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CABA: Imagining a New Deal for Buildings

Technology will enable more productive indoor environments, says the Continental Automated Buildings Alliance. Excerpts from its new White Paper.

On January 22 at the AHR Expo in Chicago, the Continental Automated Buildings Alliance (CABA) released a new white paper, intended to encourage dialogue on how the building automation system industry can advance and deliver significantly better value to building owners, facility managers, and society at large. Overseen by an industry working group, the 44-page paper was primarily authored by Anto Budiardjo of Cimetrics Inc. His co-authors included: David Katz, Sustainable Resources Management Inc.; Harsha Chandrashekar, Honeywell International Inc.; John Petze, SkyFoundry, LLC; Mike Welch, Fulham Co. Inc.; Ron Bernstein, Lonmark International; and Therese Sullivan, buildingcontext.me.

The white paper can be downloaded for free at www.caba.org/white-papers. For much more discussion of these issues, go to where it all began, at: https://newdeal.blog.

Foreward

The Building Automation System (BAS) industry is made up of many passionate individuals working for large multinational companies as well as technology start-ups. These manufacturers are supported by local providers and technology-focused groups, committees, systems integrators, consultants, specialists, media, and bloggers. The past decades have brought about dramatic developments in technology, business practices, and approaches. 

Today, the industry is grappling with impending disruption brought about by information technology, specifically the “digitalization of everything” under the moniker of the Internet of Things (IoT). 

In mid-2017, some industry thought leaders saw the need to initiate a conversation about how best the industry should adapt to the age of data. It started as an online blog “A New Deal for Buildings” (www.newdeal.blog). This blog became the inspiration for this white paper created under the auspices and guidance of Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA), the industry body that lies at the center of BAS discussion, education, and advancement. 

The New Deal is not promoting any specific technology or company, nor is it a new association or other entity. The New Deal is designed to encourage dialogue on how the BAS industry can advance and deliver significantly better value to customers including building owners, facility managers, and society at large. All will benefit from the best possible indoor environment and energy performance of their buildings.

Discussing disruptive forces can be both invigorating and uncomfortable. Many CABA members will be excited by the New Deal, while others will see it as unnecessary and counter to their current business priorities. A better way to view disruption is that it is inescapable. Acknowledging and discussing responses to disruption is much better than the inevitable external disruption from entities less able to fulfill the needs of building owners, operators, and managers. 

CABA hopes that this paper lays out the background, issues, tenets, driving forces, and possible responses for the industry. The authors know that they are not omniscient and seek input from all in the industry to further the mission of the New Deal.

Executive Summary

Buildings today are much more than the shelter they provided in the 20th century. Buildings have become centers of productivity, places of learning, art and entertainment, and gathering places for our increasingly urban life. Innovation in architecture, construction techniques, and building materials are changing how we create and operate these physical structures. The occupants of these buildings –we humans– are evolving our use of digital technology. Internet-delivered products and services are making our lives easier, more productive, and more enjoyable. Enterprises are also profiting from the increase in productivity through online tools such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Building Information Modeling (BIM), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), as well as innovations such as supply chain, social media, and e-Commerce. 

The focus on creating a “New Deal” is a key missing part of this picture. We believe that the relationship between building owners and building vendors is currently broken, especially in the area of how building automation systems and rapidly multiplying IoT devices are used to improve the value and utility of facilities. We believe that by enhancing this relationship, both enterprises and people who occupy buildings will reap significant benefits. 

We are not naive about the complexities of building a modern facility. The approaches we propose accept the realities of the new construction and retrofit processes, and provide a path to improve them, especially in the area of operating the building from construction until demolition. 

We believe that it’s time for vendors and owners to take action, and demand that the design and construction process enable owners and occupants to benefit from the type of technology, products, and services that can unlock the full potential of buildings for the 21st century and beyond. 

Introduction 

The dramatic explosion of technology in the recent decade, driven by the consumer Internet, is providing a wake-up call for the buildings industry. In our daily lives, we carry smartphones that allow us to talk to anyone on the planet via voice or video! We can summon any music we desire, watch any TV channel, purchase any item we want, keep track of our health, and communicate with our social networks in ways that were unforeseen just a few years ago. Perhaps most relevant, we can also control the equipment and systems in our homes. 

On the supply side, businesses have an unprecedented view of their consumers through the massive trove of big data we leave as bread crumbs along our daily digital journey. The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking us further into this digitally-enabled world; the number of smart devices is predicted to overtake the number of humans in short order. Smart refrigerators, toasters, toothbrushes, transportation, and other innovative devices are starting to make the Jetsons look quite real… at home, anyway! 

And yet, when we look at buildings, we see a different picture. If you ask facility managers what issue they have to deal with on a daily basis, many would say “hot and cold calls,” occupants uncomfortable with the temperature of their indoor environment. But such calls are like a consumer needing to call Spotify or Pandora when their music is too loud or too soft; it’s clearly absurd. 

And similarly, businesses that spend a significant portion of their Operating Expenditures (OPEX) on facilities have little visibility on the comfort and productivity of employees occupying their buildings, nor on how the performance of their retail properties is contributing to or is a detriment to sales, nor on the waste of energy and other valuable resources, nor the risks of exposure to regulatory noncompliance. 

So, the question is why? Since the same technology used by the consumer tech market is also available to buildings, why is it so hard to make buildings truly intelligent and realize the immense value to owners and occupants? 

Three Tenets for the New Deal 

The “New Deal” is built on three important tenets: open standards, digital twins, and service transparency. 

Individually, these bring a great deal of value, but when delivered in combination, they provide a powerful and compelling roadmap for getting the most from today’s and tomorrow’s buildings. More importantly, these tenets are designed to improve the relationship between vendors and owners, as well as to contribute to improving their respective businesses. The three building blocks of the “New Deal” are interconnected by design, each magnifying the contribution of the others. They collectively provide a huge boost to the value of buildings for their owners and improve the ability of vendors to increase the value of their products and services. 

  1. Open Standards: The three attributes of standards identified in the “New Deal” (ubiquitous communications, open discovery, and a common semantic lexicon) are keys to enabling buildings to reap the full benefit of today’s and tomorrow’s technologies. This combination makes device selection from multiple vendors easier, as many of the common types of devices are now plug-and-play commodities. The richness of information from these devices uniquely enables the model-based analytics to create Digital Twins that are at the heart of the “New Deal”. The widespread acceptance of these standards has created, and will continue to create, a large base of industry professionals globally, providing owners the flexibility to choose based on attributes such as transparency of their offerings. 
  2. Digital Twins: There is a great deal of hype today about Big Data and analytics from the technology sector. The “New Deal” focus on model-based analytics (digital twin) is based on a deep understanding of the needs and value for building systems. Model-based analytics can only be achieved at scale using standards criteria identified in the New Deal, where the richness of their data and metadata is critical for the creation of the digital twin, a core feature of the “New Deal”. This form of analytics also enables the transparency we view as essential. By seeing and troubleshooting the system in their digital twin, insights that were invisible are now made visible, so that owner and vendor engineers can analyze and take corrective action collaboratively and openly. 
  3. Service Transparency: Transparency is a cornerstone of the Internet-enabled services we now take for granted in the consumer world, from Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and many others. With the complexity of buildings, transparency is also a compelling proposition for buildings, but it is not possible without standards, combined with the transparency provided by model-based analytics monitoring of building operations. Service transparency turns the standards-based devices, coupled with the digital twin created by the model-based analytics, into a powerful accountability tool, holding vendors accountable for their products and services. 

Consulting Engineers Take the Lead 

Changes are occurring in the consulting engineering world where LEED design practices are influencing good BAS design engineering practices. We’re already seeing engineering companies retool themselves to add commissioning services in an effort to ensure that contractors are delivering solutions according to the design engineer’s intent. This offers a good check-and-balance system, which sometimes can create debate, a best practice model, and an educational process required to ensure success. LEED has done a great job setting the bar for the architect, but sometimes falls short on the operational requirements of a building. Organizations like ASHRAE are stepping up to fill the gap by producing documents including “Specifying BAS Systems, Advanced Sequences of Operation,” and tackling best practices for cybersecurity practices in building systems. 

Other whole building design guidelines and industry trends and best practices referenced by CABA are influencing owners and vendors to be more engaged. Larger entities in healthcare, oil and gas, and government institutions are developing control requirements and system standards documents that guide all projects on a campus to ensure consistency, interoperability, and reduce project specific engineering time and costs. The “New Deal” embraces better integrated design and use of standards including design guides and specifications. 

Call to Action 

The “New Deal” for Buildings promises to improve the value of buildings if adopted by both the vendor and owner communities. Advocates for the “New Deal” are discussing their ideas at www.newdeal.blog. If the views presented in this paper resonate with you, we invite you to share this CABA white paper with others, consider joining CABA, and sign up for the CABA weekly NewsBrief. 

About CABA 

Founded in 1988 and based in Ottawa, Canada, the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) is an international not-for-profit industry association dedicated to the advancement of intelligent home and intelligent building technologies. The organization is supported by an international membership of over 330 organizations involved in the design, manufacture, installation and retailing of products relating to home automation and building automation. Public organizations, including utilities and government are also members. CABA’s mandate includes providing its members with networking and market research opportunities. CABA also encourages the development of industry standards and protocols, and leads cross-industry initiatives. For more, visit www.caba.org.  

 

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