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It's 5:00 a.m. - Do You Know What Your Buildings Are Up To?

Author: Christopher Browne, International Director of Integrated Facilities Management, Jones Lang LaSalle

Jan 19, 2012: It's 5:00 a.m. and all is not well in a data center at the base of the Cascade Mountains outside Seattle. Energy cost overruns and customer service failures are imminent, as an open damper is about to cause equipment to overheat and shut down, depriving thousands of consumers access to customer service. The equipment shutdown could be a serious problem - but instead you and your team are sleeping soundly. Your cloud-based, internationally centralized building management system has identified the anomaly, diagnosed the problem, and adjusted settings to resolve it.

Commercial buildings still have a long way to go when it comes to adopting smarter systems for gathering real-time performance data. However, the real estate industry is making swift progress toward the more widespread use of intelligent off-site facility management systems. As technologies improve, so does the opportunity to save time, energy and money on operational services. Facilities managers all over the world are looking for more advanced, cloud-based solutions that combine smart building technology, advanced engineering and centralized operational services to more efficiently manage their real estate portfolios. By using this type of this method for portfolio-wide data and property management, new buildings can live up to the standards of efficiency predicted by those who developed them - and existing buildings can reach higher levels of operational efficiency than if they were managed solely by an on-site team.

Crisis (or Not) in the Cascades

Now let's go back to that 5:00 a.m. temperature spike, resolved before it became an operational failure or a crisis. Come 9:00 a.m. that day, calm and well-rested, the corporate real estate manager reviews incoming reports from across the world. It appears that temperatures were rising not just in the facility in the Cascades, but also coincidentally there was a similar problem in Singapore as a heat wave approached the city. While an individual building manager might resolve the problem by turning up the air conditioner overnight, an intelligent building system, controlled by a few managers at a command center, could keep the building's temperature comfortable while gradually increasing air conditioning levels, thereby saving energy. The needs of that industrial real estate in Seattle and the office building in Singapore may be as different as night and day, but the system manages them each to the greatest efficiency.

A truly intelligent, remotely operated building management system controls more than just HVAC. For example, on top of the crisis in the Cascades and the cost savings opportunity in Singapore, a building automation system would also have reported that a compressor was about to fail at a German assembly plant - a major problem that could cost thousands of dollars in lost productivity if the production line were to be shut down. Deployment of predictive analytic technology anticipated the pending failure and alerted on-site engineers, who were able to make timely repairs and avert a very expensive problem. In addition, remote building automation systems can alert managers to whether a sy plano t of operatomation s expe