Connected Buildings Allow for Proactive Facility Management

07/05/2018 | By Neil Maldeis

Reaction is the old-school way of day-to-day facility management. Reacting to changing demands or maintenance needs is a part of your everyday life, but reactive facility management can mean you’re often behind and catching up. That way of operating can lead to work piling up and, as a result, higher operating costs.

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As equipment waits to be fixed, the costs associated with that maintenance increase. Those costs are even higher when you consider the loss in efficiency as equipment operates while damaged or sits waiting to be repaired.

While some aspects of your job can’t move away from being reactive – things will happen and need your attention in the moment – a more proactive approach with connected buildings and technology can help you plan and address issues before they arise, resulting in better building outcomes.

Transition to Proactive Management

Although it may sound too good to be true, transitioning from reactive to proactive facility management can help you achieve both your short- and long-term goals.

In the short term, being proactive can help make your day-to-day decisions more informed. Diagnostics are easier with both past and real-time information, and remote access allows you to assess situations or make changes from anywhere.

Long-term, proactive facility management can help drive down bottom-line costs and improve lifecycle costs. It can also improve your year-over-year building outcomes.

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How can taking a proactive approach to facility management produce all these results? Through data and connections. A building that’s set up for a more proactive way of working, using smart or connected equipment and technology, allows you to gather data and analyze it for more informed decision-making.

Tapping into that data has become easier because of advancements in building automation and energy analytical tools. Systems – including heating, cooling and lighting – can have controls and monitoring attached to them that pulls data and deciphers it, giving you valuable information and insights.

Once that connected equipment or technology is installed, data can be collected. What’s more important, however, is what you do with it. Analyzing the data to understand where improvements can be made helps transform a building into an asset that positively affects business goals.

5 Parts to Using a Connected Building to be Proactive

To take advantage of a connected building for a proactive approach to facility management, there are five vital components:

1. Smart technology

Smart, flexible technology and equipment allow for data and insights collection that leads to better control of the building, allowing it to be optimized.

2. Integration and connection

Having new technology for better monitoring and management is most beneficial when those technologies work together. In a connected building, the systems are integrated, so users don’t have to look at multiple programs to get actionable data.

3. Analytics

Nearly any building can run better and the path to improvement can be found through analytics. Once connected to data sources, users can look to analytics to see where a building is running well and where things could be better, and what to do to make that happen. The most successful systems have customized reports to support specific operational needs.

4. Remote access

Building activities ebb and flow all day. Remote access via dashboards and mobile interfaces allows facility managers and building owners to have secure viewing of real-time information and ability to adjust better suit peak and off-peak needs. By removing the need for 24/7 on-site personnel for monitoring and adjusting, remote access helps boost productivity, and the adjustments made through it help with efficiency.

5. Expert partner

Buildings are increasingly complex, and partnering with industry experts can help ensure systems are working their best. Centralized engineering combined with local design, installation and service expertise allow support personnel to cater to specific building needs and respond quickly. This is amplified with 24/7 monitoring that helps solve many issues more quickly and efficiently, minimizing the impact on business.

Controls and connection provide the foundation from which these five components can launch. A controller’s connected capability enables improved service monitoring, because a technician can proactively review unit performance without having to visit the equipment.

Read also: Machine Learning 101: Is Predictive Analytics Possible in Your Facility?

This performance review can be used to proactively set parameters for equipment. Through controls that adapt to fit a specific set of building parameters, equipment can perform more consistently during rapidly changing conditions. Units with adaptive controls can be simple to install and easy to tie into other pieces of equipment that are outside the unit.

Beyond installation, having a controller with connected equipment can provide three main advantages: 

  • Give more precise control
  • Limit disruptions
  • Provide superior system feedback

The connection between the separate pieces of equipment allows a better view of the whole building and how adjustments can improve building performance. The advancements these new technologies enable in connected buildings are key for building performance, ultimately saving energy and money, keeping people comfortable and increasing uptime.

The Next Generation of Facility Management

As you look to the future of facility management, connected buildings is the start of an evolution. After proactive facility management, you will start to see more predictive management. This exists already with machine learning, in which models build around data, learning what the data means and using it to predict machine needs.

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Through this, you can go beyond proactive management, where you provide regular maintenance to equipment for example, to predictive maintenance where you can make repairs shortly before they’re needed. This helps prevent equipment downtime or issues caused by a breakdown.

Looking ahead, you can also expect to see more use of building as a resource. This concept looks at buildings as a society instead of individually, which allows a reduced demand on the utility grid. You’ll therefore be able to expand the relationship with the utility grid, finding better ways to manage energy use and help reduce demand. 

Proactive facility management is the start of this next generation, and connected buildings are your way of making the transition. Overall, this way of working will enable experiences that are more positive and help you move away from the stress of reactive facility management.

Neil MaldiesNeil Maldeis is Energy Solutions Engineering Leader at Trane. 


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