Smart Buildings

Legacy Procurement Practices Continue to Hold Back the Building IoT Market

Construction methodology is still, for the most part, archaic. It starts with a strategic definition, where a business case is developed around the client’s requirements and budgets, and sites are appraised. Once the project is defined, preparation and briefing can begin, where budgets, outcomes and aspirations are refined further and feasibility can be studied. Next, the architectural concept can be developed, incorporating strategic engineering, aligned to budgets and strategies, and reviewed by stakeholders. Then comes the spatial coordination, through design studies, engineering analysis, and cost exercises that culminate in an official planning application. It is only after all of those foundational processes are complete that technologies such as the Building Internet of Things (BIoT) enter the discussion for the first time. The BIoT is only introduced after core design and planning activities are finished. If our buildings aren’t as smart as they should be by now, then this may be the primary reason. “The typical […]

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Construction methodology is still, for the most part, archaic. It starts with a strategic definition, where a business case is developed around the client’s requirements and budgets, and sites are appraised. Once the project is defined, preparation and briefing can begin, where budgets, outcomes and aspirations are refined further and feasibility can be studied. Next, the architectural concept can be developed, incorporating strategic engineering, aligned to budgets and strategies, and reviewed by stakeholders. Then comes the spatial coordination, through design studies, engineering analysis, and cost exercises that culminate in an official planning application.

It is only after all of those foundational processes are complete that technologies such as the Building Internet of Things (BIoT) enter the discussion for the first time. The BIoT is only introduced after core design and planning activities are finished. If our buildings aren’t as smart as they should be by now, then this may be the primary reason.

“The typical building design and construction processes followed by architects and construction professionals does not consider smart building systems until the later stages of design. By this point in the process, key delivery contractor relationships have already been established, the conceptual design is complete and the space design is already specified,” explains our latest report The Internet of Things in Smart Commercial Buildings 2020 to 2025.

“By following this traditional process, the ability for IoT systems vendors, systems integrators, and smart building consultants to have any kind of tangible influence over the overall building design is extremely limited. They have very limited opportunities to influence overall design specifications or to argue the case for the value-contribution of particular IoT technologies or data analytics approaches,” the report continues.

This all means that design and planning considerations for the BIoT are being addressed by people with limited appreciation of the value contribution of smart building technology, not to mention the lack of technical understanding. So, even if the belated introduction of BIoT concepts triggers significant stakeholder enthusiasm and increased budgets, the smart systems would have to adapt and compromise to the plans in place. Plans that gave little or no priority to the BIoT within the design, commissioning, or procurement strategies, limiting the building technology’s potential, almost like a “greenfield retrofit.”

In fact, procurement alone presents a whole other set of challenges related to commissioning. Building systems contracts are typically separated into individual packages by the lead contractor, thereby binding vendor selection to existing relationships and established procurement frameworks. This forces new entrants, including a disproportionate share of the emerging BIoT market, to hustle their way into the inner circle, partner with more established systems suppliers, or find a niche role as a subcontractor. Each scenario limiting the opportunity for the technology to show its full potential.

“Building systems on new build projects are often commissioned with little regard for overall systems interoperability or compliance, and there is little incentive for vendors providing each system to collaborate on systems integration if a dedicated smart systems consultant or systems integrator is part of the team,” the new report states. “Managing multiple contracting relationships, each with their own distinct data outputs is complex enough in a siloed systems infrastructure, and will become more so as organizations seek to integrate these systems and their data into ever more integrated data platforms.”

Inevitably, without the contribution of appropriately skilled building automation and IoT specialists, sub-optimal options with limited interoperability are often selected based on a distorted low-cost perception that underlines the fundamental problem. The reality is that smart technology is significantly lower-cost in the long-term, offering efficiency, sustainability, and longevity across the board, if done properly. Only by bringing BIoT expertise into planning discussion, can construction understand the cost-saving and value-generating potential that these systems hold, as well as the planning considerations they require.

“There is commonly shared perception in the construction sector that smart systems also cost more than their “dumb” counterparts, but this is rarely the case, particularly over the long term. These days, even affordable building systems offerings can come with IP connectivity and support for a variety of common protocols out of the box. What is more important to consider is whether the chosen solution is compliant with an over-arching building systems design plan,” emphasizes the report.

“BIoT specialists need to work collaboratively across the construction supply chain, engaging with clients, contractors, consultants and architects, to ensure that everyone understands the value of smart technology and how smart systems can be leveraged to deliver improved outcomes in terms of efficiency, sustainability, flexibility, connectivity, and occupant comfort,” the report continues; analyzing all market drivers and barriers to provide reliable growth forecasts for the post-COVID smart building landscape.

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