Smart buildings require smarter systems


When internet communication was first introduced to the retail sector, it was a controversial topic for both shoppers and retailers. However, several years down the line some retailers are realising that harnessing the power of the internet through IP (internet protocol) addressable systems has delivered an unexpected added value. With energy prices rising to unprecedented levels, the enhanced capability to gather data has contributed to a more advanced approach to building management in line with the raft of forthcoming legislation, boosting energy savings and cutting costs.

The initial capital outlay to install the network infrastructure for a single application had some retailers cringing. However, they soon discovered that piggy-backing other control functions with the existing network would create fully integrated, ‘smart’ building environments where all functions could be fed into one device to analyse and manage alarms accordingly. With energy costs continuing to rise significantly, the most effective way to capture accurate data is to implement an automatic monitoring and targeting (am&t) strategy. Linking this into the building’s network infrastructure via an IP addressable system is of tremendous value to facilities managers as they strive to demonstrate a building’s performance in today’s heavily regulated environment.

Building regulations are notoriously complex and present challenges to all in the industry. Whilst the L2 directive and F-gas regulations may seem like just more red tape, they should be embraced as opportunities to reduce the whole life costing of buildings, resulting in higher capital value. The L2 legislation (binding in law from 4 January 2006) is intended to meet Government targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2010. It pertains to all new and existing dwellings and non-dwellings of more than 1,000 m². Facilities managers will be required to provide detailed information on energy performance (detailing 90% of the estimated consumption of each fuel – gas, electricity, oil and liquid petroleum gas) to be measured against published benchmarks.

Similarly, the F-Gas regulations aim to reduce green house gas emissions as stipulated in the Kyoto protocol, pertaining to the maintenance of equipment containing 3kg or more of F-Gas – this includes refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment and their circuits, as well as fire protection systems. Operators are obliged to use all measures which are technically feasible and do not entail disproportionate costs to prevent the emission of gases and repair any detected leakages.

Joined-up thinking is a term usually associated with business management, but it can be easily applied to smart building management. Incorporating an IP addressable control and monitoring system to a building’s facilities management infrastructure standardises the communication between building functions – this means that the air conditioning, heating, refrigeration, security and safety systems can all share the same network without a language barrier. Not only is this a neater, more streamlined configuration, it also dramatically decreases the number of remote connections while increasing the frequency of data collection.

With an IP addressable system, facilities managers can easily pull together the data and reports required to demonstrate compliance to the regulations. When linked to an automatic monitoring and response system, such as the Parasense Information Centre, data is analysed through sophisticated algorithms to generate pre-emptive alarms and reports. If the analysis shows that immediate action is necessary, an alarm is instantly triggered in the form of an email, SMS or phone message to the relevant person responsible for the area of concern. By catching a situation in real time problems can be averted before they become costly or hazardous – unlike waiting for a monthly utility bill to arrive. This data is accessible on an interactive XML page, enabling building managers to review the results and make adjustments remotely as required.

In multi-site operations, effective monitoring allows managers to rank the operational performance of each site and can also measure the efficiency of service engineers with the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). For example, a piece of faulty equipment on site, continually monitored by the Information Centre, will trigger an automated alarm which can be sent to a dedicated maintenance department or to a centralised FM helpdesk. From the initial alarm being raised to the fault being rectified, downtime is measured and used for KPI reviews of in-house or out-sourced maintenance contracts.

If you haven’t got accurate figures you can’t monitor energy effectively. Automatic monitoring and response systems are becoming more and more prevalent across all industries. With environmental legislation and the ever-present pressure to reduce operating margins, this trend is likely to continue. The data derived from monitoring equipment will not only help building operators run more efficient buildings, it can drive certain business decisions which will benefit an organisation’s bottom line and significantly impact the payback period of the system. Energy savings will be realised and by working with the regulations you can introduce and implement systems that will ensure energy saving buildings for the future.

The emerging technology of IP addressable systems are having a significant impact on the controls manufacturing industry. As equipment becomes increasingly compatible, customers are no longer limited to a particular provider and are seeking the best products on the market. This scale of competition is driving innovation as manufacturers are responding to customer demand. With this technology becoming more accessible it is worthwhile to consider your forward strategy. If you have the capability and the network in place it makes sense to maximise your return on investment and take a positive next step toward intelligent energy savings.

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