How big data and automation will help sustain buildings in the region

Big data is attaining new standards as advancements are being made in data aggregation and processing. With its increasing relevance, application of big data is making major inroads in property management and facilities management

An army of sensors can result in much more efficient work cycles,  and experts believe we have only scratched the surface of automation
An army of sensors can result in much more efficient work cycles, and experts believe we have only scratched the surface of automation

Technological advancements have impacted all industries — while it’s most evident in the consumer electronics' sector, there has been significant steam in the construction, aviation, medical and other peripheral industries.

Digital switches, digital frameworks, motion and presence detectors, access control entry, automated gate barriers and products of the similar nature are a few examples of have become routine in today's development and FM industry.

At the FM Expo 2017, Enova, director — operations for Dubai and Northern Emirates, Oman, Lebanon and Egypt Amin El Najjar said the “lowest hanging fruit” — when it comes to energy savings — is changing incandescent and other light sources to LED. Retrofitting itself can result in major energy savings, in some cases it has brought down the cost of utility bills 12% to 15%, experts at the FM Expo claimed. Then the high investment costs pays itself off in two years to three years. 

Also at the trade show, which was held from September 25-27, KEO International Consultants — sustainability, Kevin Sullivan said: “The Dubai Government has targeted retrofitting a 100,000 buildings — and 30,000 of those have been targeted for improving its energy and water performance. We build about 500 buildings on an average per year in the UAE. So by my calculations it will take us 20 years to retrofit all 100,000 buildings that we are already targeting.” 

Sullivan also says it's essential what we invest in our buildings in maintenance as it will help shape our urban future. He also explained how greenfield projects are giving rise to smart buildings, as several consultants are engaged from an early stage on a project. “The smart aspect of buildings is not the technology itself, it’s the ability to integrate things we wouldn't normally do. We tend to design and work on projects in silos. You can have the greenest designs but it will be immediately undermined in its operations. I have seen hundreds of buildings that have started out as LEED Platinum but end-up no better than a conventional building once in operation. 

“Hence, smart platforms allows cross-platform integration, which would otherwise function in different silos, right from design to commissioning. It forces all parties to collaborate. Asset management tends to be passive, and is mostly associated with maintenance rather than using our buildings to teach us, make us more intelligent and build up our knowledge which makes us rethink how we use and extract new value out of them,” he said.

According to McKinsey Global, the economic impact of Internet of Things  (IoT) on factories, retail settings, work sites, offices and homes could total as much as $4.65tn (£3.55tn) by 2025. 

It is estimated that 42% of the world’s energy is consumed by buildings, and facilities managers are facing pressure for environmentally friendly, high-performance buildings that are efficient and sustainable. Meanwhile, in the Gulf, HVAC and cooling systems consume more than 50% of the utility bills.

This makes the prospect of big data all the more alluring, and Sullivan urges all parties involved in building maintenance to pay closer attention than before in a bid to learn patterns and trends. But he says it’s not a forgone conclusion that a smart building will generate usable big data. 
“Several state of the art buildings generate junk data — they might have the best BMSs and other infrastructure, but junk data is a big cause for concern in the UAE. You have to first understand what's happening in the building before you can diagnose the right solutions,” he says.

Concordia — the FM company that manages the Jumeirah Lakes Towers community — has recently made a push towards green energy. Its general manager Sanjay Bhatia, has taken an interesting approach to energy savings and automation. Rather than going down the LED retrofit route, Concordia has achieved energy savings to the tune of $800,000 in its parking lots alone through other means. “We have done this by better managing extract fans, elevators and lighting control. Changing to LED lighting will be the next phase,” Bhatia said.

He also said that the firm is experimenting with sensors in garbage bins that inform the operations teams when they are 90% full. “This does away the outgoing practice of a staff physically going to 450 bins and checking whether the bins need to be cleared or not. If the reporting mechanism from the automated system works, then we will implement it permanently,” he added.

Most popular


CW Oman Awards 2020: Meet the winners
A round of the thirteen winning names at the Construction Week Oman Awards 2020 that


Leaders UAE 2020: Building a sustainable, 'resilient' infra
AESG’s Phillipa Grant, Burohappold’s Farah Naz, and Samana's Imran Farooq on a sustainable built environment
CW In Focus | Inside the Leaders in KSA Awards 2019 in Riyadh
Meet the winners in all 10 categories and learn more about Vision 2030 in this

Latest Issue

Construction Week - Issue 767
Sep 01, 2020