2022 07 15

6 ways Staticus Care is transforming façade functionality using IoT

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We give different names to different kinds of façades – walls, windows, curtain walls, building envelopes, ventilated façades, closed cavity facades, etc. Yet they all serve the same purpose. 

Fundamentally, a façade creates and separates an internal environment from an external one. Ideally, a façade can also harvest energy and create a sustainable and comfortable living and working environment.

Of course, there are differences and trade-offs in each type of façade. There are also differences in the expertise of façade builders. This results in thousands of companies around the world specializing in façades of one type or another. 

However, they are all competing along the same fundamental parameters:

  • How best to keep the external and internal environment separated,
  • How to deliver a solution within the desired budget and timeline with the least number of headaches,
  • And how to provide the most energy-efficient way to control the internal environment, while minimizing maintenance costs.

Staticus Cares established to explore what a façade can be

We in Staticus don’t like to be part of the crowd. So we asked ourselves: what else can a façade do for you? And more importantly, after asking this, we committed to finding out.

Staticus Care was created following our new strategic direction – Staticus Beyond Façades. With funding support from Norway Grants, and together with our partners Kaunas Technical University, Oslo Metropolitan University, and SINTEF Applied Research, Technology and Innovation, we set out to answer that question.

One of the directions we have chosen to explore is integrating our façades with IoT technology.

IoT innovation applied to façades

Continuous improvements in communication technology allowed for ever-present, reliable high-speed internet. And this in turn gave birth to the Internet of Things (IoT). 

IoT has many potential applications in the area of façades. Appliances, tools, furniture, electric sockets – they can all be fitted with a sensor to collect data. 

This wealth of data, shared with users via an internet connection, can then be leveraged to:

  • Provide insights into product usage and performance,
  • Improve a products’ design and functions,
  • Optimize resource utilization, for example, reducing maintenance frequency or enabling smarter HVAC usage,
  • And increase productivity.

We have been collecting a lot of data on our façade’s environment, including thermal performance, humidity, sound, air particulates, luminosity, vibration, motion, and CO2 and other gasses. Through this data, and the application of our partners’ research, we are extending the functionality of façades far beyond simply being a visually appealing environment separator. 

Image source: Optergy.com

In fact, in our project we are exploring 6 different ways façades can be transformed using IoT:

  1. Optimizing building management systems
  2. Improving façade design and performance
  3. Transforming after-sales agreements
  4. Helping guide industry norms with data-backed proposals
  5. Collaborating with research institutions through data sharing programs
  6. Improving management of the full life cycle of our façades.

Here is a quick breakdown of the main ways IoT can impact these areas.

Optimizing building management systems by enriching them with our data

Our façades are not only responsible for a building’s appearance. Their performance is also critical in managing the indoor environment of our projects. By monitoring our façades’ performance, and combining this with a building management system (BMS), we believe we can improve the BMS’s optimization of energy use.

Sensors in our façades would collect and then combine data that is otherwise unavailable to traditional BMSs. This creates much richer datasets, which can then enable more timely and actionable responses from the BMS.

Furthermore, façade specifications and functionality could be considered before BMSs. Collaborating with building management services in a project’s development phase would result in a more comprehensive BMS solution that benefits all.

Improving façade design and performance

During the façade design stage, its performance can be simulated along certain material, structural, thermal, and transparency metrics. Other tests such as air and water tightness can also be conducted on performance mock-ups. 

However, a façade’s actual performance is usually reflected in the building’s energy bills. By mounting sensors on our façades, we can constantly monitor their performance. Together with our engineering and material knowledge, our designs can be improved upon using this previously unknown data.

Transforming after-sales agreements in our industry

Façade warranty agreements are based on approximations of the expected useful life of different façade components, along with commitments to periodic maintenance services over the façade’s lifetime.

Using data collected by sensors and AI, our predictive maintenance models will monitor our façades health and performance, and alert the building’s management, and Staticus Care personnel, of potential issues. 

Furthermore, the remaining useful life of the façade can be calculated. This removes the uncertainty involved with warranty durations, resulting in maintenance crews only being deployed when needed and increasing the flexibility of after-service agreements, which is all to our clients’ benefit.

Helping guide industry norms with data-backed proposals

Industry norms are very important when it comes to maintaining high safety and performance standards. These norms are rigorous, and contractors invest significant resources in ensuring they are met. 

We will be able to propose modifications to these norms by using our façade performance data to analyze where these norms fall short or exceed the stated goals.

Collaborating with material, engineering, and other relevant research institutions through data sharing programs

Our industry benefits from having strong institutions who make breakthroughs that keep expanding the limits of what is currently possible. 

Material research and engineering institutions, along with other research institutions and companies, would greatly benefit from access to data collected from real scenarios. This would enable them to compare theoretical models and lab-simulated studies with real data from the field. 

Our data sharing program will be a continuation of Staticus’ long-standing policy of collaboration with educational and research institutions.

Improving management of the full life cycle of our façades through monitoring of façade performance and remaining useful life

Façades-as-a-Service is a new reality that no serious façade contractor will be able to ignore. 

Contractors will be expected to manage and take responsibility for their products from cradle to grave. As with after-sales agreements, without the correct information, managing a façade’s life cycle will be based on agreements which rely on rough approximations. 

We believe our clients and our environment deserve better than a best guess.

Bringing data into the construction industry

The construction industry has benefited immensely from technological advancements in materials, tooling, and transportation industries. 

However, the construction industry has remained dangerously dry from the data tsunami that has impacted nearly every other industry. So far, the adoption of digital technologies has been mediocre at best (with the exception of design, engineering and communication software and tools).

But this is now starting to change, and our goal is to be at the bleeding edge of this transformation. 

The project “Developing a more environmentally friendly automated façade system that is integrated into the building’s control systems” is funded by the 2014-2021 Norwegian Financial Mechanism Program “Business Development, Innovation and SMEs” and EEA and Norway Grants.

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