With reports associating smarter workplaces with better staff retention and productivity levels, Siemens Building Technologies' Head of Service and Solution Portfolio Eike-Oiver argues 'self-regulating', technology-enabled office spaces are becoming the norm.
Property prices in cities across the world are burgeoning. In London, now one of the most expensive places in the world, a workplace already costs in excess of £20,000 per employee per year, and the costs are trending upward. Studies show that real estate is the second largest expense for companies, with operating costs making up 71 per cent of cost of ownership. As a result, businesses are cutting back on the amount of space assigned to each employee. The outcome is that employees in open plan offices have on average only a quarter of the space of those in conventional workplaces.
The daunting task of balancing the design of sustainable buildings with an affordable cost structure, and providing a high level of workplace comfort, lies primarily with architects. In principle the solution is quite simple: smart, “green”, automated buildings.
The future belongs to smart buildings that can both reduce operating costs and increase employee efficiency and the market for smart building technology is constantly growing. According to International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts, worldwide spending on this will exceed 17 billion Euros this year – undoubtedly accelerated by digitalisation.
A huge opportunity
Whether termed “intelligent infrastructure” or the “Internet of Things (IoT)”, the countless buzzwords describe the same thing: the new generation of automated buildings. No industry sector remains unaffected by this issue; quite the opposite.
Digitalisation is not a threat for business, it is a major opportunity, especially for building owners and operators, and the benefits are so great that the digital transformation will build an enormous momentum in the property sector.
Digitalisation is increasingly seen as the best means of reducing costs in property portfolios.
Digitalisation in building management is here to stay. Siemens estimates that within the Internet of Things, by the year 2030, there will be 50 billion networked devices.
According to further predictions, 65 per cent of Siemens customers will require access to their data at all times, 60 per cent will expect greater transparency in their business processes, and 52 per cent will view digitalisation as a way to optimise their systems.
But how exactly can this vast amount of data be used? And how can the numerous different applications be linked with one another so that the data can be used to best advantage?
Already today data is collected from fire safety and security systems, HVAC equipment (heating, air conditioning, ventilation) and controls, energy efficiency programmes, and lighting and energy systems. This extensive portfolio is being expanded to smart meters that measure energy and consumption, a technology that is increasingly being used and integrated around the world. Siemens is convinced that data collected from these non-networked systems can create considerable value for users, if combined with the data from different types of meters and structural building data.
Intelligent sensors, actuators and similar devices supply a wealth of data whose potential has thus far been virtually untapped. It is already possible to analyse and convert this data into transparent information, using big data applications, which can in turn be fed into linked performance indicators - and in real time. Intelligent algorithms can assess trends and detect patterns in user behaviour or consumption, making informed decisions, predictive strategies and continual optimisation possible.
When combined with sophisticated self-optimisation functions, a kind of central nervous system emerges that makes the building “smart.”
Transparency increases value
Transparency is an important element in creating added value for the user.
Transparency is what delivers a prioritised overview of all potential improvement measures. This added value manifests itself in areas such as lower operating costs through greater energy efficiency and sustainability, as well as meeting legal and regulatory requirements. Transparency is therefore a prerequisite for the realisation of optimal building performance.
The first step is to collect and visualise meaningful data to create informative dashboards. The cockpits provide KPIs, classifying the performance of individual equipment components and the entire building management system. There are KPIs for energy consumption, general costs, CO2 emissions, costs per square metre, etc.
Building owners can analyse service provider performance while implementing a broad range of measures in real time. This can be done not only for each location, but also for the company’s entire building portfolio.
Condition monitoring detects and anticipates system errors, and can drive the implementation or optimisation of corrective and preventive measures. This ensures the availability of the building, and provides a complete overview of all systems.
Companies can measure the energy performance of their buildings, and Siemens technicians can compare this performance with similar systems to identify potential areas for improvement. Siemens can even provide forecast models for optimising systems for specific climatic conditions or emergency situations.
The building world is changing to an ever greater degree, and new innovative technologies offer increasingly clearer insights into how workplaces are used.
We are poised on the threshold of an exciting future that will revolutionise how we work, control our environment and use energy resources. Heat mapping of offices and occupancy detection give building owners valuable information on how their buildings are being used throughout the day and how usage changes with the seasons.
Proactive and predictive
In the past, companies managed their buildings rather reactively. Thanks to the information they collect through digitisation, they are now able to act proactively and take advantage of the benefits of predictive analysis. Service therefore gains an entirely new significance, moving away from scheduled to condition-based service.
The ultimate goal for companies is that their building management system allows their buildings to run autonomously. Such autonomous buildings enable companies to reduce energy consumption and downtime and thereby provide services on demand as well as rule-based performance management.
The advantages of digitalisation are already evident in the management of building performance – for example the reduction of CO2 emissions, which is a high priority.
Businesses are already cutting CO2 emissions by as much as 10 to 15 per cent, and achieving energy savings of 30 per cent is no longer uncommon.
Siemens is convinced that digital transformation in building technology will trigger a paradigm shift. New business models will emerge in which software will play a central role, where openness and transparency will be crucial. Based on this, services will need to adjust to ever-changing customer goals, and will become increasingly important. In contrast, closed and proprietary systems will not be able to compete.
This transformation will lead to improved efficiency and new cost-saving opportunities that can only truly bear fruits in the new digital world. Traditional competitive situations will be transformed into a network of partnerships and alliances leading to a manifestly more complex ecosystem.
The vision is a building that manages itself, detects any need for service on its own, communicates with its environment and adjusts to its users and their requirements.
The advantages for property managers are obvious: this type of building means less management and maintenance, lower energy consumption, and guaranteed performance. At the same time, the building supports the people working within it, because it supports the optimisation of their work processes, increasing not only their productivity, but also their creativity.