Clever construction

How organisations can drive efficiency and cut costs with smart buildings. By Paul Mason

With the rise of integrated and Internet of Things driven technologies, the popularity and prevalence of smart buildings has risen dramatically – with this pattern being likely to continue over the next few years. A recent study by Zion research revealed that the global smart building market was valued at approximately $7 billion in 2014, and is expected to grow to $36 billion by 2020.

In an IoT world, smart buildings use Web-enabled technologies for managing heat, lighting, ventilation, elevators and other systems. The latest smart technologies are boosting building insight and control, as well as establishing a better, more personalised experience for users.

Changes in regulations and expectations
Now more than ever, it is important that buildings are as efficient as possible when it comes to energy consumption. As part of the 2015 Energy Efficiency Regulations, it will be unlawful to grant new leases of residential or commercial property with an EPC rating of less than ‘E’ in England and Wales after the 1st of April 2018. Considering this, overall efficiency should be at the forefront of building construction and management.

Furthermore, end users are beginning to expect the same mobility and ease-of-use in professional environments that they find in their personal lives from smartphones and tablets. With the swipe of a finger, they can check the weather, pay for a coffee, or use GPS to navigate their way through the city. We constantly use our smartphones to interact with our surroundings, and it is unrealistic for us to leave this expectation at the door of a building.

In fact, companies competing for talent are taking steps to ensure that the technology in their buildings can be used as a potential differentiator. Flexible workspaces, indoor navigation, colleague collaboration, smart parking, ordering food and refreshments, booking meeting rooms, and the use of gymnasiums are all becoming basic expectations for building occupants that impact talent retention and employee wellbeing. These expectations can be met through smartphones and the IoT.

Similarly, integration also benefits the real estate owner as they can maximise occupancy and increase revenue, as well as asset value through commanding a price premium. There’s even opportunities to open up new revenue streams through location based services – push notifications can be sent to occupants’ smartphones to drive footfall into nearby retail areas.

Building smarter with digital blocks
Fortunately, there are a number of steps that can be taken to make buildings more intelligent. This notion of connectivity – and the improved experiences it enables for building occupants – is made possible through an interconnected framework of components. These smart building blocks can be installed at any time, but should be a key consideration when planning the building’s user experience. These components can include everything from connecting devices, mobile apps and cloudbased data management, to real-time services and social networking. For too long, buildings have been seen as a drag on an organisation’s profitability. But they can in fact be an enabler for growth as a strategic asset, providing smart technologies are adopted.

Benefits of connected services
By turning to the cloud, a company can promptly recognise any irregularities within its building that might need attending to. For example, space utilisation data can be merged with HVAC data in the same cloud. Building owners can hone HVAC equipment performance by using rules to optimise set points and schedules based on occupancy. Energy consumption can be drastically cut, and asset life is increased.

Furthermore, occupancy heat mapping can be examined to identify areas of the building that are not in use, such as meeting rooms. In this instance, cleaning crew would not need to attend to this area, thereby optimising workforce efficiency and total cost of operations.

With a smart building, companies no longer have to rely on maintenance schedules and reactive fault-finding. This may sound inconsequential, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. A cloud-enabled building management platform provides a crystal-clear picture of overall site performance and where changes can be made to better building performance.

In addition to the above, mobile applications can help companies cut costs and improve user experience. Incorporating mobile technology allows employees to use their smartphone to pass through an IoT enabled access control reader. Issues such as lost or forgotten passes are bypassed, and the first step towards a digital experience has been taken. Moreover, integrating mobile applications with access control adds a higher level of security, as digital credentials add levels of encrypted security. Mobile applications also offer environmental plus points, since badges no longer have to be printed for employees.

And the advantages do not end there. Mobile-based access control makes the workers’ lives easier as they have one less item to bring to work with them. Given the global dependence on smartphones, it’s rare that we forget to take them with us when leaving the house. The same cannot be said for our office card or fob. Employees can also move through the facility more smoothly by opening doors from even greater distances with their smartphone in comparison to key card technology.

Learning from Virgin Money
By using IoT technologies – specifically mobile applications and cloud-based analytics, Virgin Money has simultaneously strengthened control over costs and minimised energy use. Its head office complex in Newcastleupon- Tyne has witnessed an increase in productivity by roughly 15 minutes per person through connected services. Workers now benefit from faster access into their office with mobile technology, and are given greater control over their environment.

Additionally, the building itself is more efficient as potential problems can be determined and resolved before the workforce is impacted. Algorithm-based automatic fault detection and analytics has led to a reduction in the amount of engineering service calls, and those efforts can now be redirected towards the more pressing issues.

With business owners constantly facing pressures for their company to be financially successful, the benefits of smart buildings cannot be ignored. What’s more, buildings across a wide range of industries can benefit from using connected services. The advantages extend to airports, hospitals, commercial properties, and retailers, to name a few. Operational performances can be enhanced, costs can be cut, and occupants can interact with buildings in ways they never could before. It’s no wonder that more and more organisations are now turning to their buildings to help meet operational targets.

Paul Mason is European Digital Services Leader at Honeywell Building Solutions. Honeywell Building Solutions is a part of Honeywell Home and Building Technologies (HBT), a global business with more than 44,000 employees worldwide. HBT is a leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) and creates products, software and technologies found in more than 150 million homes and ten million buildings worldwide.

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