How (and When) to Invest in Smart Building Tech


There are a lot of savvy folks at the intersection of real estate and technology working to figure out how the Internet of Things (IoT) can improve asset performance and lower costs. In today's video, Derek Cedarbaum shows how different IoT solutions can best be utilized depending on the situation.


How (and When) to Invest in Smart Building Technology

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Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Derek with Enertiv. I’m here today to talk about how and when to invest in Smart Building technologies, specifically building technologies that help improve asset performance and lower costs.

In today’s world, there’s this intersection of savvy folks from real estate and technology trying to figure out how to apply the Internet of Things to assets and physical infrastructures.

The questions that commonly get asked are: what is the Internet of Things? How can we apply different aspects of the Internet of Things (sensors, hardware, software) to our assets? And how can we make money from it.

Older Assets

The answer is that it depends, specifically on the types of assets that you own and operate.

To start off, we have our older assets. An older asset might be built pre-war, or perhaps five or six decades ago. It has minimal functionality in terms of controls, there are older systems, there’s no insight into utility usage - you might just get a monthly bill telling you what your usage was.

A great starting point there from an IoT perspective is getting more transparency into the conditions and performance of your older systems.

How do you do that? By adopting power monitoring for your various systems, which would inform you when your boilers and chillers were on, when they were ramping up and ramping down, and when pumps, motors, and fans were failing for a variety of reasons.

Trending data every single minute of that electrical consumption is like a heart monitor detecting a heart murmur. It’s a great place to start, effectively handing tools to you building staff, and letting them get access to the issues that are occurring in their buildings an hour later, rather than a week or month later. This decreases the level of deferred maintenance and energy management costs, and decreases the headaches associated with managing your assets.

So, a good place to start with older assets is probably basic, equipment-level power monitoring.

Modern Assets

Moving on to your modern assets, these tend to have more advanced building controls. Rather than say, pneumatic controls, you’ll have electric digital controls. You might have hourly data, whether it’s just digitized building utility data or from a few hundred sensors based off your BMS telling you various conditions of your systems. You’d also probably have on-site staff that’s trained in leveraging the data coming out of these systems.

That being said, BMS are not designed for anything but getting systems to their prescribed set points, for example, optimizing the conditions of your tenant spaces. There are very little self-analytical capabilities and usually few redundancies in place to ensure the optimization of schedules and sequence of operations.

And so, in that instance, whether you wanted to tap in using hardware devices to trend that data, or perhaps implement new, low-cost space temperature and occupancy sensors that can tie into your BMS, there are now solutions available that are very affordable, scalable, and easy to use.

These can give additional insights, say, tell you when there’s a buildup of CO2, which can affect cognitive functionality and worker productivity, and is thus an important factor in tenant retention.

When looking at these types of issues in real time, you might want to start thinking about ventilation issues, such as when economizers or dampers are stuck in a certain position. Again, rather than waiting a week or month for a tenant to complain, you can be more proactive about the approach, and decrease the costs associated with dealing with these issues.

Cutting Edge

Then you have your cutting-edge buildings. These buildings, such as the Hudson Yards or World Trade Center, are assets that have been developed in the last few years. They have advanced control systems with thousands of sensors, a variety of real-time data streams coming out of the types of sensors that we just discussed, highly trained staff to look at these data to constantly tweak and optimize your building systems and be very responsive to your tenant needs.

That being said, there are always ways to improve. Whether you have gaps in various data streams, such as not knowing how to optimize chiller efficiency because you’re not monitoring power usage of the various systems that make up your chillers, or whether you’re missing various air quality sensors due to the cumbersome costs associated with networking them back to your controls. You now have wireless sensors, and separate platforms that lay on top of your BMS that give you this additional insight.

In addition, you may want to look at the more structural aspects of buildings operations, primarily leaks, which are a large, controllable operational expense on the repair side of the balance sheet. There are now flood and leak detection sensors that can be plugged into your PTACs and VTACs, around the perimeter of your roofs or in your basement. When leaks do occur, rather than waiting a few days or a week to be notified of the issue by your tenants, you can know within a few hours. With these, the annoying costs related to replacing the floors, replacing walls, and remediating mold and mildew can be decreased greatly by increasing your awareness and leveraging these new IoT sensors.

So, this has been a brief overview. The idea here is to get you thinking about your different assets, the plethora of new sensor types available on the market today, how to tie them back to your existing workflows around maintenance and repairs, and energy management.

We’re going to be jumping into a few topics over the next few weeks to help you understand that the future of real estate operations is a conditions-based, predictive approach. That’s going to entail the ubiquitous presence of sensors around the entirety of your building, from all your systems, to environmental and temperature sensors in every single space and square foot of your building.

I hope this has been useful and please leave your comments below, and we’ll be sure to address them in the next talk.

Alright, thanks!

If you would like Enertiv to survey your building for free to determine the optimal IoT implementation, schedule a quick call today.