go a long way toward staying ahead of problems, but they are not foolproof. In practice, critical systems may be overlooked and unexpected failures can happen with little warning. Finding time to fix the issues without disrupting operations is a challenge for many facility managers and building engineers.

Preventative vs. Predictive

Preventative maintenance relies on assumptions. The promised lifespan of a component and the anecdotal knowledge of a repair technician will go into the schedule, but there is no way to account for variations that throw off the timing. Technicians could conduct replacements on equipment that is actually good for several more years, or else fail to change out parts before they hit critical failures. Either way, the process ends up being an expensive prospect for the facility manager.

Predictive maintenance, on the other hand, uses IoT sensors and other hardware “things” to make data-driven reports on the state of the building. Maintenance is performed when it is truly required, whether well before or after the typical schedule. The unexpected issues that crop up with preventative maintenance are often overcome through predictive maintenance. This happens when smart devices pick up tell-tale signs of failure before critical systems reach catastrophic levels. Disruptions to the building’s operations are minimal, with the predictive program only performing what’s necessary to keep everything running optimally.

Applications

The exact application of the IoT sensors for this process varies greatly based on the systems measured in a facility, but there are a few general categories they can fall into. Thermal imaging gives facility managers the ability to look for equipment that’s outside of the expected operational temperature range. The environment may be contributing to issues that accelerate the wear and tear, or it may have a malfunction elsewhere. Vibration sensors look for any deviance in patterns that could indicate normal operations. Slight changes that would be undetectable by other means show up with the help of IoT sensors. Ultra-sonic noises are another hard-to-register sign that something may be amiss in the building systems. For example, HVAC vents and lines could have cracks or holes. Gases escaping into the air may go unnoticed, but IoT can pinpoint the locations for maintenance technicians.

Measurement and Verification

IoT technology has completely transformed measurement and verification. Facility managers can now put sensors almost anywhere throughout the building, thereby tracking information they would never have access to previously. Data collection and analysis goes beyond a broad look at the facility as a whole. IoT empowers managers to drill down further, with granular information that reveals exactly what goes on with all of the interconnected systems.

Another way that IoT provides a substantial benefit to M&V is due to the speed of reporting. Real-time insights allow building managers to react quickly to emerging situations, or else enable them to quickly see the results of optimization. They also have the opportunity to integrate the IoT devices to monitor building systems from a single panel. The all-inclusive view adds context to the data, since the manager can see how it relates to the facility as a whole, or with particular parts. Connections with other solutions can streamline common tasks. This includes scheduling routine maintenance or trying several optimization experiments to determine the best settings for the facility.

These IoT trends have a far-reaching impact on facility management. Managers have the opportunity to create healthier environments, gain more knowledge about the system and stay ahead of any critical problems. These empowering technologies go a long way toward helping managers improve the building operations and do their jobs better.

Want to learn more about working with smart buildings? Download our latest e-book, “How to Combat Building Automation Obsolescence.”

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