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HVAC CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE


Insight-led operations complement the contemporary experience-driven real estate ecosystem, where individual occupant comfort takes precedence. Here, Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder and CEO of Facilio, explores how HVAC systems are able to customise performance to optimally address the needs of a building’s inhabitants.


A general consensus has emerged in the commercial real estate industry in recent years, around operational efficiency and outstanding occupant experiences being the most effective ways to add value to the business model and increase profitability. Among the various automation assets embedded in buildings, HVAC infrastructure has a huge impact on both those areas of focus.


It should therefore come as no surprise that advances in technology that optimise such systems are drawing a lot of interest in the industry. Improvements in design, better automation control for enhanced sustainability and operational efficiency are at the core of this evolution, but so is the ability to link data from a network of sensors to system performance. Such software-enabled HVAC systems not only control performance parameters to favour areas in which are occupied at any given time, they are also able customise performance to optimally address the needs of occupants.


“HVAC systems typically account for


around 40% of energy consumption in a building, leading to an equally high proportion of carbon emissions.”


As it turns out, HVAC systems typically account for around 40% of energy consumption in a building, leading to an equally high proportion of carbon emissions. Additionally, a sizable portion of the existing building stock continues to rely on legacy HVAC systems.


Despite the commercialisation of smart devices and widespread availability of low-cost and competitively- priced sensors, actuators and thermostats, the achievable operational efficiency and potential for optimisation is limited, at many sites. As things stand, over 30% of the building stock in the UK is not future ready, which necessitates deploying smarter energy management of HVAC systems, on a very broad scale.


Navigating the complexities, capabilities and costs Internet of Things (IoT) technology has been a revelation in the built environment, enabling integration of previously siloed systems and collation of automation data. However, the greater challenge lies not in the lack of data, but leveraging it effectively, with the help of real time analytics.


34 | TOMORROW’S FM


Smart HVAC solutions are inherently linked to the advantages that IoT technology enables.


An explosion of low-cost sensor-based enhancements, which address specific functional improvements, often end up adding to siloed solutions that add to the complexity of unifying processes at a site and portfolio scale. Although successful in parts, holistically, efficiency is limited in such an approach.


By linking HVAC data and operations to a combination of cloud and application performance interface (API) deployment, buildings can be enabled with innovative capabilities such as app-based personalised environmental and temperature control, a constantly updated digital and dynamic operations based on occupancy. Software and interconnectivity enabled unified HVAC systems are more flexible in performance and can collate more use cases for deeper real-time analytics.


Modern buildings are also required to unlock unprecedented levels of interoperability, to ensure compliance with increasingly stringent regulations. This is consequential, given HVAC systems are convoluted networks of heat exchangers, blowers, coils and compressors, where the performance of each unit needs to be factored into energy consumption and optimisation. Even a seemingly negligible malfunction cannot be overlooked, in such an interdependent ecosystem.


On the other hand, complexities like high energy consumption and increased costs cannot be addressed by compromising occupant comfort, especially with the emergence of the experience economy, which thrives on automated, personalised and on-demand services. This is where traditional BMS systems, and their relatively superficial solutions, lose most ground.


Leveraging existing systems to scale efficiency According to Facilio, a data-driven building operations and maintenance platform, the solution to this predicament lies in leveraging existing HVAC systems to scale efficiency. Facilio’s software-led, hardware-agnostic solution optimises the entire HVAC performance profile of a building without the addition of new hardware, using IoT, AI and ML technologies, working in tandem. Solutions, such as the one enabled by Facilio, are able to synthesise all operational data and lay a smart and intuitive path to efficiency and on-going future-proof and responsive innovation.


This connected and data-driven approach involves IoT- based integration of siloed automation systems and


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