Three things to know before investing in an “intelligent building”

Intelligent Building - Ideas for your next intelligent building

Intelligent buildings are the future but what does “intelligent” actually mean? How do you guarantee savings from smart building technologies? Are all building technologies created equal?

Intelligent buildings are the future – Find out if they should be in yours!

By: Zach Denning


Technology has evolved dramatically in the last fifteen years. Cell phones have evolved into “smart phones” and laptops have been replaced with tablets. The last industry anyone would consider being linked to the tech bubble would be HVAC – Laggard, maybe. Left out, certainly not!

HVAC technology investments in commercial buildings account for nearly 2.00/sq. ft. and comprise of microprocessors, IP enabled gateways and thousands-of-lines of coding. Intelligent buildings have the ability to network HVAC equipment with the intent to maximize energy savings and reduce maintenance costs.

With the building technology market growing larger, some providers are making astronomical claims that may leave your building with a single digit IQ.


Here are some ideas to consider before investing in your intelligent building project:


1. Cost-saving advantages touted by technology companies typically require 3rd party setup

Building automation systems (BMS) manufacturers argue energy and maintenance cost-savings as a benefit when considering upgrades. Although most systems are capable of substantial reductions the real savings are in the programming or coding – Not the hardware itself!

Even configurable systems still require a competent 3rd party programmer or technician for proper setup. The “intelligence” in intelligent buildings typically revolves around the actual coding or programming of the hardware.

Imagine Apple releasing the first iPhone without a single App and touting that it will reduce your business overhead by 30%! Although a great platform, even the iPhone would still require talented developers to scratch out code in order to make these lofty claims.

When investing in a new intelligent building platform ensure that the 3rd party integrator can guarantee claims made to you by the manufacturer.


2. Maintenance cost-savings require your service provider to understand technology

At least 30-35% of the total cost-savings associated with intelligent buildings are in maintenance and operation. Commercial HVAC operating costs are traditionally 60-70% energy and 30-40% maintenance.

Although some HVAC audits omit maintenance savings as part of their returns they have a profound impact on returns. Relying soley on energy savings as justification for an intelligent building can almost double simple payback – Inclusion of maintenance savings can drive payback down to less than 2-years!

HVAC service providers capable of interacting with building technologies can reduce total operating costs as much as 21-24% annually  – With tenant complaints dropping almost 50%! Make sure your maintenance provider knows how to work with your new system to ensure you hit your savings goals.


3. Ongoing service is necessary for ongoing savings

Intelligent building technologies are often incorporated into sustainable investment strategies – Although they lack sustainability as standalone investments! Systems like building automation and analytics must be constantly maintained and tuned by a certified 3rd party to ensure ongoing savings and efficiency.

Investments like building automation should include costs associated with life-cycle maintenance in order to get accurate return data. Unlike solar or other energy-based investments, the “one-and-done” mentality can have massive impacts on return calculations.

The average HVAC system degrades at a rate of 12-15% annually which must be accounted for with ongoing maintenance and monitoring. Inability to quickly resolve lingering issues leads to high-cost failures and tenant impact.

Ensure your service provider includes specific details about maintaining your intelligent building investment – It’s worth it!


Understanding and implementing the above ideas on your next intelligent building investment will help safeguard expectations and calculated savings. If you have any questions or ideas on upcoming projects feel free to shoot us a call and one of our engineers will be happy to help!



My name is Zach Denning and I’m the CEO and owner of EnerDapt, Inc. We’re an HVAC engineering firm that utilizes cloud-based technology to bridge the technical and financial gaps commonly found in HVAC management. Our OCMS EnerVise platform keeps customers knowledgeable about their building including HVAC life-cycle costs, forecasted maintenance & upgrades, and equipment replacements.   You can reach me at or visit our website at

OCMS; Building Operating Cost Management

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