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Special Issue 2018

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B Y C H R I S C O L L I N S T oday's HVAC contrac- tors and facility managers are faced with a multitude of challenges, not least the rapidly changing technological landscape surrounding their daily work. Combine that fact with the aging workforce — nearly 40 percent of the facilities workforce is due to retire in the next five years — and it's evident that technology advances and intelligent building automation solutions are needed to enable contrac- tors and managers to keep pace with a rapidly changing buildings environment. These new solutions, in order to be most effective, should be proactive rather than reactive, allowing them to leverage limited resources by fixing occupant comfort and building efficiency issues instead of performing preventive maintenance tasks. The modern facility man- ager no longer has just one building to take care of, which includes ensuring energy ef- ficiency, HVAC occupant com- fort and general daily upkeep — they now typically have charge of three or four buildings. This increase in job scope, as well as physical ground to cover, makes the role of a facility manager increasingly challenging; man- agers simply cannot be in two places at once. HVAC contractors, too, have an increasingly complex and demanding job, oversee- ing multiple jobsites often comprised of multiple build- ings at one time. That is where intelligent building manage- ment systems, which include adaptive analytics and fault detection, can step in to help with monitoring and problem- solving, particularly systems that provide remote access. In order to mitigate against issues surrounding limited resources and increased workloads, mo- bile technologies are increas- ingly important. MAKING A CHANGE In a study conducted last year among facility managers, more than 90 percent of respon- dents thought connecting building management systems to the internet will ensure smart, productive, profitable operations and allow service providers to deliver better value and maximize energy and sustainability. However, when asked what type of approach to building maintenance is taken, half of respondents classified their tactics as reactive. Only 15 percent of respondents reported that they fully utilize predictive maintenance tools, and an additional 35 percent indicated they are somewhat proactive, maintaining building systems by conducting regular preventive maintenance on equipment. There is certainly room for improvement, and we can be hopeful that adap- tive analytic technologies are increasingly adopted in the industry. There is indeed indication that interest in new tech- nologies is on the rise, with 42 percent of survey respondents expressing they are very inter- ested in utilizing an analytics- managed service to gain insight into their buildings and plan more effectively. This interest will likely be heightened in the coming years by the genera- tions that will fill the aforemen- tioned workforce gap, as by 2022, millennials will comprise approximately 50 percent of the workforce. Technologically savvy millennials and future generations will expect the same kind of technology in their business life as in their personal life—namely, the intelligent technology found in the smart- phones that are in the hands of most young adults today. This emerging workforce is used to systems that provide sugges- tions and predictions. The HVAC technician and facility manager of today and tomor- row would like to utilize those technologies for convenience on the job, just as they use apps for their convenience at home. INTEGRATED, INTELLIGENT TECHNOLOGY Among the benefits of utilizing predictive technology, there are a few that directly impact a business' bottom line. Analytic and intelligent technology, which runs in the background at all times in order to monitor all systems and functions 24/7, is able to notify of equipment that is using more energy than necessary. Analytics, diagnos- tics and automated fault detec- tion allow facility managers to efficiently identify and address equipment issues before a large failure occurs, proactively calling in HVAC contractors in order to avoid costly downtime and freeing up their time to spend on issues that are more strategic to the organization. Instead of a facility manager and HVAC contractor occupied with periodic performance- tracking checkups, analytic technology continually filters through building data, report- ing back in real-time. For example, an intelligent building management system would be able to identify that the hot water valves in use in a facility are leaky and need to be replaced. Not only are the valves wasting energy resourc- es, but they also require regular maintenance from HVAC facility technicians, using up valuable time and energy that could be spent on other proj- ects. In replacing the valves, the business can then avoid surplus energy costs and discontinue their regular maintenance, saving labor costs on the part of the contracted HVAC techni- cian and building management team. The system will tell the HVAC engineer when he needs to service the equipment rather than the engineer touching each valve on a regularly sched- uled preventive maintenance schedule. Building analytics systems also can monitor room usage and align with actual us- age, therefore disengaging heat and air conditioning systems in rooms that will not be occupied for the day, or notifying clean- ing staff if a room has not been used recently and, therefore, likely does not need cleaning. This further saves time, energy and costs. A capable, increasingly tech- savvy workforce of HVAC con- tractors and facilities manage- ment professionals will readily produce solutions to their own individual challenges, with technology at their side. A shift from a reactive to proactive ap- proach to facilities management is on the horizon, and our build- ings, businesses and workforce will be better for it. Chris Collins is regional vice president of the south region for Schneider Electric's EcoBuilding Division. Leveraging new technologies to manage, service facilities WORKING SMART HVACPproducts.com HVAC & Plumbing Product News \ Special Issue 2018 14

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