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Aurecon thinking: Operations – Asset and facility management for both new and existing buildings

People at the centre

Operations – Asset and facility management for both new and existing buildings

Data-driven technology such as smartphones, smart watches and smart glasses continue to optimise every aspect of our daily lives and it won’t be long before the Internet of Things (IoT) enables us to use this data to create emotionally intelligent workplaces as well.

The potential that lies in the relationship between these connected, smart devices represent the next step in closing the gap between humans and computers, with real efficiency lying in machine-to-machine interaction.

After announcing its AutoML project in May 2017, Google recently announced that the project’s artificial intelligence (AI) has beaten the human AI engineers at their own game by building machine-learning software that’s more efficient and powerful than the best human-designed systems. The real challenge, therefore, will be to clear the fog of data for users to make it a human-centered experience. 

Today’s building occupants already have the wearables, apps and smart phones with everything from email, social media and calendar schedules, but the ability to tie it all together with their place of employment is what will help businesses differentiate themselves in the future. This aligns with many property owners, who are aware that tenants’ expectations have shifted from buildings that are high-tech and luxurious, to buildings that are sustainable and intelligent.

Smart sensors are a key element in the “things” of IoT, along with software, network connectivity and electronics that enable them to gather and communicate data. Smart sensors in buildings of the future extend far beyond merely picking up on changes in a physical environment and the movement of people.

IoT ecosystems that run on state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms can provide unprecedented precision in detecting the movements and location of occupants. When integrated into other building systems and appliances, truly smart buildings that enhance safety, save energy, provide business intelligence, and optimise facility management and occupants’ experiences are possible.


Theory in action: Transport Accident Commission HQ

It has been a model of what we can achieve when true collaboration and innovative design find their groove and flow unhindered.

When Aurecon designed the new corporate headquarters for the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) in Victoria, Australia, it stood as an Australian best practice tribute to sustainable design.

The building achieved a 5 Star Green Star Design rating (Australian Excellence) and a 5.5 Star NABERS Base Building Energy rating, but the success story didn’t end there because Aurecon believed that there was greater potential waiting to be unleashed and visualised the opportunity to keep reducing the energy consumption with continuous building tuning. Energy audits were taken, and a portfolio-wide project was proposed to evaluate many web-based monitoring platforms that track and measure energy performance.

The client was sold on the idea, and the tenants and asset managers joined the excitement. Suddenly, true collaboration was set into motion. Adjustments were continually made to optimise the performance of the building, and as a result of the collective engagement of all stakeholders, the building today has reduced its carbon footprint by 50 per cent, achieving more than 350 megawatt hours of savings on electricity consumption and 400 tons of carbon dioxide a year (the equivalent of 115,500 homes’ usage in a one-hour period and almost 28 kilograms of carbon dioxide per square metre).

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While the industry continues to develop new sensors for IoT in buildings, this data needs to be accessible to align with the priorities of property owners, building managers and businesses.

Having some type of intelligence about HVAC, lighting, occupant movements and indoor air quality isn’t enough – this data needs to be accessible and enable stakeholders to make better decisions.

DrawingBox is a tool that Aurecon developed to assist with this. It enables facility and asset managers to scan the QR codes of building systems so that they can
gain access to information related to these systems on their phones. This is just one example of how digital content is being linked to physical environments so that valuable client data can be created and curated on an ongoing basis.

Data on infrastructure assets, for example, needs to be processed and presented in such a way that it leads to fewer service and maintenance calls and thereby optimise technicians’ schedules or even eliminate the need for some of the people who service equipment. Mobile applications, building management systems, software analytics and cloud based analytics are tools that will facilitate an open, secure and scalable foundation for delivering customised settings that reflect the specific preferences of occupants instead of modelled expectations. These systems will sense, control and automate everything that was done manually in the past.

Engagement with building occupants goes far beyond a visualisation tool that shows energy usage for comfort and satisfaction. People will increasingly expect intelligent buildings and office spaces that give them access to data and a sense of control that is similar to their everyday technology experiences.

Emotionally and intellectually intelligent buildings can no longer be seen as something that requires an expensive leap of faith. The next frontier of buildings of the future is the widespread uptake of human-centred control and information that gives building occupants the specific feedback that they want and need to control their experiences. Accounting for occupant feedback in the design of a building requires a complete paradigm shift in the way that buildings have been designed in the past and it is what’s needed to support the next wave of buildings of the future.


Theory in action: Melbourne School of Design

At the Melbourne School of Design (MSD), a state-of-the-art educational building that is the largest of only 12 buildings in Australia to receive the industry lauded Green Buildings Council of Australia 6 Star rating, visualisation technology continues to change the way occupants use and gain value from the space.

Students and staff have access to water and energy usage data so that they can observe and interact with the building’s functionality while being made aware of this impact of the building’s functionality on an ongoing basis. The water and energy usage, which is tracked by data sensors, is also used by design and built environment students for research purposes.

Aside from this, a window into the basement’s plant room transparently allows students to observe the vital organs that keep the building moving, making the Melbourne School of Design a giant ‘show and tell’ for the education sector seeking hands-on learning and boundary-pushing experimentation in the field of design.

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