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ATL
Digi

Atlanta
Digital

 

ATL
Digi

Atlanta
Digital

 

By Tyler Haak

 

Roughly one-third of energy being used by buildings is wasted at a cost of $150 billion annually in the U.S. Knowing this, facility managers look to identify every asset available to help curb this cost, and it’s well understood that now, artificial intelligence (AI) has become a powerful tool for leaders looking to harness greater energy efficiency. Coupled with net-zero building initiatives, AI advancements have set the stage for a transformative era in facility management.

Facility managers utilizing AI witness tangible benefits in energy savings, operational efficiency, and overall cost reduction.

Optimizing energy consumption can help reduce environmental impact and combat the building sector’s staggering 30% of global energy consumption. AI helps managers make better, smarter, and more predictive decisions, facilitating the achievement of diverse goals within the built environment. Facility managers utilizing AI witness tangible benefits in energy savings, operational efficiency, and overall cost reduction.

One study by the International Energy Agency found that AI technology could generate cost savings equivalent to >10% of annual on-site building energy costs. Another study of 624 school buildings in Stockholm, Sweden found that AI implementation helped reduce heating energy by 4%, electricity usage by 15%, CO2 emissions by 205 tonnes, and occupant complaints by 23%. AI is demonstrably providing a path towards greater efficiency and sustainability via automation and control at the edge, providing building operators the keys to manage energy waste and service their occupant, simultaneously.

In 2024, when it comes to effectively utilize AI to improve energy efficiency in buildings and address the lack of visibility, AI is rising as a key tool for the trusted advisor. AI is now streamlining solutions to help optimize facility managers time and enhancing problem-solving capabilities for their customers and the trusted advisor.

The Imperative For Digitization

One of the key roadblocks to increasing energy efficiency is not knowing where to start to put together a proper roadmap to having a net zero building. The three steps to decarbonization — Strategize, Digitize, and Decarbonize — are important facets of an organization’s overall energy efficiency and decarbonization plan. Digitization itself emerges as a linchpin in making buildings more energy efficient. Without adequate digitization, the transformative benefits of advanced technologies might be missed.

AI Facility Management
(Image: Adobe Stock / Olivier Le Moal)

By using technology to collect, analyze, and present data, new insights can lead to more informed and optimized decision-making. For example, in the previously mentioned study in Sweden, AI technology evaluated roughly one million data points every day to create dramatic heat and electricity savings. This use of data can make visible aspects of a system or process that were previously hidden or difficult to perceive. Digitization enables facility managers to ensure seamless technology integration into a digitized system for effective monitoring and control. Without digitization, it becomes much more difficult to take three crucial steps toward decarbonization: creating a decarbonization roadmap, tracking embodied carbon, and measuring and monitoring energy and carbon.

In the initial step of creating a decarbonization roadmap, strategizing the tools and digital solutions needed for your building helps facilitate the determination of a carbon emission baseline, leveraging technology to assess gaps to close between that baseline and organizational targets and inform the roadmap.

Digitization is the second step and can be incorporated during both the construction and operational phases of any facility. For any construction project, the integration of building information modeling (BIM) into digitized systems allows for the meticulous tracking of embodied carbon, providing insights crucial for sustainable construction practices. Facilities managers can leverage advanced technology solutions for digitization and decarbonization, such as 6D BIM platforms with embodied carbon capabilities. These tools enable the calculation of both cost and embodied carbon in building components, allowing for detailed analysis and reporting on the project’s total carbon output and the contribution of individual elements. By integrating BIM with embodied carbon accounting, facilities managers can actively participate in early-stage design discussions, assess material choices, and evaluate long-term energy implications to support sustainable construction practices effectively.

Centralizing the energy supply and utility data, gaining visibility into primary energy usage, and implementing cloud-based analytics are key components made feasible through digitization, empowering facility managers to make data-driven decisions, prompting effective decarbonization.

Finally, in the third step, decarbonization will typically oversee the execution of one’s digital assets for energy efficiency and begin realizing the capabilities facility managers now must monitor energy usage and carbon emissions with precision. Centralizing the energy supply and utility data, gaining visibility into primary energy usage, and implementing cloud-based analytics are key components made feasible through digitization, empowering facility managers to make data-driven decisions, prompting effective decarbonization. For many modern facility directors, the final phase of decarbonization will include electrification of building assets to interact with an ever-greening grid, prosumer agreements with utility partners such as Auto-Grid, and on-site renewable deployments including microgrids that can provide both decarbonization and critical building resiliency.

The three-step approach – Strategize, Digitize, Decarbonize – is a proven strategy for facilities managers to transform the aspiration for net-zero carbon buildings into tangible actions toward that goal.

The Deployment Of Insightful Sensors

A critical obstacle to enhancing energy efficiency lies in the absence of the necessary tools to make informed decisions and obtain cost-effective inputs. Leveraging AI requires the deployment of insightful sensors and monitoring systems. These advanced technologies provide real-time insights into energy consumption at a granular level, enabling facility managers to identify areas of inefficiency and formulate targeted strategies for improvement. By capturing data on lighting, HVAC systems, occupancy and other energy-related elements, AI-driven sensors empower facility managers to make informed decisions that transcend conventional energy management practices.

Additionally, AI can significantly benefit trusted advisors who provide services to customers by streamlining their workflows and enhancing problem-solving capabilities. AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data gathered by powerful sensors deployed across the building envelope to provide advisors with actionable insights, enabling them to optimize their time and address customer needs more effectively.

Proactive Energy Optimization With Predictive Analytics

AI algorithms can predict future energy consumption trends by analyzing historical data and identifying patterns. This allows facility managers to implement measures to optimize usage proactively. This predictive capability prevents energy waste and ensures that buildings operate with a better chance of reaching peak efficiency levels.

The significance of AI in building management extends beyond energy conservation; it encompasses the creation of smart, responsive environments.

The significance of AI in building management extends beyond energy conservation; it encompasses the creation of smart, responsive environments. AI algorithms can learn from occupant behavior, adjusting lighting, temperature, and other environmental factors to align with preferences and usage patterns. This not only enhances occupant comfort but also contributes to additional energy savings by avoiding unnecessary consumption during idle periods. Products like Insight Sensor collect information on parameters like temperature, humidity, and sound level, and can accurately determine occupancy and adjust quickly. With this, it’s now possible for AI predictive analytic algorithms connected to these sensors to reset a room’s temperatures to empty occupancy levels within two minutes, rather than wait for motion detectors that previously may have taken up to 15 minutes.

With the industry affected by retirements and skilled labor shortages, predictive analytics also enable more efficient and effective operations, augmenting the critical role of labor in facility management. While AI is crucial for decarbonization, it will also play a pivotal role in addressing the supply chain crisis for skilled labor, offering a unique solution to the facility management skill gap.

For understaffed facilities teams, a digital-first service approach can help, connecting remote and on-site technicians through digital tools and data to efficiently resolve issues and meet service requirements. This approach boosts frontline confidence and ensures impactful outcomes. For instance, in 2023, we coordinated with our teams using EcoStruxure Building Advisor tasks, directly contributing to efficient building operations, and reducing carbon emissions equivalent to taking approximately 2,200 cars off the road.

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Ultimately, the AI revolution in buildings presents a treasure trove of actionable information. The imminent widespread adoption of AI and analytics marks a significant milestone in integrating AI into the fabric of the built environment. Many have grown to be wary of just how fast AI adoption rates are spreading across industries, but for the facility manager and their trusted advisors, it’s a crucial, powerful tool set to take their buildings into the next generation of sustainability.

The transformative potential of AI is vast. By deploying advanced sensors, embracing predictive analytics, and enabling trusted partnerships, the commercial real estate industry can unlock AI’s full potential to reduce the built environment’s environmental impact. As we navigate the path towards fully adopted sustainable building practices, harnessing the power of AI stands as a beacon guiding us toward a greener and more efficient future.

AI Facility Management, Tyler Haak, Schneider ElectricTyler Haak is Vice President of Sustainability & Service at Schneider Electric.

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