Manufacturers Slow to Adopt Smart Building Systems Despite Benefits
IMT Staff posted on August 15, 2014 |

building, energy, MFG, architectureNorth America is increasingly adopting smart building systems to achieve efficiencies and savings. However, researchers say manufacturers are lagging behind in smart building implementations, in spite of the potential benefits.

Smart (or intelligent) building systems refer to a range of integrated automation elements that allow a building to operate more efficiently by sensing and responding to its own condition and environment. Key elements include sensors and controllers that are connected through a communications network and services infrastructure, controlled by building management systems (BMS) software. The most common and core functions of building automation are those that control energy, water supply and plumbing, drainage, and HVAC and environmental control -- all to achieve a reliable working environment and energy efficiency. Smart building systems can also encompass security and fire automation.

Frost & Sullivan, the Mountain View, Calif.-based research firm, says in a recent report that the North American market for smart building systems is growing at a healthy 11.3 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Researchers expect the market to grow from $2.5 billion in 2013 to almost $4.3 billion in 2018. The proliferation of sensors will account for most of that growth, they predict.

Frost & Sullivan’s report grouped smart building technologies into three primary categories:

Sensors, which capture data about the environment around a particular location or building element or about the state and condition of that element.

Building-level controllers, encompassing controllers, repeaters, and actuating devices.

Software that is used to collect sensor data and aggregate and organize it; provide two-way communication among devices, controllers, building systems, and personnel; integrate building systems; and optimize building operations.

Frost & Sullivan sees the highest growth rates for these technologies in data centers, schools, and government and office buildings. Manufacturers lag behind in adoption, according to Pramod Dibble, who authored the study.

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Dibble told ThomasNet News that the value proposition for smart building technologies might be less evident for manufacturing firms, simply because manufacturing operations have a constancy that is not so much the case with office buildings. “In a manufacturing facility,” he said, “use is often much more easily predicted, and in the case of a plant which runs 24/7, almost perfectly constant.”

For some manufacturing operations, the value of smart building systems will be lower and the return on investment (ROI) slower. Also, Dibble said, smart building systems tend to be “out of the typical set of internal expertise of manufacturing companies.”

Manufacturers often focus their performance-improvement efforts at the level of machinery, work cells, or production lines. So obtaining greater efficiencies in the enclosure for those operations -- the building that contains them -- might seem like a secondary consideration. However, as ThomasNet News has previously reported, manufacturers are increasingly recognizing the value of energy management systems, a concept closely related to that of smart building systems.

Besides production facilities, every manufacturer has an office operation. Many companies own and lease buildings for headquarters, warehouses, and distribution facilities. All of these are potential targets for implementation of smart building systems.

For example, Echelon, a San Jose, Calif.-based developer of smart building solutions, relates that automaker Daimler decided to deploy an intelligent building solution as a feature of its European headquarters in Warsaw, Poland. The system has some 3,000 data points and is able to monitor and control all HVAC systems, lights, fire and emergency systems, chilled ceiling systems, and sun blinds. An automated weather station on the roof monitors wind speed and direction, precipitation, humidity, and sunlight and can automatically or manually control building systems to optimize the internal environment.

Trane, the building management systems provider based in Piscataway, N.J., points out that many manufacturing operations require temperature and humidity control to reduce part defects. This can be especially important in industries such as electronics and pharmaceuticals. Also, Trane asserts, energy can represent 30 percent of a manufacturing facility’s costs. Maintaining working conditions at the right temperature, humidity, sound level, and ventilation can yield productivity improvements of 18 percent.

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This article was originally published on ThomasNet News Industry Market Trends  and is reprinted with permission from Thomas Industrial Network.  For more stories like this please visit Industry Market Trends.



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