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How ‘smart HVAC’ can slash O&M budgets, lower emissions

As IoT infrastructure connects more devices within buildings, the amount of data that can be mined for critical building management information is increasing exponentially, writes Marwan Zeidan

| | Nov 19, 2019 | 2:51 pm
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Buildings are the cornerstone of modern cities and urbanisation. According to a UN report, 55% of the world’s population lived in urban areas in 2018, reflecting a growth in urban population of the world from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018. By 2050, the proportion is expected to increase to an astounding 68%. These projections show that urbanisation, the gradual shift in residence of the human population from rural to urban areas, combined with the overall growth of the world’s population, could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050.

In view of this growth, a report by Navigant Search in 2017 showed that 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of energy consumption is attributed to buildings. From a regional perspective, a Frost & Sullivan’s report found per capita electricity consumption in the GCC region to be high with a steep increase in consumption across the three sectors: residential, industrial, and commercial. The GCC region’s energy consumption is driven largely by the residential sector, with almost 47% compared with the global average of 25%. The need for a more energy-efficient, smarter world cannot be denied.


One possible set of solutions can be found in the untapped potential of digital transformation. Combined with the growing awareness to manage energy smartly, a new breed of buildings has emerged. The ever-evolving technology has helped re-invent buildings and people’s experiences altogether. Advances in mobile, cloud-based and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are creating enormous opportunities for information gathering, sharing and analytics, impacting the way buildings are run.

As IoT infrastructure connects more devices within buildings, the amount of data that can be mined for critical building management information is increasing exponentially. This increases operational efficiency and improves the occupant experience while simultaneously allowing the building management to monitor and conserve energy. To achieve this, future building management systems should feature open-integration platforms, allowing companies and individuals to monitor, manage and control all building operations in one system. Such a system would enable actionable intelligence built on data from connected devices, sensors, and other sources. Other key considerations include scalability and security to ensure cost efficiency for the enterprise.


The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is impacting all industrial applications, and Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) is no exception. It is a new, large, and complex topic for Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)s. The technology is arriving very quickly and is challenging the ways we think about cybersecurity, connectivity, analytics and services. It also offers a wide array of benefits, such as providing users with better communication, remote control and monitoring, and predictive maintenance tools.

OEMs will have to manage this shift by implementing connectivity between the machines and the cloud, improving their web services with real-time applications, and providing more online content. Ultimately, however, they will be able to provide better services and smarter machines for their customers.

The smart HVAC segment is growing faster than the overall HVAC market, in part owing to smart technology – like monitoring and analytics capabilities – making it easier for machine builders and end users to comply with regulations around proven energy efficiency and green buildings. The total
cost of ownership is also reduced, thanks to embedded predictive maintenance tools that help service or maintenance teams be more efficient. No more unnecessary dispatches
to check the machines; now, they only come when needed.

Key elements of energy efficiency aim at improving the performance of energy- intensive equipment within the buildings, which include HVAC of buildings that provide maximum number of energy efficiency opportunities in buildings. Improving HVAC energy efficiency through smart features will not only reduce energy consumption but will also have a direct effect on global warming. What’s more, HVAC equipment accounts for roughly 40% of the total energy consumption of a building, which is why efficient machines are in such high demand.

Ultimately, companies should aim to compare their HVAC system performance with virtual environments. This would allow them to detect equipment issues and system- level faults for accurate diagnoses and enable rapid scalability across enterprise portfolios, so that everyone can benefit from lessons learnt across the board. In addition, budgets can be optimised with condition-based maintenance. Condition-based plans reduce unscheduled maintenance typically by 29%. It allows users to identify and fix issues before they become problems and reduce occupant complaints by 33%.

These types of solutions allow businesses to identify trends, diagnose problems, prioritise costly repair problems or adjust control settings with significant savings potential. By automatically analysing the system each day, companies can classify mechanical and control problems before they become occupant complaints and reduce time and expense by performing root-cause analysis. The reports generated offer predictable and actionable insights that improve sustainability and reduce energy costs by up to 20%.


This energy-efficient future is becoming a reality in Dubai, where such solutions were implemented in The Hilton Garden Inn, at the Mall of the Emirates. Crucially, the hotel achieved its sustainability goals and greater energy and operational efficiency without sacrificing guest comfort. Leveraging automation to integrate with the hotel’s operating systems helped achieve optimal operational and energy while achieving guest satisfaction far above benchmark. The hotel, being the largest Hilton Garden Inn outside the US, is now one of Hilton’s most efficient and sustainable hotels, achieving up to 44% increase in energy efficiency due to occupancy-based energy management solutions, ensuring guest comfort, convenience and control while saving energy. The hotel also received LEED Gold Certification, the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

Digitisation is still in its infancy and will continue to introduce important services and capabilities in the coming 10 years as technological solutions advance, providing smarter capabilities for businesses and individuals alike. Over time, smart HVAC machines will play a greater role in this drive towards sustainability and energy efficiency, ultimately driving us towards a better, safer world.

Marwan Zeidan is Real Estate and Healthcare Segment Director, Middle East and Africa, Schneider Electric.

CPI Industry accepts no liability for the views or opinions expressed in this column, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided here.

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