Write an app to improve occupant satisfaction and energy use.
BUILDINGS Assistant Editor Chris Curtland talks with Brett Sverkas, FM at the Earth Rangers Centre in Woodbridge, ON, about how writing his own apps impacts energy use.
What was the goal of your app?
I wanted to write an occupant engagement application. I wanted to make my job easier and have fewer headaches. By building an app where people make requests and they appear on an interface viewable by my staff, I bridged the communication gap.
The app works on any platform that has a web browser. The user interface has a virtual light switch and displays temperature and humidity on a thermostat. The app is also integrated into the BAS, so it knows when occupancy sensors pick up activity, card readers open doors, and computers are logged on.
How did you build your own app?
I’m self-taught. There are tutorials on YouTube, but I learned predominantly through www.lynda.com and www.vtc.com. Both cost about $30 per month and after about a month of courses, I could write a pretty basic application.
From there, I thought, “Technically, I can tie this system in, and I can add this functionality.” It built over time into an interactive building management system.
How does an occupant engagement app end up cutting energy use?
The backend has huge energy benefits. Now that everything is integrated, we can see if someone has overridden the lights. Also, the building can shut down after 45 minutes if it doesn’t sense any action.
Instead of having the building rigidly scheduled until the latest possible time someone is here – maybe 8 p.m. – if everyone leaves early on Friday, the building will go into shutdown basically right away. Scheduling has become dynamic and responsive. This impacts all building systems.
These energy benefits weren’t exactly unforeseen, but they were an evolution. Having an interactive building management system instead of a strict schedule allows you to respond in the moment.