Graham Lewry, senior offerings manager, Trend, does some plain speaking.

We’re all adjusting to a new normal. Face-to-face meetings and office-based activity will doubtless return in some form, but home working may remain part for a large percentage of the workforce for some time. As a result, the concept of the office is changing, which in turn is rapidly transforming the role of building management.

Understanding the data available from a building management system (BEMS) has never been more important; particularly now, when we are seeing a rapid increase in the need for flexible solutions to meet the changing needs of buildings. The trend for agile, adaptable workspaces has been gaining momentum over the past few years but recent events have added further impetus, especially around healthier building environments.

Answering the big questions

The upshot is that BEMS insights need to be available in real time and with actionable outcomes if they are to answer the critical questions. As with most things, it’s important to have a goal in mind. Building owners therefore need to concentrate on the desired outcomes. Are you focusing on your environmental and social policy and therefore how to reduce your energy footprint? Are you aiming to create a more productive environment for your building occupants? Or are you looking to demonstrate your building is a safer and healthier environment?

It is best to write down clear objectives along with quantifiable outcomes that can be used to measure what success looks like. Also, document the specific use cases related to your particular requirements. Fortunately, today’s BEMS are a far cry from the systems of 20 years ago, which were reliant on proprietary technology. Modern installations are assembled around IT/OT (information technology/operational technology) networks and cloud access.

The power and flexibility this delivers produces a smarter estate through the delivery of actionable insights and the provision of activities such as alerts, cost analysis and energy reporting. This can help streamline occupancy and enhance energy efficiency, but to be fully effective your analytical tools need to be able to turn numbers into actions.

In these times, a building operator may be asking themselves, “Am I providing a healthy building environment?” The BEMS system is a critical part to answering this question as we know the system itself controls ventilation, filtration, temperature, pressure and humidity to help improve air quality. We can make use of advanced analytics which allow us to comprehend vast amounts of data to provide real-time alerts and render displays to show a building’s health.

The good news is that a flexible toolkit of services exists, all of which are designed to put you in control of an effective and efficient building or estate. By implementing an advanced BEMS installation that delivers clear, concise and precise outputs, building owners can turn the theory of smart buildings into a reality. Answering the critical questions is now possible.

Getting down to basics

In order to get the most from a fully featured BEMS, it’s important to understand the data with analysis; typically this is historical data, finding out what happened and why. Then use analytics to help predict what will happen in the future. This can be achieved using computing, mathematics, statistics, or models to gain knowledge from the data, which can then be used to endorse or guide decision-making.

Importantly, analysis and analytics are dependent on having the right inputs, which requires having smarter sensors at the core of your BEMS. A simple example is to ensure pressure sensors are used across filters in the ventilation system instead of pressure switches, as these will provide more information on the filter performance and help predict when it needs to be replaced. A more technical example would be the use of occupancy detectors to identify people’s presence and if you have any hot spots in the building where people are not able to social distance.

Future possibilities

BEMS are already starting to harness the power of machine learning and some providers now can embed analytic-based outcomes across all levels of a system, from edge to cloud. Going forward, systems will be able to intelligently collate data and turn it into actionable insight that gives customers the outcomes they desire.

This will continue to be dependent on clearly identified goals and objectives if building and estate managers are to make the best use of the many tools and techniques available with today’s emerging technology. Artificial intelligence (AI), IOT devices, cloud computing and analytic models are already changing how we interact with the built environment – the smart building future is closer than you think.

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