The Butterfly Effect and Smart Buildings: Arming Facility Managers with Data to Build Business Success

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In a recent post my colleague brought up the concept of the butterfly effect – the idea that small events can have large consequences – and how it’s illustrated in a series of humorous videos from Schneider Electric. That post referred to a video about an electrical engineer in a hospital who is instrumental in ensuring a patient’s surgery goes off without a hitch despite a power outage (and the significant consequences that ensue.

But the butterfly effect isn’t confined to such obviously high-profile, life-or-death settings as hospitals. As another in the butterfly effect video series demonstrates, it could just as easily apply to an ordinary office building.

Well, maybe not an ordinary office building, but one controlled by smart technology. A facility manager who is adept at his job can be instrumental to business success simply by ensuring the environment is comfortable for all concerned – even helping the company save a huge deal armed with nothing more than his smart phone.

Well, that and some sophisticated technology that the phone connects to. But this is no far-fetched, Jetsons-like scenario; rather, it’s one that’s playing out in an increasing number of office buildings around the world. It is no secret that a comfortable work environment and good indoor air quality can have a positive impact on employee productivity, which improves the bottom line. In fact, the World Green Building Council reports that productivity increases by 11% from improved ventilation, and by 23% from better lighting. On the other hand, productivity declines 4% in cooler temperatures and 6% in warmer temperatures.

A-Buiten-2bAn example of a building making use of smart technology is Schneider Electric’s own Dutch headquarters. The building earned an ISO 50001 certificate, the standard for energy management, as well as a BREEAM-NL “Excellent” rating. (BREEAM-NL is the Netherlands’ version of the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).

Crucial to achieving those ratings is the information about energy use that flows throughout the building. As the video highlights, such information is critical for facility managers to do their jobs effectively.

The challenge is that information about energy consumption is spread over several sources and departments. That’s where Schneider Electric’s SmartStruxure™ solution comes in. It’s an integrated building management system that collects information from many different systems and delivers it in real time to dashboards where facility managers can see trends, reports and alerts. Armed with this data, facility personnel can monitor and manage operational and energy performance, making fact-based decisions to improve building performance, control energy use and ensure occupant comfort.

Numerous sensors throughout the building provide a wealth of information, including precise energy and water consumption rates. Occupancy sensors control both lighting and climate, switching off the lights and adjusting the thermostat when occupants leave a room. The data also enables facility managers to monitor and control climate systems, lighting, security and other important building systems.

The SmartStruxure solution makes all of this information available to facility managers and others wherever they may be, using open communications standards and web technology. Users can easily access information and manage the building via an on-site work station or remotely via a standard web browser or an app on their mobile devices.

Learn more about Schneider Electric’s Dutch head office by reading this case study.

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