Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Optimizing facilities and sustainability management with IoT and AI

In India, where most energy is still derived from non-renewable sources such as coal, better building facilities management significantly impacts the economy

Buildings play a key role in global energy consumption, eating up about 40% of all energy humanity makes. Buildings also produce 36% of all carbon emissions globally. By 2030, this consumption is expected to reach 50%. In India, the numbers are even steep. Indian buildings consume 70% of all energy generated, of which 50% go only for comfort, such as cooling, and lighting.

The Energy and Resources Institute in India (TERI) says that commercial buildings alone contribute to 8 percent of all building, which are all potential places for facilities optimization initiatives. More than 80 percent of the total lifecycle energy of buildings goes into operations alone, with electricity accounting for more than 90% of it.

In today’s connected age, the sheer power of bringing together various aspects of building facilities on to a single IoT (Internet of Things) platform makes a remarkable difference to not only a company’s bottom line, but also to the environment. In India, where most energy is still derived from non-renewable sources such as coal, better building facilities management significantly impacts the economy, and eases the stress on the environment.

The above section focusses much on building energy rather our primary goals include operations, asset health, and sustainability. We could start off with the problem that automation and FM-tech don’t interoperate today and that’s necessary for real-time optimization. Like below, The role of facilities management is changing rapidly, with building owners increasingly expecting facilities management teams to be stakeholders and collaborators for business growth. As an industry, facilities management largely involves people, process, and machines working together. This mandates huge operational spend (globally, facilities services spend is close to $1 trillion today and the spend on energy in buildings is also close to that amount). And despite billions of dollar worth of investments, CRE facilities continue to operate at sub-optimal levels.

This is because traditionally the building automation layer and the facility management layer have acted independent of each other that has consequently buried useful data and created expensive operational inefficiencies. Up until now, CREs and FMs have been put at a blind-spot and have relied on inefficient processes of juggling between tools and systems to firefight issues rather than proactively controlling operations from the driver’s seat. But now, the focus is shifting towards highly efficient operations and an elevated occupant experience.

The advantage in technology adoption to unify operations and centrally manage portfolio performance in real-time is multi-fold and it helps to concurrently optimize the lifespan of assets and improve sustainability savings. Operating costs have always been a primary outlay for CREs and this software-led approach directly benefits the net operating income for property owners, while significantly enhancing the amenity value of the property.

IoT-based platforms: A unified approach for qualitative and quantitative improvement of facilities:

IoT has already begun to positively impact every aspect of buildings, from construction to living, and management. IoT-enabled buildings open new windows into efficient management of facilities when real-time data and insights are available to take informed decisions. In legacy buildings that do not have the facility to either install new systems altogether, or to invest heavily in new hardware, software-driven retrofit integration proves to be an excellent solution. When disparate data from various individual building automation systems are brought together and managed on a single platform, such a unified view and real-time control enables and empowers CREs to take informed decisions and improve bottom-line effectively.

Facilities optimization with the power of IoT is much more than undertaking energy savings initiatives alone. It is a constant pursuit of improving every aspect of end-to-end facilities management such as real-time building data management, centralized asset performance, fault detection and corrective workflow integration, and tenant request management at both qualitative, and quantitative levels. While streamlined processes, predictive maintenance, workforce efficiency, better asset health and increased resident comfort figure in the qualitative front, energy savings, operating cost reduction and manpower optimization reduction feature in the quantitative front.

AI and ML in facilities optimization: It gets better with time, and why:

When building owners equip building performance evaluators with a real-time data-backed unified IoT solution, real optimization can be achieved. Facilities optimization is much more than a break-fix, find-and-replace approach of maintaining our living spaces. It is a holistic approach of proactively tuning the whole system into a virtuous cycle, where data empowers continuous improvements of workforce, asset health, and sustainability savings, and the occupant experience, and not serve just as a problem finder.

What gets measured, gets managed. With artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, a unified platform of facilities data can help achieve the best optimization for any building, based on deeper analysis of patterns, anomalies in usage, peak-hour demand, lifetime of fixtures and appliances – in concurrence with maintenance personnel and operational workflows.

Therefore, the journey towards facilities optimization begins when data is pooled into a unified platform, and accelerates when AI and ML kick in to zero-in on the root causes of failures and gaps, arrive at actionable insights, and ensures corrective active in real-time. Further, as is with any data-enabled system, IoT-driven facilities management solutions get better with time, as more data patterns invariably helps in making better predictions and maintenance cycle decisions. The sheer repeatability, mobility, scalability, and concurrence make IoT-enabled centralized facilities optimization, a compelling value proposition in the long run.

Prabhu Ramachandran is CEO and Co-Founder of Facilio.