How Ottawa property owners can integrate the Internet of Things into smart buildings

Derrick Hanson
Derrick Hanson is the president and CEO of Ottawa-based technology engineering firm The Attain Group. (Photo by Mark Holleron)
Editor's Note

This article originally appeared in the 2017 BOMA Ottawa Commercial Space Directory.

Are you too hot or too cold in the office?

It’s one of the most common complaints by staff or customers, but imagine controlling the heating and cooling around you with a simple swipe of your smart phone.

It may not seem like much now, but that intricate network of sensors that allows one to adjust the temperature by a degree or two is just the beginning of an exciting new era in technology.

“Thirty years ago, we talked about intelligent buildings and it was sort of a buzzword, but frankly I never saw it. I saw a bunch of silos of technologies in buildings,” says Derrick Hanson, president and CEO of Ottawa-based technology engineering firm The Attain Group.

“What we are seeing now is the convergence of those systems into one and it’s amazing. We are so embedded in that world right now, and it’s driving a lot of new business.”

Cost savings

At the centre of this paradigm shift in technology is the Internet of Things. The IoT is the connection of all devices in a building to the internet, with everything connected on one network. The embedded technology systems communicate and provide better operations, analytics and efficiencies, which result in more favourable and predictable outcomes.

Hanson estimates that technology construction costs account for approximately 10 per cent of the price tag to build a building. He believes that’s money well spent as the majority of tenants today rank internet connectivity as a priority over other utilities like water, gas and hydro.

With that in mind, building owners and developers are now engaging technology consultants in the early stages of construction planning in an effort to make the buildings more effective in the long run.

“The old way of thinking was for a tenant to bring us in to adapt a space with technology,” says Hanson. “Now, it’s often becoming a development issue – where you build the technology into the plan up front, rather than after shovels are already in the ground.”

Bringing in technology early may mean more investment upfront, but Rob Montgomery, the regional general manager with technology and integrated solutions provider Johnson Controls, believes capital cost savings can be found almost immediately.

“When you use this technology-contracting approach in new construction, you can expect an eight to 13-per-cent reduction in overall first costs,” he says. “The key areas for savings are found in materials, labour and construction timelines.”

For building owners, those savings translate into a larger return on investment down the road. Instead of putting five or six different backbones into a building that take up more concrete, steel and space, one can shrink it down to a single fibre optic backbone.

That adjustment alone reduces the size of the core of the building, resulting in more rentable space and less wasted area on each floor.

“Plus, you are using less power and there is a reduction in heat being generated from various types of equipment,” Hanson says. “Instead of having multiple kinds of equipment on each floor, we are putting in one switch that connects all of these things. And the common denominator is that they are all speaking one language: internet protocol.”

From an operations perspective, smart buildings are using the analytics they gather from various systems, and allow for real-time adjustments for all areas of operations such as how much light is in the building, how much sewage is being produced, how much water is being used – and it goes right down to the small things, such as whether there is enough toilet paper in the ladies’ bathroom.

“Rather than sending a maintenance worker to the facilities on a regular basis to check stock, there is a sensor that would let crews know when the bins are close to being empty.”

“Rather than send-ing a maintenance worker to the facilities on a regular basis to check stock, there is a sensor that would let crews know when the bins are close to being empty,” explains Hanson. “It’s more efficient, and a more proactive response rather than a reactive one.”

There are also big cost savings in managing how the equipment inside a facility is being used and maintained. Data can be used to predict if a piece of equipment is about to fail or requires maintenance.

“When we hear IoT it sounds like a solution looking for a problem, but that’s not the case,” says Montgomery. “We encourage customers and developers to define what it is you want to accomplish and the IoT will help you find a way to make it a reality.”

This article originally appeared in the 2017 BOMA Ottawa Commercial Space Directory. Read the full publication here: