Honeywell published a white paper titled “Put Your Buildings to Work: A Smart Approach to Better Business Outcomes”. Based on a study of 487 properties in seven cities, the paper suggests owners, developers and managers think their buildings are smarter than they really are. It was found that public buildings such as airports, government offices, schools and hospitals have the smartest properties. Private buildings such as hotels, retail, residential and private offices have the least smart buildings. This means there is a lot of room for improvement in the private sector.
Some owners believe they are making their buildings smart by installing programmable thermostats, light timers, or a programmed security system that can be accessed remotely. In this scenario, each system is working independently of the other. In fact, I managed a building where the owner put in a remotely programmable security system. As I always do, in order to use the system properly and with the most efficiency I read up on this system and learned everything I could. What I learned, though, was that while it was cool having a remote system, what was even cooler was that we could also integrate the heating and cooling systems, the lighting, and much of the other automation in the building, and that was even more exciting. What really makes a building smart is when all the primary systems are integrated and functioning together. Systems such as heating/air, lighting, power, security access, water meters, fire alarms and elevators are connected and responsive to one smart grid.
With the use of computers, software, and a good building management system, inside and outside data can be used to control the integrated systems, such as weather forecasts, current temperatures, occupancy of the building and habits and behaviors of the occupants of the building. Communication and the sharing of data between the systems enables the grid to place energy where necessary and decrease it where it is not needed, improving sustainability of the building.
The lighting system can be connected to occupancy sensors in offices. Equipment can be monitored and problems detected so issues can be responded to before loss of services can cause a crisis. The need for heating or cooling can be based on occupancy levels, humidity, outdoor temperature, and the requirements of specific zones of the building. Air quality can be monitored and controlled. It has been shown that improved air quality increases the productivity of the people working in the building.
Effective management of a smart building relies on people who are knowledgeable and who are competent to operate it successfully. The responsibilities of managing a smart building should be well defined as the manager needs a comprehensive understanding of the integrated systems. With constantly changing technology, you need to have a real estate manager who loves to learn, learns quickly and is willing to keep updated on the latest information. I am that type of manager. For example, when I begin managing a new building and there’s a heating and cooling system that I’m unfamiliar with, the first thing I do is schedule time with a manufacturer’s rep and a contractor to learn that system inside and out. This way I can provide the building owner with the most efficient management of that system, which when improperly managed can cost a lot of money for the property owner. And I do the same with all new technologies, as should all real estate managers.
Smart buildings reduce energy costs, create efficiencies in the management of the facilities, and increase the sustainability of the building. One of the most important benefits of a smart building is that the comfort, safety, and productivity of the occupants is improved.
How smart is your building and even more importantly, how smart is your real estate manager?