Smart buildings for efficient energy management
By Udaya Shankar January 5, 2015
- Malaysia 3rd largest energy consumer in Asean; demand to double by 2030
- Giving a building ‘intelligence’ gives better control over energy costs
ACCORDING to the South-East Asia Energy Outlook report, in 2013, Malaysia was the third-largest energy consumer in the Asean region, with electricity demand projected to double by 2030, increasing further to just over 300 TWh (terawatt hours) in 2035.
With a population increasing at an average annual rate of 1.2% and gross domestic product (GDP) growth of an average of 4% per annum, the report also reveals that these factors will drive an increase in Malaysia’s primary energy demand by an annual growth rate of 2.3%.
To better control energy consumption, the most effective way is to reduce wastage and manage how energy is being used.
One of the elements that requires heavy energy supply would be buildings, where government and private sectors are working on transforming the traditional buildings into ‘smart’ buildings.
Buildings are energy guzzlers, and not very efficient ones at that. A ‘smart’ or ‘connected’ building is one with technology installed that monitors, controls and automates systems within the building.
By giving a building ‘intelligence,’ the systems it contains that help keep occupants comfortable, safe and better able to go about their daily business, such as heating, lighting, security and so forth, can be better controlled and managed.
This management can result in a range of benefits that include energy efficiency, cost reductions, a lower carbon footprint, better health of occupants, and labour reductions from eliminated manual checks on devices such as fire alarms.
Build or modify?
It is undoubtedly simpler and more cost-effective to integrate smart technology into buildings at the point of construction. It is then that the required cables can be put in seamlessly and unobtrusively.
To modify an existing building and turn it into a smart building is eminently achievable, but as it involves installing additional wiring and devices, this would cost around 20% more than a similar installation in a new building.
It is also easier to add smart technology features during the building’s planning stage. At that point, builders can get an accurate read on how the building’s energy efficiency can be improved. Without this starting point it is harder to compare the level of impact the smart system will have.
From such a baseline it is relatively simple to fine-tune the smart system for maximum results once it has been installed. Once in, an installed system should be flexible enough to easily adapt to necessary changes.
Worldwide, up to 50% of the energy we use is being wasted. In a smart building, one enabled with an integrated heating, ventilation and air conditioning system equipped with sensors that react and respond to real-time weather changes, energy consumption can be reduced by 30%.
Through smart building technology that includes monitoring devices, software applications and network connectivity, as well as data management and analytics, building managers can control and optimise a building’s environment.
They can see whether lights are on or off, what the temperature is and adjust heating controls accordingly.
If employees have forgotten to turn equipment off before they left the office, these can be switched off remotely. They could even be scheduled to switch off automatically at the end of each day – all of which gives better control over energy consumption.
Businesses are keen to be green for cost-saving purposes. By reducing their energy consumption, they can cut down their carbon emissions, with well-documented benefits to the environment.
To further encourage developers to invest in green buildings, the Malaysia Government implemented the Green Building Index (GBI) in 2009 which offered tax incentives for developers and stamp duty exemptions for buyers.
Over the past few years, equipment and eco-friendly materials have become affordable due to its local availability. This has also further encouraged the wider practice of ‘greening buildings.’
One such example is First Avenue, the first private sector commercial building in Selangor, Malaysia to be awarded the GBI Provisional Certification in April 2010.
The building uses cost-cutting technologies to improve energy efficiency, including intelligent and highly efficient lifts, low e-glazing windows, a chiller plant control system, a building energy-management system control, and monitoring and integration of equipment.
Although the efficiency features cost the developer 18% more than the usual building cost, it expects a return on investment within six years or less.
As the cost of building commercial real estate escalates – and it’s the second largest expense for most companies – businesses will continue to look toward building ‘green’ offices.
In this era of connect devices, more commercial premises become connected buildings, and efficient data management will become even more critical for these buildings to realise their potential.
The data generated by connected devices in a smart building is one example of the increasing amount of data we are now collecting from objects – data that we can analyse and make productive use from.
It is hard to even imagine the amount of data that will be generated as a result. The potential number of connected devices in this ‘Internet of Things’ is staggering – Gartner last year suggested 26 billion devices would be connected to the Internet by 2020.
As such, it will be important for real estate managers to consider partnering with companies with the expertise and technology to provide end-to-end solutions – solutions that can deliver insight from the careful analysis of data so that businesses can make well-informed decisions that will help them to succeed.
Udaya Shankar is the vice president and head of Internet of Things at Xchanging, the business process, procurement and technology services provider.
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