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Smart Building Predictions for 2014

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We all now know the benefits of using analytic software applications to support the operations of a building with primary focus on HVAC systems, and rightly so. What will happen in 2014? According to Jim Sinopoli, Managing Principal, Smart Buildings, LLC, USA, the analytics will go beyond running building systems to decision making.

Automatic Fault Detection and Diagnostics (AFDD) routines have proven to save energy and support facility management staff in ways that make operations more effective and efficient. The next big leap will be the development of software applications that can not only identify a system fault, but also can automatically correct it. This will be a level of sophistication with significant consequences for building performance and be the largest impact on building operations and performance in decades.

Photovoltaic Windows

Windows play critical role in dealing with energy related thermal loads and lighting in building spaces. We worry about the sun creating additional thermal load, but also the “visual comfort” of the building space, brightness, glare and shadows. In 2014, we will see more attention to shading devices, glazing, electronic switchable windows and window related control systems.

There is a move on to integrate photovoltaic into buildings rather than having a separate solar array. That trend starts with windows. Essentially transparent photovoltaic windows will be utilized in buildings to facilitate the structure as a solar collector. The technology is in an early phase but shows tremendous potential. The power conversion for the initial designs is low but is expected to improve and reach over 12% efficiency. Besides energy generation, the windows could also reduce infrared radiation, thus reducing thermal loads. The market will move towards interaction and integration between photovoltaic windows, DC current, micro grids and power storage.

Real Occupancy Metrics

The options for acquiring occupancy data include video surveillance, access cards, infrared, RFID and a host of other methods. Each technical approach has its pros and cons. However, it now seems the best approach to procure occupancy data will be through an occupant’s smartphone. Many use the ubiquitous smartphone to communicate with or acknowledge the phone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The major application for systems from the technology companies are related to way finding (i.e. taking Google maps or Map Quest into buildings such as malls, airports and museums); as well as identifying people via their smartphone and then relating the personal identification to the surrounding space. 2014 will see large companies use the same technology in their own buildings with their employee smartphones. While the accuracy of Wi-Fi is not as good as “Bluetooth Beacons” for identifying the exact locations, it’s still good enough to develop occupancy metrics. The researchers created apps that could power down a workspace when the occupants left and power it up as the occupant approached or entered the space. One study estimated that energy for lighting can be reduced by half using the technology. Facility engineers will be able to know how many people are in building spaces, the duration of their stay, what areas are really being used, how best to design or renovate spaces, and linking the occupancy data into a host of building control systems.

Fenestration Security

The fenestrations of the envelope need monitoring, that means each exterior door and operative window should have a switch in its frame to indicate whether the door or the window is open or closed. Doors that have access control already have such switches, but other doors not covered by access control should have a door position switch as well. If you have a facility or building management system that can monitor the door or window position switches, you can create some “exceptions” or times as to when open doors or windows are acceptable and when they’re not, thus reducing the number of false alarms.

Structural Monitoring

In general, monitoring steel, concrete and other inert materials may sound a bit ludicrous. Building envelopes have several basic functions: they protect occupants from adverse weather; let light into the building; offer security and safety; some acoustic isolation and of course it provides the aesthetic attributes that occupants react or relate to.

The envelope is critical for structural integrity, energy management, maintenance, operations and security. Most monitoring of a building’s envelope or structure is done through periodic manual inspections. However, this year will witness increased deployment of automated monitoring of building envelopes, especially for new high rise and skyscrapers in large urban areas.

• Moisture Intrusion – If there is moisture in the building envelope, there is a leak possibly leading to mold and or a breach in the integrity of the envelope. The solution is moisture sensors and a data recorder to continuously monitor the envelope with sensors at locations such as parapet joint flashing, control joints, wall-window interfaces, window jambs, wall-concrete slab interfaces and all the other places water is likely to gather, settle or get into.

• Air Leakage – Air leaking through a building envelope not only wastes a significant amount of energy but it also decreases thermal comfort for occupants, allows dust, moisture, noise and airborne pollutants into the building. Measuring air pressure differences via a remote instrument can at least indicate potential issues that need to be further inspected via a manual air leakage test.

• Structural Loads – Building structures should be monitored for stress, strain, vibration, deflection, displacement and tilt, with the data being analyzed to determine the integrity of the building structure. One common building example is the steel joint construction used in many commercial buildings to support the roof; the use of strain gauges or sensors can assist the building owner in monitoring the load of the roof when it snows or rains.

• Seismic Monitoring – Seismic monitoring is a highly specialized building system. It uses accelerometers (devices that measure motion and vibration) at specific locations throughout the building to measure the response of the structure in an earthquake event. Seismic monitoring has several critical benefits. For the building owner, real-time data on how the event affected the structure is quicker and can assist in the physical inspection of the building afterwards, thus increasing the likelihood that the building can remain functional or quickly regain functionality.


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