Embracing change: The evolution of building services
They say change is the only constant. The way we work, play & communicate has transformed tremendously over the last few years. A lot of what has changed is due to the massive advancements made by humans and our ability to use digital technologies including the cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. The value that digitalization has brought to our lives is undeniable – and it’s not just a hype. Businesses that fail to adopt digital practices, tools or technologies will get left behind.
The same is true when I think about building services. For years, we have relied on classical forms of performing maintenance checks, monitoring systems and diagnosing issues. I guess it made sense then, especially when a service technician was expected to have physical intervention if any faults were identified. But the ability to monitor, diagnose and in some cases repair an issue can be done remotely today – resulting in faster resolutions, less truck rolls (and therefore fewer emissions) and greater transparency into the building’s performance than ever before. Meanwhile the amount of data provided by systems in a building together with analytical capabilities have evolved as well, allowing for an ongoing analysis of all system parameters and prediction of impending issues.
Here are three main areas of building services which have evolved in recent years and are likely to continue to transform as we learn to leverage the power of data:
1. Remote services
Having a service technician take care of the maintenance of your building systems has many advantages. He knows the system in-and-out, always has a listening ear for any issues and becomes a trusted advisor over the years.
Yet combining this with the advantages of remotely delivered services offers the best of both worlds and adds additional value such as:
- Shorter reaction & resolution times in case of critical incidents
- Pre-diagnosis of any issues to make sure the technician has the right spare parts
- Operational assistance for system operators – sometimes it’s just a simple query
- Alarm monitoring to proactively take care of issues or impending faults
- Preparation and support of on-site maintenance activities
Today more than ever, the need for business continuity and resiliency is a high priority for organizations around the world. The ongoing pandemic has put a spotlight on an organization’s ability to function away from the four walls of their buildings. The same goes for maintenance services – how do we ensure a building is running optimally without needing to go on-site?
2. Analytics Services
With the rapid advancements in data analytics over recent years, a whole new suite of services has emerged. Collecting and analyzing data from different systems allows users to identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption, system anomalities and maintenance needs based on the equipment condition. Smart maintenance programs that take a data driven approach to service result in reduced energy cost, higher system availability and lower OPEX compared to traditional maintenance.
3. Predictive Services
While many analytic services are based on rather static rules and a fixed context in which they are applicable, we see the next generational leap happening right now – thanks to Data Science and Machine Learning. Together with the availability of a massive amount of data from buildings and its systems, the design of smarter algorithms that learn and improve over time to continuously analyze and predict future behavior of the building systems is made possible. It also helps to uncover correlations between human and system behavior, find root causes for recurring problems or show improvement potentials based on future expectations.
This opens a whole new world of possibilities to think about services as a way to create value:
- If we can predict when a specific equipment needs maintenance the next time – why stick to a fixed schedule?
- If we can predict how much energy is needed at any time – we can manage its supply in the most cost-efficient way.
- If we can predict an impending failure in a Lab environment – we can avoid a costly interruption of a production process
- If we can predict how much cooling or heating is needed in a building – we can provide exactly the right amount in the most energy efficient way.
… the opportunities are endless.
Remote, analytics, predictive, managed and cloud-based services – these are not just buzz words or short-lived trends. This combination builds the evolution of building services beyond traditional maintenance in a world where business continuity and resiliency has become even more critical.
Security by Design
Yet, the shift towards digital services has been rather cautious with concerns over data privacy and security. Some of these concerns are justified, but most modern remote and analytics platforms are built with “Security by Design” – incorporating latest security technology and standards. Platform providers are fully aware that a single cybersecurity incident can damage their reputation beyond repair, resulting in the highest priority for the protection of customers’ systems and data. Just like banks have built trust in their online banking services over time, providers of building platforms place the same importance on the security and privacy of the customer’s building data.
At the same time, they build the foundation for the next generation of smart buildings and smart building services. While even the most intelligent algorithms today still give suggestions that get double-checked and executed by subject matter experts, the goal is to enable the building to become autonomous in a way that it can use the insights from analytics and algorithms to take action itself – either by making the necessary adjustments, ordering spare parts, on-site services or suggesting improvement measures to the owner and operator.
Although this might sound intimidating to some, I think it’s about time that we embrace the change that is happening around the world to many industries and apply the learnings to buildings and building services as well. If your building is getting smarter – why isn’t your approach to maintenance?
What are your views on how building services have evolved?
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