Four steps to getting started on your smart building approach

When it comes to creating a smart building, there is no right or wrong way, it all boils down to what your goals are and what the desired end-state is.

By Ronan O’Mahony, Envise September 6, 2017

One of the challenges in developing a "smart building" is that most owners have a different idea of what a smart building really is. One common thread in many smart building projects is that the building typically harvests information and utilizes this data to make decisions on how the building systems are operating and interacting. The decisions made by the building can be very straightforward such as leveraging additional daylight with shade and temperature control, or more complex, like integrating the movement of tenants within the building, with the systems to heat or cool the spaces that are or will be occupied.

As data continues to be collected, trends and patterns of building use start to emerge, which can, in turn, enable building systems to optimize and learn, and ultimately provide a sort of building artificial intelligence.

Going beyond a singular building, once many buildings are using their systems dynamically based on load and use, connected smart buildings can working together on a smart grid. They will be able to communicate with each other and pull energy from the grid when required, but also provide energy back to the grid when necessary. This dynamic sharing of resources will be able to reduce energy waste and provide additional revenue streams.

For owners and developers who desire to embark on the development of a smart building, here are some steps below to help get started.

1. Develop the journey

When clients first think about smart buildings, they often think about using the latest and most exciting technology. However, before jumping right in to using technology, take a step back and ask yourself what will make this a smart building? What is the goal and the vision? Spending a lot of time upfront in the vision and discovery process will help ensure you embark on a different path. Building your team at this stage with the right people will be critical to get them on board and make them a part of the process. Strategically, the team must try and get aligned on the project goals and vision during this discovery process.  Once you and your team are aligned on the details, it’s time to make a plan to plot the journey. It’s more than purchasing a piece of the latest whiz-bang technology; it’s making a commitment to change.

2. Enabling the stakeholders

Understanding the path is important, but in order to get things done, enabling the stakeholders and, ultimately a champion who will be responsible for the outcome, will be essential. The more team members who will bring value to the process that can be added, the less likely it will be for you to have roadblocks along the way.  Select a champion who can effectively communicate the vision to others, and has a track record for accomplishing new initiatives successfully.  There are benefits for the champion to be an internal partner, however also adding an external industry partner gives an outside perspective and focus on all the possibilities. An external partner can also bring an unbiased approach.

3. Make time to meet

One of the hardest steps within this journey will be to continually dedicate time to meet and follow the plan. To accomplish this, your champion and team members will need to make a commitment to meeting on a regular basis. Specifically, it’s important to discuss what steps are next, what needs to be done to successfully complete those steps, and who owns these actions.

4. Just do it

Congratulations! You’ve got this far in the process, meaning you have assembled the right team and they are focused and committed. It’s time to execute the actions. Strive for early wins in aligning other stakeholders and gaining financial commitment. Execute on these early steps and show progress and activity. Maintain the excitement to gain further interest in the initiative. There is a lot more work to get done, but you’ve laid the foundation and built your team with the right people.

When it comes to creating a smart building, there is no right or wrong way, it all boils down to what your goals are and what the desired end-state is. If these aren’t clear, it will be hard to gain traction and measure progress.

Smart buildings have the potential to completely change the way we interact with buildings and change our work lives. At the end of the day, the building should work for its occupants and not the other way around. Building a process and path to follow a plan will be a critical success factor to achieve this realization.  

Ronan O’Mahony is Branch Manager for the Envise’s Portland office. This article originally appeared on Southland Industries blog, Southland Industries is a CFE Media content partner.

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