Smart buildings are leveraging emerging machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies to become even smarter. According to a report from Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), six advances in smart building technology are enabling a new era in building energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction, yielding a return on investment for building owners within one to two years.
“M2M technologies are converging to make smart buildings – and their owners – even smarter,” said Dan Probst, Chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services at Jones Lang LaSalle. “We can now perform real-time remote monitoring, commissioning and control of entire portfolios of buildings, leading to dramatic improvements in building performance and meaningful energy savings.”
The top six technologies contributing most to making buildings smarter include:
- Wireless meters and sensors. Affordable wireless sensors and meters can now be used to monitor automated building equipment and relay data to a centralized remote command center.
- Internet and cloud computing. The advent of the Internet and decreasing costs of data transmission now makes it financially feasible to transmit data from millions of building data points to the command center. The relatively affordable high-capacity computing power of the cloud allows for cost-efficient data analysis to an extent not possible in previous eras.
- Open data communication protocols. New software applications solve the “Tower of Babel” problem created in buildings containing multiple automated systems, each operated by proprietary controls. Today, such protocols as ASHRAE’s open-source BACnet, Echelon’s LonTalk and emerging systems support cross-platform data sharing.
- Powerful analytics software. The best new-generation smart solutions provide numerous dashboards, algorithms and other tools for interpreting building data, identifying anomalous data, pinpointing causes and even addressing some issues remotely.
- Remote centralized control. Secure Internet technologies can be used to protect data transmissions from hundreds of buildings in a company’s portfolio to the central command center, staffed around-the-clock by facilities professionals.
- Integrated work-order management. Today’s building management systems can be integrated with a work-order system to streamline communications with on-the-ground facilities staff when human attention is required.
“Even five years ago, remote monitoring and control of an entire portfolio of properties was not possible,” said Probst. “Owners and investors are now realizing that the return on smarter building management is worth the investment, and can potentially pay for itself within one or two years.”
Commercial and public property owners are seeking these returns to boost operational efficiency, achieve energy savings, improve capital planning and reduce their carbon footprints. Companies worldwide invested $5.5 billion in intelligent building systems in 2012, and the number is expected to rise to $18.1 billion by 2017 — a 27.1 percent compound annual growth rate, according to IDC Energy Insights. The promise of even more potential for cost savings from operating smart buildings in the context of smart grids is an incentive, as well.
The term “smart building” typically refers to a building that uses computer-controlled equipment managed via a building automation system (BAS), which controls heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting, as well as water, fire and life safety equipment throughout a building.