Maintenance has been a headache for building owners for as long as humans have lived indoors. But what was once a laborious process of periodically checking and rechecking equipment has been transformed in recent years by advances in digital technology.
Today, modern building automation systems continually generate data for analysis by cloud-based platforms that give building managers real time feedback into the performance of individual systems.
AMP Capital’s National Operations Centre is accelerating data-driven operations by capturing and analysing data from dozens of different systems across 40 office buildings and shopping centres. Intuitive dashboards give managers and investors a real-time view of how a building is performing – allowing them to pick up problems with equipment performance, identify optimisation recommendations, manage repairs and preventative maintenance.
For the end investors that ultimately own these buildings and shopping centres, the result has been profound: a 21 per cent reduction in planned mechanical and building management system contract costs and a 10 per cent reduction in technician time has been delivered through recontracting services through a holistic data-driven maintenance program1.
Maintenance is one of the largest costs associated with real estate. Traditionally, building maintenance is a slow, labour-intensive process based around scheduled regimes of periodic checks on system performance. Technicians test and calibrate to a schedule, regardless of whether maintenance on a particular piece of equipment is actually required.
Finding failures can be haphazard – discovering that a system is not working properly generally relies on the timing of a periodic check or a report from tenants that something is amiss. Moving from a conventional schedule to a collaborative data-driven maintenance program helps keep a lid on these costs in a number of ways.
First, it avoids unnecessary maintenance by using data about an asset’s performance to help technicians be more considered in their approach. By using fault detection diagnostics to discover which piece of equipment might have a problem, building managers have the visibility to redirect technician time in areas where it is needed.
Second, the fault detection means problems are picked up earlier than they would be under a scheduled maintenance program. Being proactive in repairs generally extends the life of equipment which may otherwise need to be replaced. Longer asset lifecycles reduce capital costs for investors.
Picking up faults quicker also reduces the number of equipment breakdowns in a building, making life easier for tenants who are faced with less downtime and a reduction in associated costs. In our experience, tenants who enjoy improved comfort and reliability – and good access to information on a building’s performance – are more likely to stick around.
The upshot is that the data driven approach generally reduces the cost of both planned preventative maintenance – by improving management of technicians – and the cost of reactive maintenance, by lowering run time and monitoring for failures. All stakeholders are empowered with transparent insights and tools that enable operations to respond quickly to real-time changing conditions.
This allows building managers to reduce their energy usage – and their carbon footprints – for example by ensuring systems are turned off when they are not needed to be running. They also allow building managers to proactively manage indoor air quality which is fast becoming critical in retail and office environments by adjusting fresh air intake, heating and cooling to provide optimal comfort for occupants.
In fact, in 15 buildings across the portfolio, a supervisory artificial intelligence control system runs the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems autonomously, adjusting air quality based on weather conditions and occupancy.
This system is averaging a 30 per cent improvement in thermal comfort, a 20 per cent (and up to 40 per cent in some buildings) reduction in equipment runtime and a 5 to 17 per cent reduction in base building energy consumption and costs2.
A further 15 buildings are in ‘learning mode’ and approaching deployment.
Underlying this digital operating model is a sophisticated Smart Building platform that collates the data from across the various systems in a building – temperature, air quality, water, gas and electricity usage and even the volume of waste being generated. More than 380,000 data points are captured every 15 minutes across the property portfolio3.
Perhaps surprisingly, little capital cost is involved in deploying these types of systems. A push over the last few years towards open data protocols means most modern systems in a building can generate data in in ways that can be integrated and digitally modelled within a cloud software system for analysis.
Not only does the National Operations Centre track the performance of equipment, it also provides a forecasting tool for capital spending and gives building managers a live dashboard to track projects and maintenance. Dashboards also report the number of starts and stops for individual pieces of equipment, plus report on run hours for each asset and any alerts and faults that have been detected.
A building’s environmental performance can also be tracked on a dashboard reporting each individual building’s NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) performance, turning what is traditionally an annual energy usage assessment into a real time tool.
These are critical information points for investors who seek to measure sustainable outcomes from their real estate portfolios.
So, what’s next?
While maintenance is a big early win for data driven real estate technologies, in our view there is no reason other aspects of building management cannot also benefit from a similar approach. Systems like lighting, fire detection, elevators and escalators, security and even cleaning are likely to benefit from a real-time data-driven approach.
The National Operations Centre will continue to innovate and roll out new functionality and insights to assist building managers and tenants - and ultimately investors are the beneficiary.
1. AMP Capital Real Estate- Asset Technologies indicative portfolio aggregated analysis
2. AMP Capital Real Estate- Asset Technologies indicative results to date
3. AMP Capital Real Estate-Data acquisition from asset level building operational technologies
Subscribe below to Institutional Investor to receive my latest articlesDaniel Lepore, Head of Asset Technology
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