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Remote control

James Palmer of global associates explains how a remote monitoring system can help facilities managers create more energy efficient buildings and a healthier, more productive work environment

Instant access defines the modern era. Whether it’s via 24-hour news channels, social media or live streaming websites, we have information at our fingertips. Monitoring technology has already been put to great use in the world of sport. Motor racing teams can use telemetry in the pit lane to assess a car’s performance and respond accordingly, and software allows an athlete’s fitness to be constantly measured. By monitoring the athlete’s heart rate, mood and performance, trainers and coaches can identify the problem areas among their teams and take the necessary action as early as possible. If a sportsperson is underperforming or recovering from an injury a training programme can be adapted specifically to help them reach their optimum performance. With stringent energy efficiency targets in place, and an increasing demand for space utilisation and wellbeing data, isn’t it time we started managing our buildings the same way?

Effective management of commercial properties of any size can be a challenge, especially if you have a limited number of maintenance staff covering a large number of properties. It is also crucial from a landlord-tenant point of view. A badly managed building will not sit kindly with tenants who need reliable building services in order for their staff to be happy and their business to be running smoothly.

When a building, or portfolio of buildings is managed poorly, valuable time and money can be wasted on menial problems that could be solved without a visit. This can be exacerbated by more serious problems in other buildings that require urgent attention. If a problem has not even been reported yet by a member of staff, then the fault could get worse, leading to more downtime and potentially more costly repairs. Remote monitoring systems enable a building’s services to be managed remotely through sensors that can immediately alert the building manager when a fault occurs.

There is nothing new about remotely monitoring plant, and lift safety systems in buildings. However, there’s a big difference between dialling out an alarm and being able to intelligently analyse a set of conditions and decide how critical the situation really is before escalation.

As technology systems within a BMS Building Management Systems (BMS) and Internet of Things (IoT) environment become increasingly connected and generate vast amounts of data, it is vital that this information can be used in a way that proactively drives optimisation opportunities across your building or estate.

The latest IoT technologies allow lower cost connectivity and makes the deeper integration of systems more affordable. With more data available, and more affordable intelligence analysing that data, you could significantly reduce call outs, while increasing first visit fixes dramatically.

For example, a fault in a DX unit cooling a server room would traditionally cause an escalation, requiring an engineer to visit site. However, what if the ambient temperature in the building is only 16°C as it’s 4am? What if the outside air temperature is 4°C and there’s free cooling available? What if there’s a second air conditioning unit more than capable of taking up the load?

Wouldn’t it be great for the engineer, and for your maintenance budget, if the monitoring system was configured to look at a variety of factors before determining when to escalate to a call out? Wouldn’t it be even better if the engineer could see a full history of alarms, temperatures, starts and other factors leading up to the alarm before attending site, so they have some clues at the very least, before setting off? If there’s a dirty filter in AC unit 1, and the Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) visit is scheduled for next week anyway, does the engineer even need to attend? Or it could make more sense to make sure the PPM engineer has a clean filter on the van before setting off!

Of course, the opposite can also be true. A small fault may be insignificant on its own, but when taken in context with other small faults in other areas, the net effect could be catastrophic. Very few BMS are configured to aggregate faults from third party systems and analyse their potential long-term costs, to identify a potentially critical situation on the horizon.

This is where intelligent monitoring systems can help. Intelligent monitoring solutions allow data from multiple systems to be analysed and compared to sets of rules, which improve escalation procedures. This reduces unnecessary call outs and increases the effectiveness of all remedial visits. The data aggregated on hours run, frequency of maintenance and call out outcomes then feeds back into PPM routines, allowing you to understand which areas are truly critical and to focus resources on them.

The benefits of a system such as this go far beyond what it can offer the building manager. Although an efficiently run building with minimum downtime for all its services will obviously result in staff satisfaction in their place of work, they can also use a remote monitoring system to improve their working environment, and at the required times too.

Take for example a large office building with many shared meeting rooms. No longer do we have to book a room by writing it down in a diary or even emailing a request. Our global spaces solution interfaces room booking systems and BMS, to optimise the environmental controls for specific sessions or clientele. The room is booked through the booking system and the reservation is then used to intelligently optimise the meeting room’s services through a library of BMS and lighting interfaces. This means a group can turn up for their meeting knowing that the room is already prepared to their requirements.

Global spaces can also allow occupants to democratically control their own environment, without spoiling it for others, thus creating a comfort democracy. The system knows how many people will be using the space and uses thresholds to determine whether heating, cooling or fresh air is required. Over time, as the system gets used, the building manager will be able to see people’s preferences and habits as well as the savings being made in real time.

Most importantly, you will create a working space that people enjoy being in, enabling them to focus on the job in hand without being distracted by their environment and creating a healthier, more productive workplace.

About Sarah OBeirne


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