Connected sensors and smart building technology mean that facility managers (FM’s) have a greater wealth of data than ever on how people use the buildings they manage. However, as business leaders around the world will tell you, data itself is meaningless if it can’t be harnessed to provide facility managers with the insights that help transform the day-to-day user experience. And with today’s systems generating a wealth of data, there’s a real opportunity to leverage this.

Organisations looking to harness and get the most out of their data can turn to smart building solutions for an answer to their problems. The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is at the centre of this. It is based on the idea of connectivity between everything, and it is helping fuel the advancement of smart buildings and how they can benefit businesses. IoT enables them to tap into data and insights created by a company’s day-to-day operations. Consequently, facility managers can access actionable information to optimise how a facility is operated. But it’s not just businesses that benefit, the people who use the building day-to-day are also richer for the experience.

IoT-enabled connectivity ensures this is possible, but the insight gained analysing statistics from repairs, operations, space usage, occupancy levels and energy costs is key. These insights can help drive automated actions that solve real business issues. Few people have the time to sift through the masses of data each week. But now, because of this connectivity, we can expect building systems to detect and report variations. Additionally, they can even take the steps to improve the user experience. This may mean altering a HVAC sequence to increase temperature levels, for instance. Employees who are more comfortable allows them a more satisfying building experience as they work.

Data Driving Savings - Predictive Maintenance

Cloud-based technologies, for instance predictive maintenance, help businesses focus repairs where they can have the most impact on overall building performance. By pairing the connectivity of a smart building with automation and data analytics, these solutions offer an alternative to traditional routine service and maintenance. They use performance data to help transform buildings into more productive organisational assets. And FM’s armed with this data can take direct action for dramatic cost and energy savings. The root causes of key issues can be addressed, and building managers are more knowledgeable on overall site performance.

For example, a facility manager may follow a traditional maintenance schedule of two to three months for all of a facility’s chillers. But with predictive analytics, the system will forecast the number of run hours before performance dips and the chiller requires maintenance work. That forecast is then constantly evaluated so that maintenance work is scheduled at the optimum time to maximise asset life, reliability and energy efficiency. This also means a facility’s workforce can be more efficiently assigned and allocated to address other needs in the organisation. To this point, analytics offers a route to improving the end experience. In a more traditional office environment, workers’ productivity and stress levels are negatively impacted by disruption around the building, whether this means a plunge in temperate or air conditioning systems failing. But downtime can be cut drastically if these faults are prevented from occurring in the first instance.

If FM’s are in search of a real-life proof point, then they need look no further than Burj Khalifa, the global icon and one of Dubai’s most prestigious buildings. Employing a cloud-based IoT platform has allowed the building’s FMs to use data analytics for predictive and prescriptive maintenance. The pilot has resulted in a significant reduction in preventative mechanical maintenance tasks and an overall 40 percent reduction in total maintenance hours for mechanical assets, while improving the availability to 99.95 percent, enabling a significant reduction of unplanned reactive maintenance.

Data Analytics to the Rescue

Most buildings today already generate huge amounts of data that can lead to valuable insights, but only if it is captured and analysed correctly. The challenge is that data is not organised in a way that allows for easy analysis. For instance, a large campus recently tapped into the performance of 220 chillers across a broad range of conditions, as opposed to relying on traditional, age-based models to create the campus’ capital replacement master plan. It shows how data in context will help businesses enhance their building systems, spot opportunities to reduce energy usage, or even change how employees and visitors interact with the buildings they use on a daily basis.

While analytics used for forecasting and maintenance planning are central to long-term savings, responding quickly to issues is also a key part of site management. Connectivity enables a building’s performance data and analytics to be delivered straight to a FM’s mobile device. They can receive notifications of possible issues, along with access to the real-time data to assess issue impact. And as the data is delivered to a mobile device, they can access it from anywhere and take immediate action. This is an example of how cloud services can be a useful tool at an FM’s disposal.

It is also worth remembering that buildings across a portfolio have a mixture of manufacturers and technology ages. Using building analytics helps normalise the data across a portfolio. Building performance can then be benchmarked against key business KPIs. Moreover, data analytics is also helpful to a business in that it provides a look into asset health. Using this data is essential in investment decisions CAPEX or OPEX, and is particularly beneficial when it comes to obtaining the quickest ROI.

Boosting productivity is an item that always ranks high on FM’s agendas. It only makes sense to join the growing trend of turning to smart buildings to get the most out of existing assets, if they haven’t already. And given the association between a happy employee and a productive one, it’s in everyone’s best interests that buildings provide an environment that’s to everyone’s liking. To this point, businesses have a wealth of data at their fingertips, more so than ever before. But it’s not of any real use unless they have the tools to properly grasp and utilise it.