A Smart Building Without BRAIN Won’t Be Smart Enough

A smart building is one designed and constructed to provide its occupants a very sustainable and comfortable space in which to live or do business. It is also one designed and constructed to provide its owners a very secure and comfortable return-on-investment.

Smart Building / BRAIN

Unfortunately, many smart buildings do not live up to their potential as sustainable, comfortable shelters or as profit centers. That is because the attributes that make these buildings smart are not as robust as they could be, even though BIM (building information modeling) and BEM (building energy modeling) technologies were utilized during planning and construction. The problem is not that these smart buildings lack sufficient microchips, sensors and control devices. What they require in order to become truly smart is BRAIN power.

BRAIN is a digital solution we at Arcadis developed to help our clients successfully address the challenges that Real Estate industry disruption imposes on the owners of smart buildings. BRAIN completes the circle for these assets beginning in the BIM stage, continuing on into the operate-and-maintain phase, and extending to the time when it becomes necessary or desirable to redesign, reprogram, or otherwise repurpose the structure. BRAIN also introduces superior transparency to the management of smart buildings, and it does this by consolidating vast amounts of data acquired from both the building and its various stakeholders.

BRAIN is a Unique Solution

In short, BRAIN represents a unique solution to the challenge of maximizing the smartness of smart buildings. We have structured this solution as a three-step process. In the first step, we implement a special data model that permits easy matching of system coding and naming conventions with every smart-building system currently on the market. Matches can be made by company or by locality, and they can be refined using existing market standards (such as those developed by the Deutsches Institut für Normung and the Netherlands Standardization Institute, among others).

This data model factors together what we call the Six P’s—people (activities of the building’s occupants and visitors), place (the smart and non-smart attributes of the building itself), process (the expected means by which the building will be operated, managed, and maintained), performance (the building’s safety and comfort potential), price (the building’s profit-and-loss goals), and product (BRAIN).

In the second step of our BRAIN solution, we integrate the various layers of information the smart building will produce minute-by-minute. If you were to diagram these data layers, there would be five of them. The top layer represents cloud data, such as weather and traffic information. The layer immediately below represents real-time data about heating/ventilation/air-conditioning performance, building access controls, elevator utilization, temperature fluctuations, humidity readings, and power consumption, to mention but a few.

The next layer down is operations-and-maintenance information obtained from input sources such as daily business of planned activities, helpdesk, reporting, service level agreement/critical performance indicator, and finance. Below this layer is company core data (for example, enterprise resource planning, and SAP information). At the bottom of it all is Place, the smart building itself. Here, the data consists of that acquired through BIM or manual inventory-taking, and includes information on design, construction, and cost management.

BRAIN assesses these layers individually and as an integrated whole to reveal process inefficiencies (obtained via root-cause analyses), favorable and unfavorable interdependencies, and user experiences. The result is better management, smart forecasting, and (for end users) better quality of life.

Step 3 of our BRAIN solution entails finding ways to make the smart building smarter. This step is best explained with an illustration to show how a BRAIN-analyzed smart building’s operations-and-maintenance cycle can be efficiently managed:

Operations Maintenance Cycle

Significantly, we develop BRAIN solutions right in the field because that is where the real needs of owners and stakeholders reside. We take a three-pronged approach to uncovering those needs. First, we explore at an operational level the basic needs of the client. Next, at the tactical level, we seek to determine the best means by which the client’s middle-management team will be able to convert strategic ideas into operational guidelines and to consolidate operational information into a management reporting scheme. Lastly, we determine the strategic path along which the client should travel in order to achieve satisfaction of the identified needs as swiftly and economically as possible.

Making Greater Transparency Possible

Bottom line: BRAIN is all about transparency. From this transparency comes an unprecedented ability to optimize the operation and maintenance of even the most sophisticated smart buildings. Indeed, at Arcadis, we see a very bright future for the BRAIN concept. We also foresee many novel applications. For example, it may be possible to pair BRAIN with Blockchain to more confidently identify and then eliminate intermediate systems within smart buildings—we believe this could be a very positive development with regard to reducing the risk of costly mistakes and failures involving smart building management systems and practices.

Dirk Vanderlinden

Senior Consultant Asset Management +32 476 98 58 43 Ask me a question