The field of facilities management will continue to evolve in the coming years, with new technologies and organizational priorities shaping what teams are capable of accomplishing. Construction is continuing even if the pace slows slightly. It’s estimated that the number of built spaces globally will double by 2050 – the same year that the world’s leaders in government and private industry have agreed to strive for net zero carbon emissions. While facilities teams today are working toward energy efficiencies to reduce costs, over time these groups will play larger roles in how companies meet and achieve corporate sustainability goals. With their deep expertise in optimizing building performance while maintaining occupant comfort, facilities teams will be key stakeholders in reducing the environmental impact of our built spaces.
Technology is enabling facilities managers to move from solving tasks reactively with manual processes to being proactive with automated tools, helping them and their buildings be more efficient than ever before. As such, this is the perfect time to optimize facilities operations and cement the role of buildings in achieving net zero. The same way that technology has evolved corporate work environments to virtual and hybrid models, the buildings industry is realizing the same evolution with a better way to manage these spaces. Technology won’t just gather vast amounts of data for the sake of gathering it, but instead use that data to understand the full operational performance of an entire portfolio all from a single cloud-based solution.
Cutting-Edge Technologies Uncover Unseen Opportunities for Efficiency
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are transforming every industry, adding value across almost every business need and function. For facilities managers, AI can automate the configuration of systems to have them set to meet business operating goals, help predict and resolve equipment health issues, and can even optimize a full portfolio to be more energy efficient without sacrificing occupant comfort. When combined with a digital twin of the building, facilities managers are not only better informed about the live state of the building, but they have a platform for simulation to better understand how the building is likely to function and operate in the future.
Today’s facilities managers also have a critical responsibility in making our built environment more sustainable. Buildings use 35% of the U.S.’s electricity and generate 16% of its carbon emissions, and teams everywhere need the right tools at their disposal to reduce these numbers across the 111 million (and growing) buildings they care for.
For teams supporting their organization’s sustainability goals, AI and digital twins are an invaluable set of enablers for both short- and long-term projects. If a team is looking to reduce carbon emissions over the next 12 months, a digital twin can reveal where those opportunities lie and how specific changes make an impact on building performance. Users can quickly understand how automated controls for HVAC, as only one example, can reduce energy usage throughout each season. By simulating multiple scenarios in a digital twin, all sorts of possibilities can emerge to maximize sustainable outcomes.
Open Tools Bridge the Old and the New for Greater Outcomes
As new and innovative technologies emerge and gain traction in usage, we can’t forget there’s still a great market of legacy technology tools. While new construction, as we noted, is still happening, the vast majority of our built infrastructure has been around for decades and embedded with solutions just as old. As these systems provide important information like meter readings, cost estimations, emissions tracking and more – when they don’t communicate together cohesively, it makes optimization more complex whilst managing multiple, siloed buckets of data with idiosyncratic reporting, compliance and management. Moving towards open standards and open platforms for data will help harmonize heterogeneous environments and create a singular view for facilities managers and data scientists to work with.
Technology should make tasks easier, not harder – which is why open data platforms built on industry standards and open protocols are becoming increasingly important for facilities teams building their tech repertoire. These types of solutions can be used no matter the brand or origin of their data sources. As an example, an open carbon accounting software is one that can receive energy and emissions data from virtually any system. If a team is already using a specific software to monitor emissions, but there isn’t a partner module by the same solution provider for carbon accounting, then adopting a standards-driven accounting software will provide the smoothest transition to provide the needed results.
Open and standards-based technologies provide a wide range of benefits for users and their organizations alike. Users are spared the inconveniences of manually inputting data from one platform to another, and organizations don’t have to replace entire systems with more comprehensive systems to gain one more capability from their tech. These platforms offer the ability to customize the tools that managers work with and tailor them directly to their own needs.
Innovative Building Technologies are Charting a Path Towards a Sustainable World
Facilities teams can make a huge impact on the world by using every tool available to them to reduce wasted energy and cut carbon emissions. With the tools available today, teams understand the unique nuances of their buildings and can customize their approach to the capabilities they unearth. As we globally seek to reduce carbon emissions, the built environment is lagging behind. But with the right technology, facility managers can be leaders at the forefront of our path towards carbon neutrality. The only question is, how fast do you want to get there?
Sandeep Modhvadia is Vice President, Product, at Atrius®, Acuity Brands. Sandeep leads product vision and strategy for the Atrius IoT platform in partnership with our cross functional teams including Distech Controls and the Intelligent Spaces Group at Acuity Brands. Through a combination of identifying and understanding the customers’ needs and experiences and data driven feedback loops, his team will unleash Atrius’ full potential for customers and the industry.