3 April 2019

The campus of tomorrow is digital, flexible, and agile – just like our finance!

College and university campuses by their very nature have a difficult challenge of housing, educating and employing thousands of people at a time. Many are looking to smart technology to help them run more efficiently, reduce costs and better serve staff and students.

Have your cake and eat it too – with flexible funding for Smart University spaces

All campus buildings can be made more efficient and more comfortable through the use of automated heating and cooling technologies. As well as measuring and adjusting the temperature of specific spaces, these systems can also take into account the weather forecast and occupancy levels in order to heat and cool the buildings in the most energy-efficient way possible. Occupants can digitally provide feedback on comfort levels and influence changes in temperature.

Similarly, lighting levels can be localised according to use of a particular space. A study space benefits from a different kind and strength of light compared to a shopping or relaxation space, for example. Light can also be adjusted according to levels of natural light outside and automatically switched off when the space is unoccupied.

As well as temperature and lighting, sensors can also monitor occupancy and usage to ensure spaces are being used as efficiently as possible. With a real-time data dashboard providing an overview of usage, universities can save energy, while also monitoring where key assets such as IT equipment, for example, and even personnel, such as technicians, are required.

Smart technology can also help contribute to the effective maintenance of campus buildings. Sensors can report waste bin levels to optimise collection, for example. Sensors can also detect when equipment might be in need of attention before it fails allowing for predictive maintenance. Information on the exact nature of the maintenance required can be sent to mobile devices in real time.

Campus security and safety is another area where smart technology can be deployed. Automated technologies, such as video surveillance, access control and, mass notification systems can improve safety by controlling who can enter which buildings and sending notifications if security is breached, therefore enabling fast responses.

Now, at the very forefront of technology, smart buildings are being linked to smart learning in order to optimise the student experience. Intelligent timetabling, for example,means systems can select rooms appropriate for lessons based on what the lecturer is planning to teach, helping to maximise student comfort and therefore engagement. Wayfinding via mobile apps can help guide students to classes and adjust routes to take account of special needs such as wheelchair access and, when they arrive, facial recognition can be used to monitor attendance. This can then be taken a step further through the use of emotion recognition software which can help identify disengaged and struggling students, allowing for early intervention. The software can gauge a student’s level of interest by analysing body language and movement. This data can then be used to influence teaching techniques and content to ensure that students are stimulated and paying attention.

However, higher education budgets continue to be put under pressure and pioneering finance managers are looking to optimize their capital deployment by moving tangible investments – such as smart-building conversion – away from capital expenditure (CAPEX) on the balance sheet and into operating expenditure (OPEX). Effectively, the supplier of a “service” such as smart-building conversion deploys financial techniques and solutions that remove the need to devote own capital, bundling the smart-building conversion into a monthly fee across an agreed-upon contractual period.

In other words, finance managers are increasingly looking for ways to pay for outcomes – in this case energy savings and other smart-building advantages. There are a variety of modern financing models that allow this to happen, but the most attractive of these involves smart solutions partners that are able to do this at low or zero net cost for the building’s owner – public or private.

Using smart financing techniques, the integrated solutions provider introduces technology and systems to create intelligent buildings that deliver a clearly predictable level of energy savings. The reduction in energy costs is then harnessed to effectively fund the cost of conversion.

The building owner has kept traditional lines of credit open and conserved funds for strategically important development activities.

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