Emerging machine-to-machine technologies are making smart buildings even smarter, enabling a new era in building energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction and yielding a return on investment for building owners within one to two years, according to research by Jones Lang LaSalle.
According to the latest edition of JLL’s Global Sustainability Perspective, with today’s advanced technology, owners can expect energy efficiency to improve 15 to 20 percent in the first year, even at buildings with strong energy management programs already in place. The advances are chiefly due to six advances in smart building technology that allow 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:
1. 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, the report says.
2. 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, the report says.
3. 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, the report says.
4. 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, the report says.
5. 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, the report says.
6. 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, the report says.
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, JLL says.
A team of engineers at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters campus have used a data driven software solution to slash energy costs and avoid a $60 million capital investment in energy efficiency, the company announced in April.
The team, led by director of facilities and energy Darrell Smith, have been working for more than three years to unify an incongruent network of 30,000 sensors from different eras: think several decades of different sensor technology and dozens of manufacturers. The software that he and his team built, strings together thousands of building sensors that track things like heaters, air conditioners, fans, and lights – harvesting billions of data points per week.