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Information is the New Utility in Smart Buildings

Within buildings and
across entire cities, information as a utility will bring about far reaching improvements to the whole energy value chain as well as society itself.
James McHale
James McHale,
Managing Director,

 Information is the New Utility in Smart Buildings

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“Network infrastructure for the building is going to be a new utility”, says Byron Thom, vice-president of Systems at, Vancouver based, Optigo Networks. It is a view shared by many in the industry as we move into an age of widespread intelligence in buildings. By developing the infrastructure for information to flow like power and water, we can bring about efficiencies and benefits throughout the building and beyond.

Construction companies should understand the proliferation of Building Automation and expand on the concept of Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) to include IT networks as a utility. “Just as you provide water, power and ducting to a building, buildings of the future or smart buildings are going to require this building utility, which is communication within the building to allow all of the sensors and actuators to interconnect and function properly”, says Thom.

By deploying sensors and connected devices throughout a building we can optimise energy usage, reduce waste and therefore significantly reduce overall consumption. Globally, buildings consume more than 40% of total energy and almost half of this is said to be unnecessary waste.

Of a building’s total operating costs, energy accounts for at least one third. By giving greater focus to smart technology and energy optimisation we can significantly reduce cost to building owners, ease the increasing strain on power utility companies and have a profoundly positive impact on the environment.

“With the advent of IoT we now have the capability to join “things” together more efficiently and cost effectively in a building; let’s call it the Building Internet of Things (BIoT). This technology can collect data from all the sensors and devices and with Big Data software, analyze all of this data and immediately optimise and fully automate the buildings performance”, explains Memoori’s in-depth report on The Transformation of BAS into the Building Internet of Things.

For this change to come about it is essential that construction companies take this concept into account at the design stage; providing the physical infrastructure for information, the same as they would for MEP. “There needs to be a way that you can connect all of those technologies in a building and bring it back to a type of building management system, and I think construction companies are starting to get on board”, says Thom. Indeed Building Information Modelling supports this and is becoming more prevalent around the world.

contemporary In addition to construction firms, the advancement of the Internet of Things creates a huge opportunity for electrical contractors, who are already installing power conduits and cabling in buildings. “If it does come to pass that a network is always installed in every building that’s constructed because it’s expected that the building will be smart, it’s typically going to be the electrical contractor that’s implementing that network”. Those electrical contractors are in the position to both encourage network infrastructure and benefit from it.

We can also take this concept a huge step forward with the harmonization of the energy & buildings markets. “Energy and buildings markets are beginning the tricky process of harmonization as major global firms look to capitalise on opportunities surrounding smart grids and distributed energy”, suggests our most recent report Smart Buildings Meet the Smart Grid: Markets, Trends & Enabling Technologies 2015 to 2020.

These solutions are sometimes referred to as “grid edge intelligence”, distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS), and demand response management systems (DRMS). By implementing this type of technology we can integrate many, and eventually all, buildings into a dynamic system that can optimise energy use over entire neighbourhoods, cities and countries. It is essential that utility companies adapt to this concept of distributed energy.

The utility sector already spend billions of dollars annually on IT software for back office services, customer engagement and meter data management. “We expect that the software required for the Smart Grid to Smart building interface will account for a significant portion of utility smart grid software investment over the next 5 years. Total market revenues are expected to nearly double between 2015 and 2020 growing from $1.1Bn to $1.94 over the period. This represents a healthy compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12%” the report continues.

We may have been talking about this for sometime but as the technology continues to develop it becomes increasingly important to give greater weight to information infrastructure within the wider energy debate. Within buildings and across
entire cities, information as a utility will bring about far reaching improvements to the whole energy value chain as well as society itself.


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