Turning old into new: the value of holistic building management

by Darren
Turning old into new

Dave Bartlett, head of the smarter buildings division at IBM, believes the company’s new intelligent building management solution can change the face of energy and water usage in buildings.


How can integrating natural environmental dynamics into the built environment lead to more sustainable control systems and energy-efficiency? IBM in South Africa now offers solutions that can make buildings energy-efficient – even if they are multi-storey and 100 years old.

Dave Bartlett, head of the smarter buildings division at IBM, believes that the company’s new intelligent building management solution can change the face of energy and water usage in buildings. He recently visited South Africa to share his knowledge and expertise with Innov8 Africa, a Cape Town-based IT consulting and solutions company and IBM business partner, as well as the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business.

Known as the “building whisperer” in construction and retrofit circles, Bartlett has been heralded by publications from Forbes to Facilities Engineering for his skill at understanding the intricacies of building technologies and energy-efficiency. Somewhat of a structural vanguard, his ideas and strategies about managing entire building systems can have an enormous impact on businesses of all sizes.
The true cost of buildings
According to Bartlett, there is a global urgency to create smarter cities, corporate buildings and university campuses. An IBM press statement reiterates this: “Buildings consume 42% of all energy worldwide and energy costs represent about 30% of a building’s total operating cost – up to 50% of energy and water are often wasted.” By 2025, buildings will be the number-one energy consumer in the world.

According to www.energyforcastonline.co.za, up to 50% of energy and water used in buildings is wasted on average. “While 85% of companies say they are focused on sustainability, only 30% collect data with enough frequency to make changes needed to improve their buildings’ efficiency.”

Making the shift
Bartlett is of the opinion that smarter buildings and more efficient data management can save as much as 40% on energy costs, 50% on water and up to 30% on building maintenance. This highlights the undeniable fact that wasteful energy practices affect the bottom line and the strong business case of incorporating sustainability practices into businesses of all sizes.

The philosophy
Bartlett views buildings as living organisms – not static entities. He believes that getting a building in shape is akin to following the right diet. According to his approach, which is dubbed “the physiology of buildings”, a heating and cooling system can be compared to the respiratory system, elevators and corridors are the circulatory system, and a building’s smart sensors and computer monitoring are the nervous system. This approach can help to identify problems and suggest cost-effective ways to make buildings healthier and more energy-efficient.

According to Bartlett’s holistic philosophy, each system affects the other. For example, water metres in bathrooms work together with security systems. This affects how quickly the building “breathes” in fresh air. Lighting, by heating space, is directly linked to how much power is used for cooling. With the right data, an owner can then decide whether it makes more sense to replace the air-conditioning system than installing a new roof.

The interaction of these systems adds up to a building ecosystem that can be measured and improved, like a visit to the doctor or a gym membership. Bartlett, who studied biology, eventually sees buildings forming part of a wider ecosystem that brings nature into cities, literally making them more “green”, according to Reuters. The key aim is creating equilibrium between the various building components.

Empire state of mind
America’s skyscrapers – many built before World War II – are showing their age. Bartlett believes many of these buildings could use a diet and a solid facelift. Bartlett is of the opinion that a smarter take on buildings can present a plethora of solutions to current infrastructure challenges.

The high-profile retrofit of the Empire State Building in New York is becoming a rallying point for advocates who say building retrofits could lift the United States and create jobs. “The savings are significant,” Bartlett told Reuters. “It’s a building everyone knows and everyone appreciates,” he added.

“Smart buildings and cities are the way of the future. IDC Energy Insights estimates that the global smart building market was US$3,1 billion in 2010 and is expected to grow to US$10,2 billion by 2015.”

Connecting the dots

With the unprecedented proliferation of smart sensors and control systems over the last decade, many buildings have the ability to measure, sense and see the exact condition of practically everything in them, according to www.energyforcastonline.co.za. But these systems often operate independently – understanding a building from a holistic point of view requires collaboration between facilities and information technology organisations at new levels, and creates the need for new transformational skills in organisations and businesses.

To address this rampant power consumption, IBM’s new intelligent building management solution does something with all the data from smart devices that have proliferated through the years. Sensor-makers like Honeywell, Siemens, Eaton and Johnson Controls have made everything from refrigerators and water heaters to computer laboratories and gymnasiums “smart”, Bartlett pointed out. IBM’s new building management systems give people using them an easy way to read and act on the data they transmit.

“We’ve packaged some recommended rule sets and technology that can essentially read a building, and say ‘if this is happening, do that’. Customers can add their own rules, but we are taking what we’ve learned from working with partners and at our own campus (in Rochester) to be able to share general best practices, and make them easy to follow.”

One problem that IBM’s new solution diagnoses and eliminates in buildings is called “concurrent heating and cooling”. That’s where occupants have the heat on in one part of the building, but the air-conditioning on somewhere else. It’s more common than you’d think, Bartlett reported, and it’s generally a big unnecessary waste of power.

“Africa could be the vanguard of a new global movement to smart cities.”

IBM smarter buildings: the benefits
• Collecting, managing and analysing data from buildings to gain intelligence and insight to energy and facilities management for significant projected energy savings.
• Improved operational processes and performance management resulting in reported real estate cost savings of $925 million within the first four years.

IBM’s solutions for smarter buildings enable energy, operations and space efficiency. Key characteristics include:

Environmental and energy management
• Real-time energy and operating analytics.
• Event filtering and correlation.
• Utility consumption tracking.
• Carbon measurement.
• Environmental investment analysis.
• Building management system (BMS) integration.

Facilities management
• Space utilisation.
• Capacity planning.
• Move, add and change.
• Reservations.
• CAD integration.

Facilities maintenance
• Asset management.
• Work management.
• Inventory management.
• Supply chain.
• Key management.
• Condition monitoring.
• BMS integration.

Capital project management
• Condition assessment.
• Capital planning and budgeting.
• Construction estimating and project management.

Real estate management
• Strategic portfolio planning.
• Budgeting and forecasting real estate expense.
• Lease and contract administration.

The objective
Bartlett concludes: “The ultimate smart city, building or campus is one where all the systems share information with each other.” Pike research shows that the market for commercial building automation systems will double over the next decade, from US$72,5 billion in 2011 to US$146,4 billion in 2021. “And if South Africa is quick on the uptake in adopting smart building technology, it will be at the vanguard of a new global movement,” states www.energyforcastonline.co.za.

Full acknowledgement and thanks are given to IBM, Reuters and www.energyforcastonline.co.za for providing the information to write this article.


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