'Is this a smart building' is the first question commercial real estate owners may be asking in the near future. What are the real benefits of a smart building?' Before we answer that question, let's determine what 'smart' means to us. When was the last time you had a conversation with an individual and walked away thinking 'that was a smart person'? I want to exclude one group of people from the conversation, and that would be Subject Matter Experts (SME's). I am not suggesting that SMEs are not smart because they are, but the scope of knowledge they possess typically revolves around a particular skill. When I think of the type of intelligent person for this discussion, I think of people with varied learning backgrounds, well-versed in many subjects. Individuals that have probably made themselves available to learning multiple languages have had the privilege of traveling around the World and absorbing a wealth of knowledge. The issue then becomes what you do with all of this knowledge? The application of knowledge turns into wisdom.
So what does all this have to do with Smart Buildings?
Whether we realize it or not, commercial buildings have a wealth of knowledge housed inside their walls. Still, most are not sharing that information with anyone. What type of information could they possibly have from which the building owner or tenant might benefit?
When was the last time you or someone in your office discussed the heat and air conditioning? My office is too hot, my office is too cold, and the thermostat gets caught in the middle. When was the last time you walked by an empty conference room or unused space in your office, and all the lights are on? What about getting a water bill twice as much as it was last month, or maybe someone does not catch the water leak for two or more months? Would you like to know where and how the electricity in your building was being used? How about knowing exactly when someone swiped their badge to enter the building and know where they went? Now think about your camera systems that can help capture important information that you can have real-time access to. This should now get you to think about the building you are currently in, especially if you're considering new construction. All commercial buildings, whether old or new, have these services designed in them but are what we call disparate systems. These disparate systems do not communicate with one another or just old and obsolete. How do we make our buildings' Smart," you ask?
Technology and software have made this task much simpler than you may think. Changing the traditional high voltage system's infrastructure to an IP-driven low voltage system needs to be considered. Internet of Things (IoT) and the sensors now being deployed are creating smart applications that both owners and tenants can truly benefit from. We start by deploying a Category 5 cabling to all IP capable systems in the building. They are now connected to a private data network that allows us to use Power over Ethernet (PoE) from a switched network to these devices in a Direct Current (DC) delivery reducing the energy consumption by an estimated 50 to 85%.
What does a smart building look like?
Your lighting system, HVAC, Access Control, Energy Monitors, Water, Cameras, Air Quality, Occupancy, Vacancy, Conference Room, Blinds, Emergency Lights, Exit Signs, and any other IP device you can think of are no longer disparate but linked together on the same software platform. Now your building is not only gathering vital information, but it is also sharing this data in REAL-TIME. You tell us how you want the information given to you, and we program the system to do that. The really powerful part of this is that once you get this data, we can make adjustments in the software to change the system to match the people's habits and how your building functions.
Imagine coming into your building to work after hours, swipe your badge, and we illuminate the path to your office, have the temperature and lighting color preference of your choice waiting on you when you sit down. Everything returns to its previous state when you leave, and all you had to do was swipe your badge. One more thing to consider is the ability to monitor your water line. It could be as simple as a sensor on the mainline to catch a major break or as granular as placing sensors on all devices attached to the water system. You could have a major water line break at two in the morning and be alerted immediately instead of the next morning when your basement is flooded. This is just a couple of examples of the benefits of a Smart Building, bringing both owners and tenants, allowing a unique customer experience.
As stated above, the application of knowledge creates wisdom. Having accurate information allows you to make wise decisions. The reality is, these are the most important decisions you will make when it comes to the overall design of your space, so being educated and informed is very important. Most building owners we speak with all have very similar questions.
How much does it cost?
How much money will it save me over the next 5 to 10 years?
Will this technology improve the value of my building?
What will the maintenance cost be over the next 5-10 years?
If you would like to discuss this in greater detail, you can reach out to me via phone or email, and I would be happy to meet with you.
By Maury Scruggs – LED Lighting Director