During the past six months, we have seen an increase in RFPs (requests for proposals) from facilities interested in some degree of smart-building integration within their greenfield construction projects. Businesses are looking for ways to run their buildings more efficiently, provide healthier environments for their employees and enhance overall occupant experiences.
Since there is no industry definition of a ‘smart building,’ let’s assume it means integrating multiple building systems into one central command and control system through the IoT (Internet of Things). For facility managers, this centralized system makes the building easier to operate; for the C-suite, it provides more insight on how the building is operated and managed; and for occupants, it makes the building more functional and comfortable. Ultimately what a smart building is in the eye of the owner, who is providing the capital for the project, and what they find desirable for any multitude of reasons.
If you are a building owners/operator with either a greenfield construction project or an existing brownfield renovation project and are interested in implementing an IoT-enabled smart-building project, what should you consider?
- How will the business needs—or use cases—be identified for your implementation? Is there, in fact, a real business case for an IoT solution? Some building owners see and want shiny new technology, but can’t explain why or how it will help their business. It’s important to determine how the technology would improve sustainability, productivity, safety, financial performance or occupant satisfaction and well-being; these are the five often-cited priorities of facility owner/operators.
- Who are the team members that will develop the specification, design, documentation, and use case descriptions? Identify your key stakeholders from the owner, the contractor and the design and construction teams.
- How is the design service for the integration going to be procured? Teaming consultants and integrators bring the best of the design world and the product knowledge and deployment experience together.
- How will the systems integration be procured? Design-bid-build isn’t recommended; it could leave your system integration to the lowest bidder, who may not be involved in the development of the system-integration criteria or be able to provide acceptable systems and products. In the end, this may not provide a project that delivers the owner’s idea of a smart building.
- How will technology be vetted? Ensure that the products or systems can do what they claim to do through proof-of-concept testing, bench testing and examination. Also be sure to account for the associated costs of hardware, software and vendor implementation during the testing phase.
- How is the IoT-requested integration budgeted into the project, by whom and at what stage? As the owner, if you require an integrated facility, have you budgeted the design and implementation ramifications into your proforma? The most likely way a smart building will be value-engineered into oblivion is by neglecting to address the financial ramifications early in the project development cycle.
As you move forward, ensure that your facility and IT (information technology) departments are present, are participating in the design process and are educated on their roles to ensure successful project implementation. You cannot have an IoT smart building without IT infrastructure designed to support the requested integrations. In brownfield sites, a review of existing systems and technology should also be performed to see if they meet the standard for current IoT integration, or if there are updates that need to be installed first. Keeping an obsolete building management system that cannot integrate into newer systems is never a good idea.
The need for smart-building technology is here now. Implementing this technology requires a mind shift in how facilities are designed and constructed. As you begin your journey to a smart-building project, remember to consider all the vital factors before beginning your project.