For the past few years, the large majority of facility managers and buildings owners, believed that old buildings just couldn’t keep up with the latest technologies when it came to the cost-benefits equation. That criteria belongs now only in the past while today’s market shows that affordable technology has changed the financial equation with wireless sensors, analytics software, cloud computing apps, mobile facility management, real-time data, submetering, etc. etc. etc.

It is no secret that return on investment depends on each buildings specifically and yet every type of building can definitely prosper and improve when working and installing smart systems and using modern management platforms. McGraw Hill Construction published a SmartMarket Report stating that intelligent buildings use 20% to 40% less energy and result in 8% to 9% lower operating expenses with valuations 7.5% higher than those with legacy systems.

A smart building can be defined as a structure with a central computer for programming its environment and devices. These means a structure where systems (HVAC, telecommunications, security, life safety) are controlled by computers and therefore, are programmable. When we think about building automation systems (BAS) we directly assume that it refers to office buildings exclusively, when in fact, it applies to all types of facilities and structures. Modern technologies are taking energy efficiency and building performance further than ever before.

The more buildings join the smart system revolution, the more the cost of automated building technology fall and components become cheaper and more available. Smart building management systems are also transforming into more flexible and affordable tools and by linking predictive analytics with wireless monitoring, facility performance is off the charts with constant commissioning and data driven decision-making. When it comes to remote control, this allows staff to detect and face problems even before they can turn into major failures. And when dealing with situations that can’t be resolved remotely, there are platforms that work combining on the ground experts with remote monitoring.

According to JLL research the break-even payback for retrofit investments can occur in less than a year. This is no small detail, it practically means that a retrofit investment becomes an operating expense instead of capital expense. If you are in charge of controlling the corporate real estate budgets, this is the best possible news. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that with a real fast break even on investment, interest in strategic retrofits is growing fast. A report from JLL found that investment in energy efficiency retrofits in 2011 was no more than $20 billion—but it could reach nearly $300 billion over the next 10 years.
Also interesting, local and federal government regulations are pushing building managers in the direction of smart buildings, including mandatory energy consumption disclosure in some cities.
Any building can run on smart building management technology with at least a few automated systems by carefully selecting equipment upgrades, like HVAC. We call this a limited retrofit, and it can pay off quickly when it comes to energy savings and building performance and also allows facility leaders to make more accurate budget forecasts and repair and procurement plans.
A few common places to start are:

Demand control ventilation (DCV): reduce electricity, gas, and steam consumption significantly while improving occupant comfort.
Smart lighting: can produce significant energy savings, with automated controls, plug upgrades, occupancy sensors, and digital readouts of energy performance.
Advanced security systems:provide sophisticated capabilities, such as visual recognition and data analytics, and centralized control of user authorization and secured areas.
Smart elevators: allow to travel faster and more pleasant. They use less energy and give technicians access to real-time data and control to prevent breakdowns.

Working with an integrated criteria is elementary when aiming for a quick investment payback. This include: Evaluate capital projects: order capital projects considering energy impact potential. Perform energy study: hire professional energy engineers to analyze energy consumption. Evaluate projects: design a model that allows you to compare projects in terms of energy, plot costs, savings, and performance indicators across potential projects to narrow down the most ROI-friendly options.

Building management systems and intelligent building technologies are improving all types of buildings allowing older legacies to jump into the future.