The building services industry is only just scratching the surface when it comes to what is possible with today’s digital technologies. We live in a ‘smart’ digital age, but sometimes that is hard to believe when you see how some buildings approach the control and maintenance of their services.
Digital technology is already a fundamental part of how we live and go about our business. It is also at the heart of some of the world’s most exciting building projects.
Consider The Edge in Amsterdam, home to the Deloitte accountancy firm and rated among the 'greenest' office building in the world – and the smartest. It boasts Ethernet linked lighting with sensors that measure temperature and carbon dioxide levels. Even the building’s coffee machine is linked to the BMS and occupants can use an app to access every facility via their smartphone or laptop - it can even show them where to park their car.
That’s at the cutting edge, but why shouldn’t more mundane building tasks take their inspiration from this kind of smart approach? We often hear the argument that it is too ‘risky’ to integrate smart tech into building systems – by which this often really means ‘too expensive’.
In fire safety, which is increasingly in the spotlight following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it has been possible for some time to ensure every fire and smoke damper in a building is tested and serviced on a regular basis without the need for ‘physical’ access to the entire ventilation system.
Maintaining dampers can be a disruptive business if someone actually needs to get into the ductwork – sometimes parts of the building need to be closed while this work takes place, so this vital process is often delayed or cancelled. Instead, a damper test can be automatically instigated by the BMS linking to the damper control system on a regular, pre-programmed basis without the need for ‘physical’ human intervention.
Benefits of remote monitoring
Even finding dampers to see if they need servicing can be a tricky business – particularly in large and complex buildings like hospitals. With remote monitoring, each one can be mapped and tracked – and in high rise, multi-occupancy residential buildings, landlords can arrange for damper testing to be pre-programmed which avoids the need to disrupt the lives of their tenants.
Subsequently, reports from the damper system can be monitored by the building’s BMS, on mobile dashboards and send email notifications to the building manager wherever in the world they may be.
Control panels can be integrated into existing data networks and fully integrated into the clients building management strategy. Essential for both easing maintenance and reducing its cost. If additional expertise is required to analyse a fault, the manufacturer’s team can communicate directly with the BMS or control panel.
As well as making buildings safer, making an initial investment in smart digital connectivity for dramatically reduces lifetime ownership costs for the building owner. This is no longer cutting edge, but it is certainly smart.