• Intelligent Building Management Systems
  • Commercial Building Energy Efficiency
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Smart Buildings

The Holistic View of a Commercial Building Needs to Expand

Dec 11, 2018

Smart Buildings

A consistent mantra in building technology markets is that a holistic view of building operations is the ideal way to achieve optimal efficiencies. This opposes the siloed view of treating each building system (e.g., an HVAC system) as the ideal way to achieve optimal efficiencies. When building systems seek individual efficiencies, overall energy savings of 3%-15% can be achieved. When all building systems are assessed and operated in a holistic manner, savings of 15%-40% or more can be achieved.

Expanding on the Holistic View

This seems a simple concept to understand, and most building industry participants subscribe to the holistic view philosophy. There is, however, an expanded dimension to the holistic view emerging within the realm of intelligent building technologies. This expanded view includes factors other than building operations and energy efficiency and encompasses the strategic use of the building to support the primary business needs of the building operator. The expanded holistic view takes into consideration the long-term value of the building and property itself relative to the building operator’s business needs, which can help the occupant begin to view the building as a business asset rather than a cost center. To properly pursue this expanded view, the user experience of occupants should be considered during the initial stages of new construction or major retrofit projects.

Energy-Saving Examples

Occupancy sensors at a retail store can help to understand, for example, how the building should be heated or cooled—saving energy along the way. These same sensors can also be used to understand customer behavior and preferences, which enables the retailer to develop new and unique sales and customer interaction strategies, enhancing the business prospects at the same time. In a healthcare setting, intelligent sensors and controls can identify when a room is unoccupied so that lights and temperature settings can be adjusted accordingly. When the room is occupied, these same sensors allow for individualized control based on patient preferences, giving the patient a measure of control and assisting in the overall healing process. The evolution of this technology has shifted from counting people to locating people and ultimately to meeting people’s needs and wants where they are located.

Redefining Criteria for Success

Ignoring the value proposition that intelligent building systems can bring to an expanded view of the building-as-a-business asset severely underestimates the breadth of possibilities that these systems can offer to a business, enterprise, school, or institutional entity. It may be the case that an acceptable ROI exists simply due to the energy use optimization of these systems. It may be difficult to measure the benefits afforded to patients; however, these benefits will appear in financial details or through customer and patient surveys (e.g., the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey). To extract this information may require defining the variables of how and what to measure because typical or legacy key process indicators may be stale.

Intelligent building systems are helping to disrupt long-held beliefs about buildings and the benefits and value that can be extracted from them. A focus on business outcomes is a good place to start on the journey toward a more holistic view of intelligent building systems. If a desired outcome can be articulated appropriately, chances are intelligent building technologies can provide a roadmap to reach that goal.