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In Focus: How Intelligent Services Can Reduce Building Costs

Q3 2015
Trends in smart, connected products are transforming value creation for building owners and managers to allow them to focus on predictive/preventive rather than reactive maintenance. Intelligent services combine technology, analytics, and expertise in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to continuously collect, interpret, and act upon data from building systems and controls to optimize operational performance. This data gives building owners and managers the tools they need to manage energy consumption, reduce operating costs, minimize their environmental impact, improve building system reliability and uptime, and resolve problems more efficiently.

The Internet of Things
The HVAC industry is among the adopters of what has come to be known as the “Internet of Things.” Cisco Systems defines the Internet of Things (IoT) as “the intelligent connectivity of physical devices, driving massive gains in efficiency, business growth, and quality of life.” Forrester Research cites a threefold increase in IoT investments since 2012 among companies it surveyed, and ABI Research says that the number of wireless-connected devices will soar to about 41 billion by 2020.
Neil Maldeis, professional engineer and Association of Energy Engineers Certified Energy Manager ®, is energy solutions engineering leader for Trane, a leading global provider of indoor comfort solutions and services and a brand of Ingersoll Rand. He has more than 30 years of experience as a mechanical/project engineer in the building construction and energy conservation fields.

With a well-defined implementation plan, IoT can yield many benefits to a company. These benefits include using data to enhance product quality and performance while improving device/product design, providing real-time user feedback to improve usability, and helping to transform a services business from a reactive break-fix business to a proactive or even predictive outcome-based service business.

Self-Diagnosing Systems
HVAC systems have existed within a network of connected devices — which can be remotely monitored and are working to achieve comfort conditions inside of a building — for many years. By incorporating HVAC systems into IoT, building owners and operators can create self-diagnosing HVAC systems that operate with peak energy efficiency without compromising occupant comfort. They also can generate early identification of broken or poor performing systems.

For example, when using outdoor air-cooling under appropriate conditions, a broken damper linkage can cause the control strategy to not operate, increasing energy costs for the building owners. Without IoT, the broken linkage needs to be physically seen or impact occupant comfort in order to have the potential problem diagnosed. With IoT applied to the HVAC system, data can be collected to identify the problem within minutes of its occurrence and the repair can be made before the energy costs increase dramatically — and before a maintenance person observes the failed component.

By incorporating HVAC systems into IoT, building owners and operators can create self-diagnosing HVAC systems that operate with peak energy efficiency without compromising occupant comfort. Self-diagnosing HVAC systems also provide dramatically faster response time from service providers when failures occur, as well as faster time to resolution on HVAC performance issues as problems can be remotely resolved. When a technician needs to be dispatched, the technician can arrive armed with diagnostic information and the right parts and tools to make the repair in a single visit instead of multiple trips.

Condition-based maintenance programs can be implemented to enable maintenance services to align with actual system performance requirements instead of simply based on a date or amount of run hours. This can extend the life of equipment, reducing unnecessary maintenance costs and focusing resources on the more critical actions.

Intelligent services and the data they provide can help building owners reduce their environmental impact, improve building performance, optimize energy spend, and improve the bottom line.

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