Smart buildings are slowly becoming a global phenomenon and widely popular in the GCC with its growing awareness for sustainability. Unlike the past, when buildings were simply physical infrastructure, today they generate volumes of data. Deployment of innovative and ground-breaking intelligent FM services in buildings will ensure correct interpretation of all building data, including temperature, carbon emissions and average energy consumption.
The GCC is making rapid strikes in its move towards a smart city. A recently-released building survey claims Dubai and Doha top the list of Middle Eastern cities with the “smartest” cities. The Honeywell Smart Building Score (HSBS) is a global index designed to assess buildings, and evaluated 620 buildings across Abu Dhabi, Dammam, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait City, and Riyadh this year. More than half of the surveyed cities in the region have only limited connectivity and integration of building systems. The survey said the Middle East’s average smart building score is 48 out of a possible 100. Doha’s average building score is 70, over 20 points higher than the regional average, while Dubai’s average score is 65. Abu Dhabi is third on the list with 48 points.
Speaking about HSBS, Norm Gilsdorf, President for Honeywell’s Middle East, Central Asia and Russia regions, explains that it is a unique framework that evaluates how green, safe and productive a building is – the three main criteria for a smart building. “At Honeywell, we believe that smart buildings are the fundamental building blocks of smart cities, and since the move to smarter cities is high on the regional agenda, the initiative has been very well received. The study involved an examination of a sample of 620 buildings across seven industries (retail, hospitals, high-rise residential, education, airports, private offices and hotels) in seven GCC cities to measure the ‘smartness’ of buildings. The HSBS evaluates a building’s use of 15 technology assets to find out which systems are in place to make them green, safe and productive. The systems’ overall capabilities, coverage of the facility and uptime are then factored in. Overall, Doha and Dubai led the scores in the survey across the board,” he adds.
The study also found that while Doha and Dubai lead the region for smart buildings in terms of being green, safe and productive, 57 percent of buildings surveyed – with the exception of airports - had no connectivity or integration of the building’s various technology assets. “This is a major area where we can improve the ‘smartness’ of buildings across industries region-wide. The integration of building systems is very important, because it maximizes efficiency and streamlines operations by centralising information from standalone systems. This results in more efficient performance, simplified operations and reduced energy and operating costs. In short, integration is the key to fulfilling a building’s full ‘smart’ potential,” adds Gilsdorf.
The market is certainly developing in the region. According to a 2015 ‘Markets and Markets’ study, the global smart building market is expected to grow from $7,260 million in 2015 to $36,398.7 million by 2020, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 38.0%. Manoj Soni, Vice President, Eco Building Division - Gulf and Pakistan, Schneider Electric, says, “Given the consistent uptake of the latestin IT, the region’s digital readiness as well as the large investments being made in infrastructure, the Gulf region is following this global growth trend. Both the private and public sector have realised its economic, environmental and health advantages, offering the smart building supplier market with numerous opportunities for growth. The move towards smart solutions in infrastructure also fits into the government’s sustainability objectives, as highlighted in the UAE Vision 2021– an initiative that Schneider Electric is very much aligned with.”
Riccardo Rossini, the EMEA Manager, EFM, adds that the region has been investing and pushing innovation and intelligent solutions to enable buildings to become smart.According to him, the region is investing and pushing innovation and intelligent solutions to enable buildings to become smart. Technology, he says, is becoming mature. “Today pioneers are operating Smart Buildings touching the effectiveness and improving operations and sustainability. Laggards are starting to adopt Smart Solutions, available in the market, knowing that the traditional approach is no more effective in buildings with a high level of technology and interconnected systems. This is the right moment to evaluate results and design a smarter future in a Digital Real Estate,” adds Rossini.
The region’s facilities management sector is poised to play a vital role in the transformation to smart cities through the implementation and management of intelligent building technologies such as monitoring and sensor technologies, as well as energy and waste management systems. “Building operators are faced with rising utility costs that will likely increase in the years ahead – particularly as governments in the region look to reduce water and electricity tariff subsidies. Smart building technologies can now help create intelligent buildings that bring many advantages. These include lower costs and improved ROI over the building’s life span, optimized performance and functionality, automated monitoring and control, greater occupant comfort, and additional safety and security,” says Gilsdorf.
Smart building technologies, says Gilsdorf, allows facility managers to be more in control of their buildings, and to be better connected to them through integrated systems which maximises the assets, reduces costs and streamlines the operations. These technologies also help building owners drive more value from their investments, and drive increased asset capability, coverage, and uptime.
Agrees Rossini. He goes on to add that the implementation of Building Management System (BMS) and IoT solutions have enabled effective remote building control, by means of a Network Operating Centre that gathers signals and alerts from the fields, elaborates them and anticipates failures, thanks to the predictive maintenance provided by intelligent sensors. “This is the best way to extend buildings and systems lifecycles, as well as improve the quality of living or working. Common targets enable happier clients and more effective and productive suppliers. This last component, productivity, is improved by the adoption of mobile solutions, designed to support craftspeople during their daily work, enabling management of all the needed information through a simple smartphone,” says Rossini.
With the increasing uptake of smart solutions and commitments being made towards upgrading city infrastructure to meet new building and environmental regulations, there is more awareness on Building Management Solutions (BMS) in the regional and global markets. Building owners and facilities managers are also recognising the amount of energy heating and cooling systems consume within buildings – and are working to change this trend. “We have seen an increasing number of enterprises demanding BMS to reduce energy, maintenance and labor costs while positively contributing to the comfort, safety and health of occupants,” says Soni.
Rossini says that they have observed a new market trend, where more companies, under the influence of Digital Transformation and Sustainability, are evolving their operational models towards Decision Support Systems. “A growing number and complexity of information and data to handle requires an IWMS/BMS integrated platform to control and obtain the needed visibility. The best approach would be to start implementing such kind of integrated solutions already during the design phase, to identify the best solution to optimise the Total Cost of Ownership. Later in the process, during the construction phase, the building inventory is implemented, so that during commissioning real data with the appropriate level of details is obtained and managed,” he adds.
According to Rossini, the awareness is there but only during the O & M phase, when low value-added effort goes into solving issues brought about the poor management during the previous design, construction and commissioning phases. “More and more companies require integrated solutions with different targets, from a running cost reduction approach to a more mature holistic model involving BIM models, IWMS, BMS and IoT integrated platforms,” he adds.
Technology trends have transformed BMS over the last few years. Internet of Things and Big data are some fundamental drivers that have transformed automation systems in the last few years – to make them more efficient for real-time monitoring, remote controllers, and visibility on analytics at the click of a button. “The new generation of BMS is also more user-friendly. For example, Schneider Electric’s Smart Panel operates on reliable and simple-to-install displays in Ethernet and Modbus interfaces on Enerlin’X digital communication systems. It provides centralized intelligence and can be accessed wirelessly online, providing experts with 24 x 7 data on their building functions. Today’s BMS systems use advanced dashboards and diagnostics to provide users with a systemic approach to energy management – monitor, connect, save. Moving forward, we will see more changes in the BMS as we experience newer levels of connectivity, different forms of secure data storage and faster processing systems for actionable analytics,” says Soni.
When it comes to supporting intelligent buildings there are few limitations faced by BMS service providers. Soni says that one often faces issues in integrating state-of-the-art solutions with legacy systems. “Property owners who invested in solutions without scalability are reluctant to invest in brand new systems for financial reasons as well as the possible business downtime. Keeping such limitations in mind, Schneider Electric’s BMS is highly customizable and scalable, allowing customers to conveniently plan for future renovations in their properties,” he adds.
The important aspect of these systems is that they can also be used to help meet sustainable standards. As they not only have a strong influence on equipment and real estate life cycle extension but it also has a positive effect on the economic stability, explains Rossini. “Optimal facilities operations, ensured by CAFM and BMS systems (Centralized Lighting Control Systems, Energy Management Systems and Water Management Systems), have a strong impact on energy consumption and efficiency for the benefit of environmental sustainability. And, healthy and comfortable environments have important implications in terms of the welfare of workers, as well as respect for regulatory compliance, hitting the sphere of social sustainability,” he says. While Rossini goes on to add, “In my opinion, the Real Estate industry is the one with the highest impact on economic, social and environmental sustainability; adopting virtuous models, today made possible by new technologies, allow achieving important results, triggering a virtuous real estate growth.”
Gilsdorf says that while the Middle East in general is doing well in terms of smart buildings, there is always scope for continuous improvement. “We have found that the active technology components which make buildings smart can always be made better through improved maintenance, operations or upgrades – regardless of how old they may be,” he sums up.