Labour intensive management - is there a solution?
Managing and maintaining commercial property around the world is still a very labour intensive endeavour. Despite many modern buildings having advanced controls for HVAC or lighting systems, they tend to work in isolation from each other and it still leaves many of the key assets of a building in the analogue world that can only be checked by someone with a clipboard. For many older buildings, even the HVAC and lighting is manually controlled and huge amounts of energy and cost from labour is being wasted given that the technologies are here today to link everything together.
Justifying the cost of investment
The challenge for any facilities manager is justifying the cost of investment to bring the property into the digital world where real time data can be used to automate action, schedule preventative maintenance and provide a better working environment for all. One of the biggest hurdles to clear is how everything is going to communicate. The networking infrastructure in a building is usually there for the tenants use and was never designed to be a far reaching and low power connectivity solution for sensors and controllers. Building out a separate network for sensing and control is preferable but can be costly - unless you can identify an “anchor application” that has an ROI that justifies the infrastructure investment. That is what makes lighting such a good candidate for delivering the network.
How does the lighting become a facilities management solution?
There are lights both in and around buildings and they have mains power and height - both great attributes for being nodes on a mesh network. As the lights are upgraded or augmented to reduce energy consumption and maintenance costs, the connectivity is built out automatically, potentially covering the entire building and grounds with one network. Now, wherever you need to measure, monitor or control, one is never very far from a light fitting capable of sending and/or receiving data. This could be monitoring parking spaces outside or measuring differential pressure on an Air Handling Unit (AHU), the network goes where you need it. Now, every Smart FM application one would like to deploy just needs the edge device added to the network at considerably less cost than rolling out connectivity with every program.
Smart Facilities Management solutions that can now be considered fall into 6 main categories:
- Asset Monitoring - augmenting legacy assets that have no digital communications capability and adding them to the Building Management System (BMS). Typical assets could include AHUs, boilers, water tanks, HVAC, chillers, pumps, motors and fans.
- Energy Reduction - once one knows where the energy is being consumed, then steps can be taken to reduce consumption. However, metering usually stops at a per building level whereas it could be done at a floor, office or even appliance level. Adding in remote switching allows managers to cut the supply when it is not needed such as vending machines running over the weekend. High power assets can also be added to any Demand Side Response programs as switchable loads.
- Space Utilisation - optimising the space used in commercial property is an ongoing challenge. How many people are in the meeting room? Did anyone turn up even though it was booked? Does anyone actually use the “Team Collaboration” area? Adding sensors can answer these questions and help increase the efficient use of valuable space.
- Productivity Increases - Given that staff costs are your single biggest expense inside a typical office, maximising their productivity is a much sought after goal. The environment in which we work can have a tremendous impact and that can be down to the air quality, the light colour temperature, noise levels, localised temperature and humidity amongst other. Being able to monitor these elements at an office or desk level requires low cost sensors to be distributed liberally.
- Asset Tracking - Keeping track of tools, keys, trolleys, equipment or people is another objective of many Facilities Managers. A lost set of master keys can cost thousands in replaced locks. A misplaced sack barrow is not the end of the world but is an inconvenience and wastes time and effort to find. If you know where people are then you can offer them location based information pertinent to them at that time like where the nearest printer is, how to get to the meeting room they have never been to before and set their preferences at the hot desk they have chosen for the day
- External Monitoring - With the network extending out into the grounds, it is now possible to monitor and control car park and footpath lighting, take air quality measurements, measure the pavement and road temperature for gritting, warn of localised flooding, monitor noise levels and provide hyperlocal microclimate information. All thsi data can be fed into the BMS for improved efficiencies and reduced costs.
Whatever your objectives as a Facilities Manager and whichever areas you want to focus on first, it is key to ensure that the network you deploy at the start is capable of being used for all the other applications that may be needed in the future. You may not have budget for everything today but you might in the years to come, especially if the operational savings provide a return of investment in their own right. Of course, that is much easier to achieve if the network was already paid for by the first deployment you did.
To find out more about how enLight’s Smart FM platform can help you reduce costs, reduce risk and save energy, please click the button below for our brochure and we will be in touch.