Solve the 3 Smart Building Challenges

May 3, 2018 Robert Moss

Energy is the largest operating expense in commercial buildings, requiring approximately one-third of operating budgets. To reduce costs, property owners and managers are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT), with systems deployed in facilities ranging from office buildings to industrial campuses to schools and universities.

As these IoT solutions mature, they are becoming less expensive, more capable, and easier to use. As a result, the return on investment (ROI) for these solutions has become more and more compelling.

And the benefits of these solutions have grown beyond energy management. The latest IoT technologies can also help protect building systems and give managers at-a-glance insights that span an entire real estate portfolio. 

The Top Three Challenges Property Owners and Managers Face

In a recent survey, Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) found that the top three reasons respondents gave for implementing an IoT solution were as follows:

1. Improve Spending Decisions

Many property owners and managers are unable to determine their buildings' energy use patterns, making it difficult to identify energy-saving opportunities. Without this knowledge, managers may implement energy-saving measures that don't go far enough, leaving potential savings untapped. Or they may resort to heavy-handed energy reduction initiatives that needlessly reduce tenant comfort.

IoT systems can resolve this issue by exposing detailed energy use data, allowing managers to spot inefficiencies.

2. Reduce Energy Consumption and Spend

Identifying inefficiencies is only the start; building managers also need a way to control these costs. Before the IoT, most building systems operated on fixed schedules and with fixed setpoints. The only way to make adjustments was to send out maintenance staff.

With the IoT, managers can remotely observe and adjust building systems with a tap of a button, making it far easier to bring costs down.

3. Improve Operational Efficiency

Most buildings are full of operational silos, with separate systems for HVAC, lighting, power, indoor air quality, internet connectivity, refrigeration, and so forth. Not only does this make it hard to gain a clear picture of a building's health, it stymies efforts to optimize overall building operations.

In contrast, the IoT creates an opportunity to integrate data from numerous silos into a single analytics platform. In this way, managers can apply a holistic strategy to building operations.

Making Smarter Buildings Simpler

Despite these clear advantages, many buildings have yet to adopt IoT technology. According to ENERGY STAR, there are more than 5 million commercial buildings in the United States of 50,000 square feet or less that do not contain smart devices to monitor energy use, temperature, or other factors. These building are estimated to use as much as 30% more energy than they require. Worldwide, the number of such buildings is far higher.

One reason many buildings have not adopted IoT technology is the complexity of these solutions. To simplify deployment, owners and operators should look for IoT solutions providers who can meet three key criteria:

Scalability. Start small and grow. Avoid expensive, proprietary solutions that do more than what's currently needed or require long-term upfront commitments. Select an open platform that allows new capabilities to be added as needs change.

Expertise. Does the systems implementation partner have an extensive IoT history? Look for one that provides multiple capabilities, including device connectivity, a services platform, and analytics.

Integration. Find an implementation partner that will work with, rather than replace, existing infrastructure and devices.

Case in point, KMC Controls has helped property owners and managers improve energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality for 50 years. Its KMC Commander gives property managers and owners simple-to-read dashboards, enabling them to fine-tune building operations using nothing more than their smartphones (Figure 1).

Figure 1. KMC Commander monitors building systems in real time. (Source: KMC Commander)

By leveraging Intel® technology, KMC Commander offers a flexible, open, secure, scalable IoT platform that transmits relevant, real-time data from nearly any building system. The solution is built on well-established IT and web standards to simplify connectivity, and contains more than a dozen security features to ensure the protection of these newly connected systems.

No proprietary software is needed, enabling quick setup without specialized expertise. What's more, the use of standard web technology makes it simple to build lightweight dashboards that can be easily viewed on any device—including a mobile phone (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The KMC Commander dashboard is easy to view anywhere, on any device. (Source: KMC Commander)

The solution offers particular value to property companies with large portfolios, or where buildings are spread out over great distances. KMC Commander provides insight into energy use, building systems, infrastructure, and other metrics, making property owners and managers data-informed decision-makers.

Putting Innovation to Work

The KMC platform illustrates how innovations in IoT, sensors, and open software can tie previously siloed components into a single connected solution. Such a flexible solution can make it easier to master the top-three energy challenges related to buildings. Now those responsible for making decisions about energy use and other metrics can view and monitor all of their building systems, including HVAC, power, and others, through a single pane of glass.

By monitoring multiple systems this way, property owners and managers can receive the data they need to make informed decisions about their buildings to reduce energy and other costs, maintain building systems, and meet or exceed the comfort and service levels their tenants expect.

Below are three case studies that illustrate how property owners and managers can benefit by deploying IoT technology.

The Baldwin Child and Adolescent Health Center

In Baldwin, Michigan, the health center's aging VVT HVAC system was inefficient and inconsistent. This made life unpleasant for the children and young adults the center treated as well as for doctors and staff.

The center hired Renshaw Electric, which recommended a VVT retrofit combined with KMC Commander. The solution not only solved the HVAC issue, it provided an automation system to trend, schedule, and alarm the system remotely.

The center could now also monitor the status of its vaccine cooler and other specialized medical equipment. Furthermore, the solution met HIPAA regulations that required the center's IT system to remain separate from any outside system.

The Beauregard, a Luxury Condominium

This downtown Washington, D.C. apartment building offered its tenants amenities and modern design. But it had trouble preventing its basement-level parking lot from flooding. The sump pump's failure alarm could be heard only within the basement, not upstairs in the manager's office. By the time a failure was discovered, it was often too late and the damage was done.

ABM, the facility manager for The Beauregard, sought a proactive solution to monitor the sump pump system as well as other metrics, including heat pump efficiency and temperatures in hallways, lobbies, the gym, and other common areas. ABM selected and installed the KMC Commander as the appropriate solution.

Now in the event of a sump pump failure, KMC Commander automatically sends a series of email alerts. This rapid notification allows the sump pump to be repaired before the basement floods, minimizing or even avoiding expensive damage from occurring.

The Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC)

The WRLC stores and coordinates library collections shared by 13 universities in the greater Washington, D.C. area. The storage facility requires precise temperature and humidity levels to preserve more than 1.8 million print volumes and 40,000 archival boxes. It also maintains two low-temperature storage units, designed to protect fragile film media. The alarms in the WRLC's existing building automation system (BAS) were unreliable, especially if the system went offline.

Facility management provider ABM recommended and installed KMC Commander as a reliable, affordable platform to back up the existing BAS.

Now if equipment malfunctions, or even if the BAS goes offline, the WRLC receives alerts related to temperature and humidity changes.

The Data to Make Critical Decisions

With a single IoT solution that monitors a variety of data—from HVAC, to power consumption, to the condition of specialized equipment—property owners and managers can make informed and timely decisions that reduce costs. KMC Commander can enable property owners and managers to make proactive decisions that overcome challenges before they negatively affect their tenants, buildings, systems, and infrastructure—and before those challenges become more expensive.

“IoT solutions like KMC Commander solve operating expense pain points that property owners and managers everywhere need to address,” says Richard Newberry, CEO at KMC Controls. “The improved operational efficiencies, reduced energy consumption, and increased tenant comfort—along with the data and cybersecurity best practices we achieve by working closely with Intel and Dell—provide peace of mind,” he adds.

About the Author

Robert Moss

Robert Moss is an independent consultant and strategist who focuses on the business value technology brings. He also helps give voice to executives at leading technology companies, enabling their personal stories to show how they encourage and develop innovation, overcome obstacles, and improve their leadership skills.

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