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EMAIL INTERVIEW – Robin Zoufalik and Ken Sinclair
Robin R Zoufalik, Robin is the VP of the Sales and Marketing department at CleanAlert, the award-winning air filter tech manufacturer and distributor based out of Ohio.
Robin's core experience lies within the built environment (analysis, design, construction, and maintenance) including professional services (architects, engineers, contractors), real estate development, property management, and maintenance. Robin is an engineer by education and a people person by experience.
How, in your opinion, does adopting building automation give facility managers a competitive edge?
Zoufalik: The competitive edge that derives from building automation for facility managers is, the reduction in costs. Tenant space is increasingly becoming more competitive, so by lowering building costs, one can achieve the desired margin or earn a greater margin from the same rent as a neighbor. Alternatively, for similar space, it may be advantageous to lower the lease rate to attract additional tenants.
Sinclair: How does your product, use IoT and automated building technologies?
Zoufalik: It is a proven, innovative, and patented technology that accurately measures clogged air filters in your cooling and heating systems. It’s easy to install, inexpensive, and provides data that is required within building automation, thus ensuring that your HVAC system is operating efficiently. In fact, it avoids many of the pitfalls of operating with clogged filters, including an increase in energy consumption and thus your utility bill. It can even save you from equipment failure, which is hundreds of times more expensive than the filter scan. It simply sends a text or email alert to inform users when filters have become clogged and maintenance is required. There is no more guesswork and users can be assured they saving money and breathing in clean air.
Sinclair: What would you say to the few facility managers that still think building automation is too expensive to implement?
Zoufalik: Building automation technologies are here to stay. Yes, it’s true that some facility managers are still looking at building automation as an added cost. However, its ease of operation and installation justify its cost. My response to this question is analogous to my reaction to the green building movement, where people used to say, “If you want a sustainable building or a green building, it’s going to cost you ‘x’ amount of square foot more for the first cost.” Today, it’s acceptable that the cost of a green building and sustainability is virtually the same; there is no ‘added’ cost. The benefits outweigh the cost of getting certifications. Thus, with the filter scan, there is a cost of buying the units, but the savings will justify the cost.
Sinclair: Why do you think integrating building automation systems is a good thing?
Zoufalik: The biggest advantage derives from the usability standpoint, where a building engineer or a facility manager has the ability to see the data and make modifications, if necessary, without having an outside person charging $150/hour to make adjustments. Energy consumption and integration of the building automation system is a good thing, because your HVAC system is the greatest source of energy consumption within the building. So any efficiencies you receive from building automation is a good thing.
From a security standpoint, the only negative of building automation systems is that you have to look at hacking and the ability of someone overtaking the building and causing discomfort by turning systems on at night that people don’t notice, and thus use more energy. That’s when one needs to work with vendors who put extra firewalls and barriers in place to reduce the chances of this happening.
Sinclair: What do you think the big plan for the Internet of Things is for the next few years? Where will the Internet of Things take building automation and remote monitoring?
Zoufalik: In my opinion, IoT is still an emerging trend that has considerable propensity to develop further. Thus far, we’ve only experienced a slight spectrum of the possibilities yet to come, as we overcome challenges and recognize opportunities, which ultimately help to progress IoT activity. In 2016, most companies transitioned to adopting this trend, including telecom companies with 5G networks, to familiar enterprises, such as Microsoft, which have built their cloud-based platform, Azure, on an IoT backbone. We are seeing substantial global activity in IoT entrepreneurship, which is producing a number of connected devices, particularly, for consumer- use, such as the ‘fitbit.’ However, industries are also taking advantage, and employing IoT to better improve products. One example that comes to mind is smart cement, where sensors can be implemented within cement to determine any disruption in the concrete, before any major problem commences. I have no doubt that the IoT space will continue to develop and produce a wondrous number of fascinating companies and products in months to come.
In relation to building automation, the Internet of Things will be an integrator of various building systems, including security access, the physical plant, managing energy consumption for utility purposes, or measuring building performance against different benchmarks that are currently taking place. Personally, I foresee its inclusion in building automation.
Secondly, I believe remote monitoring will continue to develop, much like the ability to access data from the cloud at any place. I believe in people managing multiple buildings. Even if you have ten buildings and ten excellent facility managers overseeing the buildings individually, you will now have this capability from a remote standpoint. So you might have buildings scattered throughout the US or even internationally, yet, you will easily be able to monitor all of them, run them efficiently, and have the BAS system reside in the cloud, as opposed to having all of this information reside within the building.
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