Buildings and spaces on campuses are now highly dependent on advanced technology to monitor and control their environment. Lighting, air conditioning, security, lifts, and utility meters are just some of the systems that rely on sophisticated computerised control for their regular operation. Campus buildings under construction today will typically include between 15-20 different control systems to operate. Facility management teams are now confronted with additional challenges in maintaining these controls systems to achieve the following aims:
- Ensure the essential level of operation is maintained and that the intended design conditions are met.
- Maximise the comfort and utility of the space for the occupants
- Reduce risk.
- Improve plant efficiency and maximise its “useful life”.
Modern hardware and software have delivered extensive improvements in cost reductions, increased capability and improved reliability for these building control systems. However, the maintenance contracts for these systems have not evolved to keep pace with the changes in the technology.
Service offerings appear to be stuck in a time warp where tasks carried out are more appropriate to control systems based on the technology from thirty years ago when pneumatics and simple electric time clocks dominated in buildings. Service activities are primarily focused on labour intensive tasks associated with checking and calibrating field equipment. Correspondingly, little attention is given to the operational performance of the overall system.
With the advent of modern control systems and cloud-based analytics and with machine learning systems just around the corner; we now have the capability to use extensive data logging and include sophisticated self-diagnostics and fault analysis along with capability. So why isn’t this capability used to achieve the desired aims?
With considered thought and a good understanding of the components that are used in the building, maintenance contracts can be restructured. The focus can then be shifted away from ineffective labour intensive tasks to analysing key elements of the building operation. The overall goal – to reduce costs, optimise efficiency and improve outcomes.
Vince Simpson has been involved in the design, construction, service, and sales of technology and controls to the building and construction industry since 1986. This included time spent at senior management levels with major BMS contractors and 15 years as one of the founding directors of IBMS – a specialist group applying technology in the built environment to improve efficiency and usability to deliver innovative high-value solutions. In his career, he has been actively involved in the successful deployment of technology solutions in a number of university campuses across Australia.