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Software bridging the divide

Author : Tim Fryer

20 December 2012

Since our last look at CAFM solutions in May of this year (CAFM spreads its wings) developments in this sector have trended towards what can be added to the core solutions. Tim Fryer looks at some of the latest offerings

For example FSI, developers of the web-based Concept Evolution, has partnered with eSight Energy. The integration of eSight’s energy management and analysis techniques with Concept Evolution provides a solution for end clients and Service Providers looking to capture, regulate and report on usage, as part of an overall energy management strategy.

A dedicated energy management solution (BEMS), according to Gary Dowsett, Director of ENER-G Controls, is one of the most efficient methods of reducing energy consumption, yet this technology is underutilised because there is a false belief it is an expensive technology for big business that is complex and costly to specify, install, operate and maintain.

“This undermines energy efficiency success, particularly among SMEs”, claimed Dowsett. “BEMS can provide the quick wins on cost and carbon reduction organisations are seeking. The best systems will typically reduce consumption by 25% to deliver rapid payback on investment and reduce taxes on carbon emissions. Modern systems, such as ENER-G Controls' E-MAGINE technology, also have the dual benefit of acting as an automatic monitoring and targeting system, monitoring, measuring and analysing consumption to assist with carbon reporting and managing efficiency. This enables users to collate, analyse and transform this data into meaningful information, allowing them to monitor energy consumption, identify waste, highlight areas for improvement and benchmark consumption against other similar buildings or organisations.”

BEMS sometimes get overlooked because specifiers have had poor experiences of traditional systems, falling victim to three classic system flaws. These are inconsistent programming, ‘twitchy finger syndrome’ (tinkering!), and system deterioration. Modern systems have safegauards to minimise all three of these problems and so while historically, these have prevented many traditional building energy management systems from delivering their projected cost and carbon savings over their lifetime, it could be time to revisit reappraise their merits. 

Broader than just energy is Planon’s new Sustainability Management Solution. This software will enable organisations to analyse their sustainability footprint by capturing an accurate view of how resources such as energy, gas, water, waste and the transport of people are being consumed across the business. The solution integrates with a company’s existing energy management tools or smart meters so that firms can re-use their data to identify where they are wasting energy, how operational costs can be reduced, and how to improve sustainability to comply with reporting standards and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) guidelines.

Pierre Guelen, CEO of Planon, commented: “An increasing awareness of green issues means that businesses are becoming more focused on introducing sustainability initiatives. Using one integrated platform that combines facilities, real estate, maintenance and sustainability management software means that organisations can streamline processes and connect all influencers of energy usage into one solution. By having accurate information about costs, consumption and emissions easily available, firms can ensure that they are well equipped to identify the best energy reduction opportunities that can save them money.”

IT energy management
American company Verdiem has made a number of upgrades and introductions to its IT energy management range, including the VBOX – an IT energy management appliance, a new release of the Verdiem Surveyor, and new role-based dashboards that deliver key summary information on energy savings as well as the ability to drill down to uncover more detailed insights in order to optimise energy savings.

However, of most interest to FMs will be ‘Connect for Smart Buildings’ which aims to bridge facilities and IT. Traditional divisions of labour between facilities and IT are impediments to effective energy management. In today’s world, where buildings include Ethernet-ready devices connected directly to corporate networks and energy requirements are on the rise, the need for a convergence between IT and facilities energy management is becoming ever more critical. The new network-ready smart building is opening up opportunities for integration and innovation for enterprise-wide energy management that provides visibility and control across facilities and IT devices.

Verdiem’s Connect for Smart Buildings integrates building management systems with Surveyor Fall Edition via a web service application-programming interface. Facilities and energy managers have visibility and control over the electrical power of the entire enterprise inclusive of the distributed IT device plug load. In addition, Connect for Smart Buildings enables facilities and IT to collaborate on smart building and demand shedding scenarios, allowing the BMS to change policies and effect near real-time changes to IT device power consumption. For example, an aggressive energy saving policy could be applied to lower IT’s energy draw in order to meet other energy demands on campus or across the smart grid.

Particularly with the last two products there is a trend towards bridging gaps between disciplines. With this in mind the final introduction is intended to put an umbrella over all software packages and provide a common useable interface.

The new product is The Hub from iSite, and the company’s Service Development Manager Graham Perry explained the background: “What we have in the corporate space is disparate individuals. There are those who are responsible for facilities, then you would have the corporate real estate individuals and they would typically be higher placed on the board - and they are now being pressured into moving into smaller properties and workspace management. In addition to that is the projects and programme management arena within this property portfolio doing refurbishment, refit, new building acquisition, old building disposal etc. What we are seeing is a drive from all of those areas to start taking information from all of the areas and starting to build useable strategic business information that can be used to make strong decisions for the organisation. This includes asset management, maintenance, building life cycle analysis. It could be in a small organisation that this information is all dealt with by one person, but also it could be in a large and diverse organisation, like a bank, that 500 people are all operating in their own silos that only share data through excel worksheets. What we are seeing is a desire not just to consolidate those areas but also the information they generated in order to create efficiencies.”

The concept is to be able to take all different software platforms, from different vendors, and amalgamate all the information in one place. Rather than have to input all the data from the various sources – different outsourced suppliers using different software systems- which will invariably be a month old by the time it is all in one place, it automatically can be fed by excel, CAFM, BIM, BMS, IWMS, or security system – anything that runs an SQL database which tends to be the standard these days. It is live data.

The Hub was developed in partnership with Nationwide Building Society and specifically created for enterprises with an outsource services strategy, Nationwide worked with iSite for four years to develop an online solution that complements its overall property asset management strategy.

The Hub helps compare diverse data, building intelligence and enabling informed decision making, reducing cost, improving performance and mitigating business risk. Martin Ward, director of iSite explained: “The pressure to outsource has resulted in a disconnect between the internal customer and their property, project and asset information. Suppliers build a wealth of knowledge and data on customer operations which is fine until performance drops and relationships fail – with Nationwide’s support we have developed a unique solution to the problem, the Hub does not impose systems on suppliers, it integrates and aggregates property and asset information, blending it with internal systems into one source of intelligence.

“In effect what we are introducing to the market is a new strategic asset management process that puts transparency and control back into the hands of the client – minimising risk, maximising control and proven to reduce costs by up to 15%. The approach is something we are calling ‘Assetology’; the solution is The Hub.

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