January 2009

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Nine Predictions for Smart Buildings in 2009

Jim Sinopoli PE, RCDD
Managing Principal,
Smart Buildings
Contributing Editor

“Never make predictions, especially about the future.”
Casey Stengel - American Baseball Player and Manager, 1891-1975

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1.  Manufacturers of BAS devices will convert many of the devices to DC power, allowing Power-Over-Ethernet (POE) to be used, thus spurring greater penetration of IP protocols in the BAS world. Known as the most under-valued building technology, POE will drive the convergence because of its cost advantage and management functions. Innovators in this arena will be second tier and Asian BAS companies.

2.  Just sensing whether a building space is occupied or not, will no longer suffice. Systems will need to provide real-time information on how many people occupy the space and where they are located. This will just continue the march to real-time sensing of everything that occurs in a building. Next will be the introduction of “sensor dust” which can be added and embedded in wall coatings. Buildings will have so many sensors installed, that facility management tools will become 3-dimensional.

3.  Smart commissioning will render obsolete what we now think of as commissioning, which is typically a one time or periodic event. Commissioning will no longer be something you may do once a year or every couple years, but something done in real time using sophisticated, rules-based software. Generally re-commissioning an existing commercial office building has an average financial payback of 8.5 months, which is very attractive. However, smart commissioning will have a payback period measured in minutes and will become a standard feature of high performance buildings.

4.  The industry will start dealing with systems that we haven’t in the past. Systems such as sun tracking systems, personnel RFID systems, seismic monitoring systems, structural anti-corrosion monitoring systems, oxygen depletion monitoring systems, and personal rapid transit systems will be added to the base systems in every building. If you resist change and don’t like to do anything different, this one could hurt.

5.  The criteria and credits for LEED certification will evolve to become regionalized, thus further recognizing the differences in micro-climates, energy and sustainability issues by geographic location. Criteria such as climate, aridity, culture and altitude will be considered. Here in Texas the state will adopt a LEED standard with credits for dealing with outside air quality of barbeque pits and the sustainability of barbeque sauces, and create a new LEED-CR certification for Cattle Ranches.

6.  Touch screens and digital signage that provide information for real time energy usage will soar. Thermostats and light switches will be introduced into the market with LEDs displaying energy usage of the light fixtures and temperature settings. Fact is when people are given energy information and system control they tend to do the right thing, which is conserve energy. Simply providing information about energy usage will prove to be the most cost effective energy strategy.

Reliable Controls 7.  The use of micro video cameras will dramatically increase in buildings. This will allow facility managers and technicians to view every piece of equipment from PCs or cell phones instead of physically inspecting equipment. Pinhole and microchip cameras, once the realm of spying and espionage, will be used to monitor remote and hard-to-reach equipment such as HVAC equipment above the ceiling. More of these cameras will be embedded in the equipment itself. Price points will shrink and installation will be relatively easy via the use of wireless networking.

8.  What we now refer to as middleware will be embedded in other software applications and hardware. The major ERP business software vendors such as SAP, Oracle, etc. will understand the need to gather data from a building’s “sub-systems” and have software modules that function as middleware. Network switch manufacturers such as Nortel and Huawei will add RS-485 ports and middleware into their switches. Major BAS manufacturers such as JCI, Siemens and Honeywell will add middleware into their Metasys, Apogee and EBI packages (in JCI’s case that’s probably not much of a prediction).

9.  The global financial meltdown will be transformational to the building industry. The economic situation will brutally force the industry to focus on existing buildings and on the efficiency, operating costs and the prudent use of technology to improve the operation of those buildings, resulting in higher performing buildings. Innovative approaches that have yet to be widely adopted will become the norm, and existing companies will give way to innovative startup companies by the time the recession ends and the recovery is in place. Integrated building systems and smart buildings will be one of the trends to benefit.

For more information about smart buildings, technology design or to schedule a Continuing Education program, email me at jsinopoli@smart-buildings.com.


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