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Designing Smart Buildings for Singapore’s Growth

Benedict Soh, Vice President, EcoBusiness Division, Schneider Electric | Sept. 24, 2014
As building operational efficiencies improve, so will the overall efficiency of a city. It must be remembered that buildings are the main consumer of resources - electricity, water and the like. With more efficient buildings, these resources can then be channelled elsewhere in order to give a boost to other city systems.

As the era of the "Internet of Things" emerges and enormous amounts of data are being generated by newer building components, companies have an opportunity to generate meaningful insights and action plans that will improve operations. New technologies, coupled with the adoption of long-standing open protocols, are revolutionizing how buildings operate. This is creating opportunities to resolve some of the challenges associated with the big data generated by the Internet of Things. With that, let us now take a look at the potential technologies which building managers can leverage on.

Using Open Protocols as an Advantage: Despite the compelling business case for smart buildings, the move toward implementing such solutions has traditionally faced challenges along the way for building managers, as one of the largest problems was integrating all the different systems within a building due to the proprietary nature of their architecture.

To overcome this, building managers are now opting for centralised control solutions built for interoperability which are able to integrate all the sub systems within a building. The interoperability allows disparate systems such as HVAC and lighting to communicate with each other and thus work together flawlessly toward complete operational efficiency. This is achieved by building these solutions on an open source architecture (as opposed to a proprietary one) such as BACnet®, LonWorks® and Modbus®, which sets communications protocols that allow control systems and equipment from different vendors to exchange information and synchronize in order to achieve optimal building performance.

Integration as a Strategy for Smart Building Management: Building on the topic of open protocols discussed above, one of the highest impact strategies to improve a building's operations is the integration of previously disparate systems. By implementing an integrated Building Management System (BMS) that acts as a universal translator, all the components and systems within a building, regardless of what protocol they natively speak, can be monitored, managed and controlled from a centralized point. Information from outside the building, such as weather data and utility costs, can also be integrated via Web Services. This much more efficient process ensures the optimization of critical building functions, including fire safety, HVAC, lighting, and energy metering.

System integration is also changing how stakeholders are managing their buildings. Building owners and managers now have access to real-time data from across their building's systems. This not only greatly reduces the time it takes to diagnose and fix issues, but also delivers new visibility into how a building's systems are working together, providing opportunities to optimize overall operations. It is also much easier to spot patterns that indicate best practices or areas for improvement - something that would be impossible if all systems are being managed individually.


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