“Internet of Things” Allows Teaching Old Buildings New Tricks

Think older buildings can’t handle modern equipment systems? You’re not alone—but this is a misguided notion.

Many facility owners and managers assume that retrofitting older buildings with smart building systems and management tools involves too much capital investment and not enough return. While that may have been true in the past, cloud computing and affordable technologies like real-time data and analytics software, submetering, and wireless sensors have changed the financial equation.

With SensorSuite™ SuiteHeat, property managers can take control back from their tenants and start saving money and energy in their buildings.  SuiteHeat can be used with electrically controlled buildings as well as fan coil systems.


On average, intelligent buildings offer lower operating costs than those with legacy systems. According to the McGraw Hill Construction SmartMarket Report, intelligent buildings use 20% to 40% less energy and result in 8% to 9% lower operating expenses with valuations 7.5% higher than those with legacy systems. While return on investment (ROI) varies widely among individual buildings, every building type and nearly all historic buildings can benefit from smart systems and management platforms.

Precise definitions of a “smart” building—otherwise known as an intelligent, automated, high-performance, integrated, or advanced building—vary, but these terms generally refer to a building in which at least some vital systems, such as life safety, telecommunications, security, HVAC, and the like, are controlled by computers and are programmable. Building automation systems (BAS) are a familiar staple of modern office buildings, but today’s technologies make it possible to boost building performance and energy efficiency more than ever before in all types of facilities.

It’s Payback Time

Retrofits come in all shapes, sizes, and investment levels. However large or small the scale, technological advances have made for less complicated, less expensive retrofitting today than even just a few years ago.

The Internet of Things is creating powerful new capabilities for building management, while the components are becoming cheaper and more available. The cost of automated building technology has fallen as adoption has increased. For example, intelligent lighting components can be purchased today for approximately $50 per unit—compared with an average of $120 per unit a few years back.

Smart building management systems have become more flexible and affordable as well. The price of wireless sensors used to gather data from building automation systems has dropped below the $10 per unit average cost threshold, significantly lowering the cost of data driven management.

With buildings that use baseboard heating or radiant heating, SuiteHeat can return paybacks up to 37% on electrical buildings.

Combining wireless monitoring with predictive analytics, smart building management software boosts facility performance with constant commissioning and data driven decision-making. This enables staff to address equipment problems remotely before these become failures. Some platforms combine remote monitoring and control with on the ground experts to address problems that cannot be fixed remotely.

As a result, the break-even payback for retrofit investments can occur in less than a year, according to JLL research. That equation means a retrofit investment becomes an operating expense, rather than a capital expense—a much more attractive prospect for those who control corporate real estate budgets.

With fast break-even on investment now a reality, it is little wonder that interest in strategic retrofits is growing. The Changing Face of Smart Buildings: The Op-Ex Advantage, a report from JLL found that investment in energy efficiency retrofits in 2011 was no more than $20 billion—but it could reach nearly $300 billion over the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, new local and federal government regulations, including mandatory energy consumption disclosure in some cities, are pushing building managers in the direction of smart buildings.

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