With the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected technologies, the landscape of facilities management will change radically within three years, as the number of connected devices globally rises from 10 billion in 2015 to an estimated 34 billion in 2020.
Driven by broadband internet, decreasing technology costs, ubiquitous smartphone penetration and more devices created with built-in sensors and Wi-Fi capabilities, the implications on building management are significant.
Vast datasets, generated by connected building devices, provide new opportunities for building owners and facility managers to derive insights from data and improve building performance. According to a January 2017 research report, from Morar Consulting in the US, 63% of facility managers show interest in implementing new digital technologies, such as intelligent analytics to improve maintenance decisions and operations, and 89% indicate they expect to achieve a return on their IoT investments within three years.
In line with the US and the EU, South Africa is also supporting building efficiency and focuses on workplace efficiency by creating comfortable and productive workspaces, while also reducing energy consumption.
The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) certifies buildings according to the Green Star rating system and these buildings are recognised for their resource efficiency, which is rated in minute detail using sustainability indicators on every aspect of the development, from light and water fixtures, to paint and carpeting. In 2018, the GBCSA expects the proportion of green buildings to climb from 2017’s 41% to 61% of all South African building project activity.
This global move towards uncovering valuable insights from building data and making adjustments to improve efficiency has shifted attention away from equipment manufacturers and into the hands of system integrators and support teams. While the building management system (BMS) still serves as the backbone of any smart building, these systems have become commoditised over the years. The real value of these systems lies in their ability to connect to other devices within the building environment and reveal opportunities to improve efficiency and performance.
The South African Facilities Management Association defines facilities management, as “An enabler of sustainable enterprise performance through the whole life management of productive workplaces and effective business support services.” Today, the efficient running of a company’s internal services and its premises is of paramount importance, in terms of both the enormous efficiencies and cost savings that can be gained.
However, the shift towards IoT-enabled buildings is fundamentally changing the role of today’s facilities professionals and creating new requirements for them to be successful at their jobs. As smart technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, new questions are being raised. How can it be integrated into building systems effectively and strategically? How do we interface it with the many other devices that are in our buildings and homes?
Connected technologies that need to be integrated into a modern BMS were not being applied five years ago and did not exist a decade in the past. In buildings of the past, the facility manager was the person who handled the mechanics and daily functions of the systems in the buildings they managed.
Today’s facility managers are concerned with not only the building systems they have ownership of but also with the plethora of smart, connected devices that interact with their facilities on a daily basis. As a result, facility managers must learn new skill sets such as data analysis and broaden their technology knowledge base in order to successfully manage and make the most of todays building technologies. They must also work with the right systems integrators who know how to install and manage the most optimised and comprehensive intelligent energy solutions.
While technology has greatly impacted the role of today’s facility professionals, we are also seeing a demographic shift as older workers retire and leave the workforce and are replaced by the next generation of facility managers. These younger facility professionals are technologically savvy when it comes to network connectivity and information technology. However, they often lack a deep knowledge of mechanical systems. To be successful, the next generation of facility professionals must find a way to merge their new world knowledge of the IoT with the mechanic knowledge that drove the building management industry for decades.
Industry experts add knowledge
The key to success in today’s building management landscape for both experienced and newer facility professionals is gaining a deep understanding of the components critical to achieving comprehensive energy management within homes and facilities – including lighting & room controls, power distribution, data communication, HVAC control and energy monitoring.
To achieve in-depth knowledge to optimise building control, operational efficiency and energy management, facility professionals should seek out industry experts who can offer support in the following key areas:
Specialised training on the most critical challenges facing building owners and facility managers and the solutions that can solve them
An open network of fellow facility professionals and system integrators that promotes idea sharing and best practices implementation
Access to industry-leading technology solutions that will drive the future of intelligent buildings
In a world where technology is constantly evolving and creating opportunities for facilities to reach new levels of efficiency, future growth will hinge on specialised knowledge and education. These insights and resources will ultimately help system integrators grow their business and provide facility professionals with more control over the complete building environment, as they create and manage the smart buildings of tomorrow.