Windows into your world

The pressure is on for building managers to make significant operational changes; in essence, making a building more efficient, often with little budget. One of the biggest problems when it comes to actually doing this is having access to the right information at the right time. Schneider Electric discusses how advances in software can help create a ‘window to your world’; a holistic view of how a building is functioning, how much energy it is using, and importantly, where savings can be made.


With such focus on improving our building’s energy, the tide appears to be turning in the uptake of smart technology.  A recent report published by IDC Energy Insights revealed that the global smart buildings solutions market is expected to reach an impressive $10 billion by 2016.


However, for many building managers, the prospect of installing an intelligent building management solution (BMS) may still seem somewhat daunting.  In addition to this reticence, budgets are still some way behind where they were before the economic downturn, with businesses tasked with doing more, for less.  What’s more, a clear gap exists between the ability to extract and generate data and the ability to translate this into actions.


This issue is particularly relevant for building managers, who must look for increasingly innovative ways of lowering overheads in order to drive better efficiency, as well as lower energy consumption.


Simplify energy management


Many of the UK’s commercial buildings must now display an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) or comply with the government’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, or at least meet minimum Building Energy Performance Standards.  Such stringent regulation had led companies such as Schneider Electric to develop easy-to-install, easy-to-use building management systems, helping to simplify the energy management conundrum.


Currently, many businesses monitor their building’s energy usage via a series of spreadsheets and disparate systems, all working in silo.  This disjointed approach makes the whole process of monitoring energy usage far more complex and time consuming than is necessary.


The notion that building managers should be looking at each building application, such as HVAC and lighting, as separate from each other is one that Schneider Electric is keen to dispel.  The only way to truly become more energy efficient is to take a holistic view of the building, or even an entire estate and bring all of the systems together onto one platform.  This enables the end-user to have a complete overview of how the building or estate is functioning.  To do this, simplicity is key.  Data needs to be organised into relevant, actionable reports which are tailored to suit that particular user.


Today’s building management systems are able to draw information in from all parts of the building – as well as from numerous sites – and incorporate external factors, such as weather predictions.  For example, if warmer weather is predicted, an intelligent BMS can utilise this information to engage with the HVAC system and change the building’s settings to maximise efficiency.


Traditionally, this level of integration has come at a premium cost during both the installation and operational phases, as well as being slow to roll out.  This has meant that only larger enterprises have adopted such solutions and, even with significant investment, it hasn’t been possible to fully integrate it into the existing system.


Address the challenge


In order to address these challenges, Schneider Electric recently launched SmartStruxure solution and SmartStruxure Lite solution, which are BMS systems for both large and small-medium sized buildings.  Both solutions are made up of hardware and software which combines engineering, installation and services, ensuring that facilities are energy efficient and easily manageable.  The completely open nature of SmartStruxure also means that it can be seamlessly integrated into any building’s existing infrastructure, making the transition quick and simple for customers.


In addition, the solution’s easy to navigate interface means that the BMS can be easily controlled via a standard pc or from a smartphone or tablet, meaning that building managers have complete control even when they are away from site.  Not only is the system highly cost effective during both installation and operation, it has the ability to provide the right information to the right people at the right time, maximising energy savings by clearly illustrating areas for improvements.


With building managers focused on reducing energy consumption, access to in-depth, but easy to understand reports is a must.  Dovetailing alongside SmartStruxure, new services such as Schneider Electric’s Building Analytics gives customers even more detailed insights into the efficiency of their building.  This cutting edge service takes real time energy usage data and generates reports which detail hidden costs and inefficiencies, providing a list of actionable recommendations.  By implementing such changes, end-users can optimise the building’s operational performance, reduce energy bills and improve employee comfort, which all contribute to a tangible difference to any businesses.


Complete picture


By pulling all of the building’s systems together, it is possible to create a complete picture of the building on one easy-to-use platform.  This means that everything from power monitoring and energy contract management, to the energy monitoring aspect of a building, can be seen on one interface – truly offering building managers a window into their world.


So what does the future hold for businesses?  We know that transparency is key – particularly around how a building is using its energy, which brings numerous business benefits.  As well as providing the tools to reduce overall energy usage, there are other valuable business benefits to this approach, such as predictive maintenance and reducing the operational risks of power outages and equipment failure.


Employee comfort will also increase, promoting a better and more productive workforce and perhaps most crucially businesses will be able to better manage their costs and overheads to make a real difference to their bottom line.  The focus therefore needs to be on using the right systems to make the complex simple.


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