Creating smart buildings requires integrated systems and digital technologies. As I discussed in my last article, the true value of digital transformation lies in the data and applied insights these systems gather and provide. Proactive insights can drive building and occupant productivity, efficiency and safety as AI and machine learning collect usable information from facility equipment, spaces and systems. Digital solutions act as a natural extension of the capabilities provided by physical equipment like chillers, lighting systems and access controls.
Most businesses — from a single facility to large enterprises — are already collecting some form of data, whether it be video footage, energy usage or access control logs. The important points are how this data is gathered, what is done with it and how is the business benefitting. Through advanced building management systems, gathering AI-powered insights leads to benefits such as lower energy and operational costs as well as improved occupant satisfaction and productivity.
The value of smart, connected technologies in understanding your building
Elevating facilities into smart buildings is a result of the actions taken based on relevant data gathered. Machine learning and AI applications can synthesize massive amounts of information to enable managers to more easily identify solutions that create more efficient buildings and assets. In fact, Gartner found 40% of top-performing companies identified AI and machine learning as the number one game-changing technology, with data analytics taking second place at 23%. Although many building owners and managers implement complex technologies, the data collected can be overwhelming and difficult to interpret, especially if these technologies are integrated with other building systems. AI and machine learning provide access to not only the data collected from working equipment, systems and building spaces, but also proactive, actionable insights that address functionality, streamlined operations and lowered costs. This all-inclusive, specific view of enterprises can also associate costs with specific building areas.
For example, platforms with AI capabilities can look at a single floor of a building or take an enterprise-wide view across security, lighting, HVAC and other systems from a single pane of glass. They can then identify potential problem areas, such as an underutilized conference room with the lights on all day or a specific floor that receives too many temperature complaints. Once these opportunities for improvement are identified, the system can make recommendations to reduce the amount of lighting or increase the temperature, lowering energy usage and improving efficiency within the building while also meeting occupant satisfaction goals.
Managers looking to meet these goals need to identify adaptable technology that is vendor-agnostic. Platforms must be able to be layered into existing technologies and systems to provide new insights immediately while allowing managers to avoid the costs of an entire building retrofit or new construction project. Engaging with an expert early on can help establish clear goals for transformation and streamline the process of implementing appropriate smart building technologies from start to finish to achieve those outcomes. A partner can identify the most effective applications for AI, machine learning and additional technologies to best optimize your facility and provide the most useful insights for your building on an individual basis.
To illustrate, the benefits of intelligent enterprise management range across building systems. Thermal, water, electrical and carbon energy usage and storage are just some of the areas that can be viewed from a centralized location and analyzed to forecast potential peaks and problems. Building and occupant behavior can then be adjusted accordingly. For example, an incoming winter storm or drought generally means an increase in energy use. With intelligent management insights, such as occupancy and space usage, the facility manager or even the building itself can identify low-use areas to keep at appropriate temperatures while focusing resources on high-occupancy floors and rooms during severe weather events and allow for appropriate water use in the event of a drought.
In addition to building use, some systems can provide insights into financial health and bills associated with energy and equipment management. They can identify costs and returns with utility consumption and identify equipment issues proactively to allow for better maintenance management and infrastructure services. These insights can not only impact operational costs, but also improve facility efficiency and productivity. Having a complete view into any area of your building at your fingertips allows for safer, more sustainable and more efficient operations.
Into the hands of the occupant
Efficiency and sustainability goals are of course important for any enterprise, but occupant satisfaction goals can and should also be addressed with digital transformation and building management technologies. While occupants don’t need access to the level of data an enterprise facility manager does, creating opportunities for convenient and personalized space management based on specified insights from applied AI and machine learning can greatly enhance employee experience.
When employees are comfortable, they’re more productive. Having control over workspace lighting, temperature, building navigation and space reservation from personal devices allows for more autonomous and productive use of space that can even learn employee preferences. When connected to an access control system, lighting and temperature can automatically be set when an employee badges in, no matter if it is their usual office space or if they are working from another location. This extends to after-hours use of the building, ensuring maximized building efficiency and minimized maintenance calls, allowing for building managers to focus on other matters.
Providing this level of access may seem intimidating as some managers envision temperature wars between coworkers or similar circumstances. However, as occupants have access to their energy usage data in conjunction with those controls, they and the facility can use the insights from their specific workspaces to identify optimal lighting and cooling timing and levels, along with crowded or underutilized work areas or overbooked rooms. This in turn lowers facility energy costs while simultaneously creating a comfortable, productive environment.
Providing data access to occupants, employees and others who use facilities on a day-to-day basis is a key opportunity for potentially lowering operational costs. Additionally, a Gartner survey in 2017 found nearly half of CEOs have no digital transformation success metric. Both satisfaction and productivity can act as key statistics to showcase the impact of digital transformation initiatives in creating smarter buildings and businesses. Investing in employees and technology and providing access to that data enhances visibility, trust, productivity and reliability for both occupants and facilities.
Determining the success of your digital transformation efforts involves looking at the success of technologies in the context of buildings, equipment and employees.
Insights from AI, machine learning and other data-enabled technologies empower building managers to understand current building operations while identifying concrete actions that will allow more efficient and productive use of energy, equipment and occupant spaces. This ability, combined with placing technologies into occupants’ hands, provides additional insights for building managers to improve satisfaction, which can then in turn impact overall productivity of both the facility and its occupants. By implementing smart building abilities at both an enterprise-wide and personal level, maximized efficiency, savings and satisfaction prevails across the business.
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