Facility Executives Should Take Lead Role With Smart Buildings

If smart building strategies are to see even wider use, particularly in achieving energy efficiency and sustainability goals, the facility executive will play a key role. “The facility executive should be a catalyst for developing and executing smart building strategies and determining their effectiveness,” says Zimmer.

Walsh believes the role of facility executives requires that they constantly be alert to new technologies and refinements to see if they might offer smart building strategies that are applicable to their facilities.

Smyth says that keeping up with new technologies and processes for smart building options in energy savings and sustainability is a crucial aspect of his job. Smyth is constantly on the lookout for new technology information or innovations that he might be able to use in his hospital. “Then I look at the payback period or return on investment to see if it’s worth applying in our situation,” he explains. With that information, he can be a salesperson for the latest technology that offers his hospital viable applications for energy conservation and sustainability.

Cotter says when it comes to smart building strategies, the job of the facilities executive “is to get the best quality for the price.”

Moores believes smart building strategy “begins and ends with facilities management.” She admits the facility executive sometimes is the last person involved in smart building design, but they are the first to respond to anything that happens. And facility executives are the most savvy when it comes to actual building energy use and all the building’s systems. So she likes to work with facility executives from the initial concept stage of smart building design. “They understand their buildings best.”

Zimmer says, “The facility executive’s knowledge about facility-related smart building strategies is critical to successful real estate management.”

The survey shows that, in a large majority of organizations, facility executives are taking the lead, not only in smart building strategies, but also energy efficiency and sustainability strategies. (See Figures 10, 11 and 12.) When facility executives are not in the lead role, they are generally still involved; it is rare to see organizations where facility executives are not involved in developing strategies in those three areas.

Figure 10. Which departments in your organization are involved in developing smart building strategies?

See Figure Here: http://www.facilitiesnet.com/buildingautomation/native/Facility-Executives-Should-Take-Lead-Role-With-Smart-Buildings–30996#

Figure 11. Which departments in your organization are involved in developing facility energy management strategies?

See Figure Here: http://www.facilitiesnet.com/buildingautomation/native/Facility-Executives-Should-Take-Lead-Role-With-Smart-Buildings–30996#

Figure 12. Which departments in your organization are involved in developing facility sustainability strategies?

See Figure Here: http://www.facilitiesnet.com/buildingautomation/native/Facility-Executives-Should-Take-Lead-Role-With-Smart-Buildings–30996#

Involving IT

Facility executives who are leading efforts to develop smart building strategies should make it a point to involve IT in those efforts. For example, when the smart building strategy needs to operate on the hospital’s infrastructure, Smyth makes sure IT is involved in the process. “I want IT to know what we are trying to accomplish with this strategy and to understand that it is a good use of IT resources to save energy,” Smyth explains.

Walsh relies on his BAS vendor’s IT department, particularly when he wants to tie another piece of equipment into the system. “When it comes to building management concerns, their IT is really good,” he observes.

But the survey shows that IT departments in 43 percent of the organizations are not involved in efforts to develop smart building strategies. (See Figure 10) By getting IT involved in the process, facility executives can help ensure that specific IT concerns are addressed early and do not become an obstacle to implementation of smart building strategies. Murchison points out the make up of today’s controls systems includes “servers, networks, protocols, firmware, software, remote Internet access, and other IT elements.” As a result, IT involvement is “undeniably critical,” according to Murchison. “Whether it’s an internal or external resource, IT is a fact of life in building controls and smart buildings.”

Kentucky’s Morehead State University is implementing a smart building strategy over its existing IT infrastructure. That work is part of an effort that is expected to curb carbon dioxide emissions by more than 8,000 tons annually. Among the improvements are replacing a coal-fired boiler plant with a natural gas boiler plant; facility upgrades for many campus buildings’ HVAC and electrical systems; replacing older fan motors and belts with variable speed drives and, where necessary, dampers, valves, and cooling coils; digital energy monitors to track electricity consumption on a per-building basis; and new lighting controls, including occupancy sensors. Digital control upgrades are being networked over the university’s existing IT infrastructure.

“IT departments should advise on security and provide assistance with installation of network infrastructure,” Zimmer says. The reason he sees that increased involvement is because “with the migration of BAS and building energy management systems onto Internet-enabled networks, security becomes a paramount concern.”

Other Departmental Buy-ins

In big complex programs involving broad goals like smart buildings, energy efficiency or sustainability, it’s important to get wide support across the organization, say facility executives and other experts.

Walsh believes management, tenants, architects, and LEED engineers should be involved when designing smart building strategies for energy conservation and sustainability.

Cotter wants the president, upper management, and environmental clubs and committees on campus involved in smart building strategies for energy conservation and sustainability.

“Today, corporate sustainability and recycling departments need to be involved,” says Moores. “Also, whoever is responsible financially for paying the bills.”

The survey shows that many smart buildings, energy efficiency, and sustainability strategies are developed with input from a cross-section of functions within the organization. (See Figure 10, 11, and 12) For facility executives, building a broad-based team can help ensure the success of individual smart building, energy efficiency, and sustainability initiatives. What’s more, involving key stakeholders can help facility executives link smart building strategies to goals for energy and sustainability, making those efforts more successful while reinforcing the value of the smart building steps.

Environmental Center Uses BAS for Natural Ventilation

Located on Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Md., the Philip Merrill Environmental Center is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s 32,000-square-foot headquarters building. The office building is LEED Platinum certified.

The building automation system (BAS) optimizes energy use by taking advantage of natural ventilation, controlling pump speeds, and optimizing geothermal heat pumps and lighting use.

When air temperature and humidity sensors inside and outside find the climate suitable, the BAS shuts down or scales back mechanical systems, actuates windows open, and turns on “open window” lights to signal employees. Natural ventilation is used more than 30 percent of the year. The natural ventilation system was reprogrammed so it can be used on a “zoned” basis.

In addition, when the doors leading to an outside deck on a glass-enclosed conference room are opened for more than five minutes, the BAS shuts off air conditioning. Employees take advantage of the naturally cooling bay breezes instead.


The Siemens/Building Operating Management survey was sent via email to a random sample of 14,000 Building Operating Management subscribers on June 13, 2013. Reminders were sent to non-respondents on June 18, June 21, June 26, and June 28, 2013. A total of 257 subscribers chose to opt out of the survey or failed to respond due to an invalid email address, yielding a final sample of 13,743.

The survey was closed for responses on July 2, 2013. With 889 qualified responses returned and with a net sample of 13,743, the rate of response for the email survey was computed to be 6.5 percent. The overall estimated margin of error for this study is +/- 3.27 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Which of the following best describes your organization? R=886
37% Commercial Office
24% Educational: K-12/Colleges/Universities
11% Medical/Healthcare
10% Government/Military (Local/County/State/Federal)
8% Industrial
3% Multi-family/Mixed use
2% Retail/Stores
2% Hospitality (Hotels/Motels/Resorts/Recreational)
3% Other

How many square feet of space are you responsible for? R=869
41% 100,000 to 499,999 square feet
25% 500,000 to 999,999 square feet
25% 1 million to 4,999,999 square feet
9% 5 million square feet or more