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Enhance commercial building energy management practices

IoT can bring your building components together and help you understand how they work.

When it comes to successful energy management practices, it’s best not to think of commercial buildings as an amalgamation of glass, steel and concrete - but as living organisms. Like any other organism, a commercial building is made up of many different components that contribute to the function of the building as a whole.

Many businesses are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to understand how these components work, both as standalone elements and as constituents within a larger system. By bringing these components into the digital realm through IoT, you are empowering them to communicate with each other and to a central system. On top of that, you're improving the functionality of data-driven management systems – such as building management systems (BMS) that draw on the collected information.

Today, everyday objects like fridges and thermostats are coming with “smart” capabilities already built in, and their use is gaining popularity. The same is true in the commercial sector, where equipment is rolling off the assembly line with embedded sensor and communication technology.

That doesn’t mean, however, that your building should immediately replace all your perfectly-good legacy assets and start over. Thankfully, there are more affordable and accessible options to buying entirely new equipment. Existing equipment can be easily – and more affordably – retrofitted with smart sensors to gain even more than the benefits provided by a built-intelligent replacement.

Making a Commercial Building Smart, One Step at a Time

Smart building management systems can be a hefty investment: it costs approximately $2.50 per square foot to deploy an advanced BMS. By focusing on legacy assets – rather than outfitting an entire operation at once – the initial journey to a smart building becomes significantly more manageable, both financially and operationally.

Smarter building management is a big – almost all-encompassing – vision, but starting small is key to ensuring that the system works. By identifying a handful of existing devices, one system or subset of a system to monitor, you can keep implementation costs down while beginning to reap the benefits of IoT almost immediately. The “crawl, walk, run” approach allows time for your operation to get acclimated to the new technology and the benefits (and challenges) it brings.

Once your chosen systems are retrofitted with sensors and begin delivering actionable data, the incoming flow of information can also be integrated into building automation systems (BAS) to react to real-time conditions per control criteria.

Heating and cooling systems, for example, can be configured to react to the weather outdoors, utilizing less energy while still keeping your building habitable and comfortable. Smart lighting systems can respond to traffic and usage, automatically switching off in rooms and hallways that don’t require constant light. In this way, your building will react to its environment, just as a living organism would.

With an energy-informed IoT solution, entire systems can switch to predictive maintenance – improving operational resilience and decreasing downtime. The patterns derived from energy monitoring easily show when something is likely to go wrong, notifying building managers before the problem ever gets to a point of system shutdown or breakdown. Gaining such insights into a building's operational integrity ensures that it runs optimally while, at the same time, reducing overall energy consumption.

Comprehensive energy management practices start with smart systems

What begins as a small and isolated project will quickly grow into a larger and more standard operating procedure, expanding the benefits you’ve already seen in initial limited rollout to other areas and, eventually, your entire building. In a short time, your once limited pilot will grow into an IoT deployment that complements and is integral to your existing BMS at large, using contextual, granular data to inform best practices.

The ultimate prize is still a thoroughly smart, connected building, but pursuing that goal via a step-by-step approach ensures a smooth implementation that is both affordable and convenient. As your IoT system grows so does your access to data – empowering you to leverage insights from additional smart devices like thermostats and security systems to enhance your general building intelligence. An advanced building energy management system offers the potential for up to 66% in energy savings and every additional data point brings you closer to realizing that potential.

Ultimately, advanced energy management practices require ongoing operational insights and a strong structural backbone. A smart management system will improve energy efficiency, ensure operational continuity and help your business bolster its bottom line. The information gleaned by introducing sensors to your older building assets and systems can keep things running smoothly and efficiently.

The more data you obtain and the more assets you monitor, the closer you’ll be to realizing and even improving on your operational goals. At the end of the day, it’s not rocket science, it’s data science. Every bit of contextualized information helps your team make more and better decisions every day.