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Smart Buildings Can Help Outsmart Winter Storms

With the Bomb Cyclone in full force, we’ll likely hear stories about how winter storms put stress on our infrastructure resulting occasionally in heat failing and pipes bursting. At Siemens and within our Building Technologies division, we’re committed to ensuring our critical infrastructure is resilient and set to minimize the impact of Mother Nature’s wrath.

How do we do that? The approach is two-fold: firstly, ensuring those managing today’s buildings and systems are aware of the hazards related to weather and equipped to handle them; and secondly, designing and building the Smart Buildings of tomorrow that are set to withstand and manage these weather impacts.

For existing infrastructure, our colleague Brycen Spencer recently shared helpful tips with facility managers for protecting their building systems during the bitter winter cold. In Boston, our team is well attuned to the perils of winter and often reminds customers of the importance of winterizing cooling towers and chillers, freeze protection for pipes, air handler checks, the importance of maintenance schedules and how to prepare for a power outage.

Beyond this checklist, it’s important to look at the intelligent infrastructure for buildings. At the heart of a Smart Building is integration: linking building systems together and then connecting the building automation to enterprise systems.

Integrated building management systems (IBMS) can be a facility manager’s best friend and trusted colleague, particularly during a storm when the building might need to be managed remotely. These systems can help to:

  • Control simultaneously various disparate building systems (such as heat/ventilation/air conditioning, fire life safety, building automation, lighting, shades, and energy management);
  • Regulate temperature and humidity settings within buildings;
  • Indicate if (and where) excessive energy is being used; and
  • Identify if a problem is soon to occur (and then take steps to mitigate the problem) within a building system.

Knowing when an issue is about to occur can save time and money, sending a notification not just to the facility manager but also to a service technician who can act immediately. One system’s failure can often have a domino effect on other systems (think: heating system that is not working properly – resulting in frozen pipes). Staying ahead of potential problems can certainly save weeks - and even months - of future headaches and costly repairs.

Beyond the convenience to those owning or managing the building, it can also benefit those working, living in or visiting the building. Take for example a multi-tenant office building where one company stays open while others are closed. Temperature can be remotely controlled to ensure those working in the occupied office are warm and comfortable, while the offices that are closed maintain a lower temperature to reduce operating costs and improve energy efficiency. At a university, Smart Buildings can ensure that students have access to their dorms, dining halls and libraries on snow days, but lock down certain academic buildings that will not be open without staff. Another example of using Smart Building technology is at a hospital, where it is critical that any power outages are minimized. In case of an outage, IBMS can redirect power from one area of the building to another to ensure critical patient care systems are maintained.

So, while the weather may be a winter hurricane outside, Smart Buildings will ensure that those inside will find themselves in a perfect environment.

By: Rich Cillessen Head of Sales, Siemens Building Technologies and Jaime Paris Boisvert, General Manager, Building Technologies, Boston Branch


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