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Building management systems for the future

Lee Jasper, Head of Products and Solutions at Johnson Controls, offers advice on how building managers can use system integration to guarantee the future of their buildings 

Technological advances over the last few years have armed facility managers with an arsenal of new tools that enable them to manage buildings more effectively and efficiently, fit for the future. IoT-enabled building management systems are one way in which facility managers can look ahead and invest in the long term – not only from a cost but also a safety perspective.

Installing a building management system (BMS) should provide a high level of functionality for years, if not decades. Components including fire safety and security systems, energy management and HVAC systems need to be built to last. If you cut corners or install a cheap system, you’ll only have to deal with device malfunction a couple of years down the line. Not only will this mean that you end up paying more in the long run, you may also end up risking employee safety.

Device malfunctions aren’t the only hurdle to the longevity of a BMS, though. Technology is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace, and the tech behind today’s BMS may well be obsolete in the next five years. To ensure you can use the latest technology when it comes available, you need to have an integration-first mentality: in other words, set up your facility management systems to run unified under a single control system, which are able to talk to each other and take insight from one another. Then you’ll be able to plug in new components more easily and benefit from a more intelligent and efficient work process.

Still today, we are finding that the systems controlling building functions, including HVAC, security, lighting, IT and communications are very much operating as isolated entities. Typically, these have been managed with a proprietary IT solution, disconnected from conventional systems and standards.

If your building systems are siloed from each other and managed on a proprietary system, the functional lifespan is restricted. However, by integrating systems so that they feed into a single management structure, they can inform and communicate with one another, therefore improving the chances that your solution will be able to perform in the long run.

Connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) are moving further into the realm of facilities management and as such, building system integration is becoming increasingly important. Through a centralised system, a convergence of building, specialty, business and information systems can be attained, eliminating siloed systems that are managed by various vendors and communication channels.

The intersection of these systems allows entities that were previously isolated to connect, collate and optimise data across multiple platforms. Eliminating such barriers results in a holistic system environment, managed on a unified and intelligent infrastructure.

Not only can implementing building wide systems integration save on costs and improve communication, but it can also help boost employee productivity and workflow. Managers need to work towards improving efficiencies across the facility, and really understand the value of being able to gain real-time insight into all critical systems from a single dashboard. Making it possible to detect inefficient components quickly can enable managers to start maintenance before the device has a chance to fail. Having an early eye into this will also give managers a heads up on items that are about to fail before they do so, helping to reduce downtime for replacements or repairs.

As technology advances, it will be possible to link interconnected systems, such as CCTV with fire detection systems, to enable the control room to visually confirm whether an activated alarm is the result of an actual fire. Using connected devices also comes with the benefit of increased data gathering, allowing building managers to get a deeper understanding of the conditions throughout the building through automated analysis of environmental data feeds en masse. Gaining insights into this can help managers better understand when and where the building is likely to need maintenance, before devices fail or reach the end of their life.

By integrating building systems you effectively build a future-ready network environment that has the ability to grow as technology advances and communications needs evolve. Having a centralised platform in which each product or technology is connected gives a single logical management structure which lets you plug in and take out components as needed. This also means you can replace outdated technology with new technology, incorporating the latest innovations without having to rebuild your entire infrastructure.

In order to make this a reality, design and construction teams must collaborate early in the process. Navigating this can be complex and costly. One way to deal with the issue is to use technology navigation sessions – these should be interactive, hands-on, design-assist processes that help uncover technology priorities and maximise spend. An additional benefit of a technology navigation session is the identification of technology-readiness, opportunities and improvement areas that can then inform business decisions.

Spending time to work out a well thought-out, unified technology plan provides innovation for the life of your building – more predictive outcomes, smarter buildings, lower up-front and lifecycle costs, more satisfied and productive occupants, safer and more comfortable environments, and a facility that’s able to support desired outcomes, today and in the future.

About Sarah OBeirne

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