Your questions answered: Smart buildings, network requirements

This Q&A looks at many aspects of smart buildings, including how smart building capabilities can be leveraged in COVID-19

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer October 4, 2022
Julianne Laue, left, and Sanjyot V. Bhusari

Industry insights:

  • Smart building experts Julianne Laue, PE, LEED AP BD+C, BEMP, director of building performance, Mortenson, Minneapolis, and Sanjyot V. Bhusari, PE, CEM, LEED AP, Principal, Intelligent Buildings Practice Leader, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Gainesville, Florida, answer questions around smart buildings. This transcript is from a May 2020 webcast and has been edited for clarity.

Q: How do converged networks work in multitenant buildings? How do we future-proof smart buildings to account for upcoming trends and ethernet speeds and commercial office buildings?

Julianne Laue: I will say that the design of converge networks and multitenant buildings depends on how you’re setting up everything and what you’re going to do with your lease agreements and how you want to handle all of that. I’ll go back to my comment earlier about expertise in having experts and really working with those experts that are out there on making that successful. It was a quick answer to that, but I hope the reference was good enough. The second piece of it was future proofing smart buildings to account for upcoming trends and even at speeds and all of this great stuff that’s happening, whether it’s in commercial office buildings or anywhere else.

Future proofing is a tough thing. I have lots of clients right now who will say things about, “Hey, are these people going to be around in five years? I’ve never heard of them it for.” Or, “If they go out of business, what’s going to happen with the technology?” Future proofing is all about our own intelligence and what we’re looking at. And then also being able to understand the… For those people to be understanding what’s coming up on the horizon. And the beautiful thing is, is new things are coming out all the time with new technologies and things working together. Future proofing, in a lot of ways, if you’ve got it open and if you’ve set up things the way that, you’re really doing a great job in that first step toward future proofing.

Q: Please discuss network requirements for smart buildings?

Sanjyot V. Bhusari: We start with looking at understanding bandwidth in terms of network requirements. If you look at the main network specifically with the electric vehicle equipment, computers, phones, the bandwidth of a smart building, if you may, is less or the requirements are less. Then again, the power or ethernet requirements are more on the internet of things side. There are so many devices now that use the power over Ethernet type approach. Understanding those requirements are instrumental. Then again, from a maintenance point of view, do you use the information technology standards for the smart building network or do you use a separate standard? I think there is, of course, discussion as well as security discussion to be had there since scalable is very, very important. Redundancy is important. Cybersecurity is important. These are all different perspectives that we would look at as we develop those requirements for information technology.

Q: Any thoughts on how internet of things could help with the COVID-19 situation?

Julianne Laue: Where we’re seeing IoT and smart devices and just general overall information that you can trend and monitor from a building automation system with COVID is fantastic. Being able to modify those sequences of operation to get your pre-post purges that ASHRAE is looking for. Monitoring outside air quantities, so that you can really look at optimizing the ventilation, paying attention to loading and filters, but also really understanding where you’re at and filter change out. So going into maintenance systems, to be able to make sure that you’re getting those filter changes. The other piece too, we need to be monitoring relative humidity in these spaces and keeping it in that 40°F to 60°F range.

Even if you’re smart building technology and I’m using simple and it’s not the right word, but it is even as tried and true as your BAS, just having those trend logs and being able to monitor and analyze data around those systems is huge. The other thing too, if you can start tracking occupancy of buildings and trending that as well, so that as can monitor the people number of people in the building and you can monitor your HVAC systems. That way you’re really knitting all of this information together. For some things it’s going to require a little bit of extra legwork and if you did really have a smart building, this should be something that is simple.

Sanjyot V. Bhusari: When we look at it from a health care point of view, you’re certainly looking at a need for spaces that can be in pandemic mode. Having a control system that can take us to that at a click of a button is a strategy that we’ve used at the same time, we are in a very interesting situation where we’ve been collecting building sensor data for a long time. But if you add the people data that goes with it, with appropriate privacy standards in place, I think we can have a major impact in addressing some of these COVID situations and have some good outcomes if it’s a deeper topic. But that’s where we are focused on is combining people data with building sensor data to solve those problems.

Q: Is the trend now to integrate communication backbone for BAS and IT? BAS and IT, are those integrated?

Sanjyot V. Bhusari: It’s a very good question. The way I would answer it is in two perspectives. One is, is integrating them solving any problems? And if it is then it’s a good strategy to use. From a trend point of view, it definitely is a trend where the platforms are converging and because you have so many devices that are jumping onto this platform, the security of that is so important. We are now having to pay a lot of attention to all the networking requirements that I just described. I think the trend is in the right direction, but again, we need to answer it specific to our client’s need in terms of, is it solving a problem that the client has and what are the outcomes that we can associate with it?

Q: In the Fiserv Forum example, are they all integrated on the same network? Are they on different networks? Did you work with one manufacturer? How did that all come together?

Julianne Laue: There was a smart building partner who managed the smart building technology, integration and infrastructure. It was all deployed on one unified intelligent infrastructure. And on that was HVAC building animation, security, lighting, fire protection and IT.