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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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Thursday
Jul122007

How far off are Self Maintaining, Self-Repairing Facilities

It is easy to fall into thinking that Energy and its twin Sustainability are the only benefits of the new-style of intelligent buildings we are starting to call Buildings 2.0. A significant benefit of these new approaches will be a reduced cost of ownership, and in particular a reduced cost of maintenance while providing higher levels of service.

FIATECH (see side bar) has called this the Self Maintaining, Self Repairing facility. This does not yet mean that buildings will have internal nanobots responding to structural stress sensors by reinforcing beams. For now, it aims at the humbler goal of each building being able to recognize the needs of its systems and prepare timely and accurate requests for their upkeep.

This starts with improved life-cycle data management for each building. Today, it is hard for the facility operator to find even the recommended maintenance and spare parts for all the equipment in a newly built or renovated building. Such information as there is is in a large bookshelf in a locked room in the basement. Spare parts requirements must be carefully copied out of the books – assuming there are no mistakes made.

More recently, some hand-over and commissioning firms have begun scanning these big books and delivering them to the owner on a CD full of PDF (Adobe’s Portable Document Format) files. This does improve accessibility, to the extent that documents held by both maintenance and procurement are more accessible. I am not convinced that a CD with several hundred PDF’s is really a usable library. Even if you do find the correct PDF, there is still the problem of transcribing information into other systems.

The life cycle data standard for buildings (NBIMS) which holds all information for a building includes specifying how to hand over this information (COBIE) from the contractor to the owner in a machine readable format. Ready access to that information alone, it is estimated, can reduce lifetime Operations and Maintenance costs by up to 20%.

But that is still not the yet the Intelligent Building, that is just Building Intelligence.

In Buildings 2.0, systems will know their name, because they were named in the initial design. Systems will know their target performance characteristics because the design intents and energy models are part of the design history in NBIMS. When a system needs maintenance, the system will request it, using the name assigned to that system during design. Maintenance personnel will be able to find the requesting system because the name will be the one in the searchable on-line plans.

How far out is this? Not very. Today most routine maintenance is schedules on a time schedule, whether it is not yet needed or is overdue. Think of this as always changing oil every three months, whether you have kept the car in the garage or driven great distances. If this results in maintenance too soon, it is wasted. If this maintenance is performed too late, the equipment has already been damaged. Systems that know only how long they have run, and have that information accessible over the network, will already be a big step in this direction.

If the systems get just a little smarter, or make their information accessible to other systems for remote analytics, they can move beyond failure detection to failure prediction. Add in some energy cost awareness, and the maintenance organization will receive notification of problems before tenants are aware, complete with instructions as to what needs to be done, and the estimated cost per month of failing make the repair.

For now, that will have to count as a self-maintaining, self repairing facility. Even without nanobots, that will be a substantial improvement in operational cost and quality.

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