Smart Building Implementation: What You Need to Know

Over the last six months, I have seen Request for Proposals (RFPs) for two facilities that have asked for some degree of smart building integration within their greenfield construction projects. While there is no industry definition of what a smart building is, let’s assume that it integrates multiple building systems together into one central command and control system. This centralized building command and control system makes the building easier to operate for the facility manager, provides more insight into how the building is operated for the C-suite and makes the building more functional and comfortable for the occupants. (I touched on the importance of occupant comfort in my previous blog.) These requests are in the third coast of the Great Lakes states, not the east or west coasts, where technology tends to be adopted early! Smart buildings are things of now, not the future.

I recently had a conversation with a consulting engineer on the process of how a facility owner would choose team members to create a smart building. That discussion generated an exchange of ideas that I want to share with you here.

If you are a building owner/ operator with either a greenfield construction project or an existing brownfield renovation project and are interested in venturing down the road of implementing an IoT (Internet of Things) enabled smart building project, what should you consider? It is likely that your project would not be integrated to the extent of The Edge building in the Netherlands, noted to be one of the smartest buildings in the world. However, based on my experience, below are some key points to be considered:

  • 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 bright shiny technology and want it but can’t explain why. It’s important to determine how the technology would improve sustainability, productivity, safety, financial performance or occupant satisfaction and wellbeing; these are the five often-cited priorities of facility owner/ operators.
  • Who is the team that will develop the specification/ design/ documentation/ use case descriptions? Determine who are 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 is one scenario and brings 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.
  • How will the technology be vetted? Ensure that the products or systems can do what they claim to do through proof-of-concept testing and examination, and be sure to account for the associated costs of hardware, software and vendor implementation.
  • How is the IoT-requested integration budgeted into the project, by whom and at what stage? If you as the owner 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 to not have addressed the financial ramifications early in the project development cycle.

As you move forward, ensure that your facility and IT departments are present and participating in the design process and are being educated as to their roles in ensuring 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. Keeping an obsolete BMS system or nurse call system that has no capability to integrate into newer system is likely not a good idea.

At Faith Technologies, we know that the need for smart building technology is here now; it is not the future. Implementing the technology requires a mind shift in how facilities are designed and constructed. I hope this gives you some points to consider in your journey to a smart building project; what suggestions would you add to this list?