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Installing IoT in Legacy M&E Plant in Commercial Real Estate

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

Why you should consider installing IoT and how your Buildings can benefit

Much has been written and lauded by Manufacturers of Mechanical and Electrical equipment such as Pumps, Boilers Chillers etc. about the embedding of IoT hardware into their new pieces of equipment. Indeed, there is a great case for the speed of which IoT based systems aid installations and connections into BeMS systems.

That’s great for new build or refurbishment projects where its commonplace for complex systems to be specified by Consultants and to ease installations, but what about the vast number of existing smaller Buildings – like those in a Business Park that have just a simple control system to switch systems on/off?

This Article is about making the case for Installing IoT in Legacy M&E Plant in Commercial Real Estate.

Very little technology has been used or available to monitor even basic Heating, Hot Water and Cooling equipment that are critical to keeping existing Occupants safe, comfortable and compliant.

Installing IoT and Why and How should it be used

Common Current HVAC Installation Types

Small Commercial Offices will probably have basic Heating and Hot Water systems, some Ventilation, possibly Central Air Conditioning, and probably some local Air Conditioners in key rooms such as servers, meeting rooms etc.

These systems will switch on/off and be temperature controlled via a basic local control system. They will have Hot & Cold Water storage tanks and a mixture of toilet and kitchen facilities. There will be basic Fire and Security systems and probably a lift.

These are all “Dumb” items of equipment with no communication capability to let anyone know how they are “feeling”

The Buildings occupants either sign a full repairing lease or one whereby the responsibility for maintaining the Mechanical & Electrical services is paid for within the service charge. In this instance the Managing Agent will usually prepare and let a separate Main M&E Maintenance Contract.

What happens if something goes wrong?

If the Heating, Hot water or Air Conditioning equipment fails to operate, or there is a gas or water leak – especially out of hours or at weekends, then the likelihood of anyone knowing is zero – Because there is no communication capability then no one knows.

Usually the first thing is the tenant/occupier noticing the issue upon re-occupation and then reporting it to the Maintenance Contractor and/or Managing Agent, by which time catastrophic failure could have caused extensive damage.

Who Pays for the Repairs?

Most likely it will be the tenant/occupier who picks up the bill – whether direct via their Maintenance Contractor or via the Management Company.

Water Leak Claims in Commercial Buildings amounts to £2.5M/day – Source Insurance database

The responsibility for statutory compliance and testing and to upkeep the Buildings Insurances lies with the building’s occupants.

How Can Technology mitigate these issues?

Small, Low-Cost, long-life, battery powered, IoT sensor devices specially developed for Mechanical & Electrical systems have been around for some time, can be quickly and easily fitted in a matter of minutes to any item of Mechanical or Electrical equipment to give them the capability of saying “how they are feeling”.

They in turn connect to a Cellular Gateway to send/receive information via the mobile phone network. These sensors work on a low Powered LowRa private network with highly reliable connections to each other so that they can penetrate basement and roof plant rooms with ease.

Pre-agreed parameters would be agreed and thereafter if any of those sensors exceeds those thresholds then an alarm would be sent by text and email to key personnel for them to act upon.

Condition Based Maintenance

This has always been a tricky area for most FM or M&E Maintenance Businesses to achieve, especially when following SFG-20 procedures. The reality is that few are able to truly deliver a maintenance regime based upon the equipment condition and usage.

Being able to Change filters when they need to be changed – rather than when SFG-20 says so makes more sense, as does maintaining active pumps (rather than those permanently on stand-by) also makes sense. Again, this is where IoT technology can deliver savings of around 15%. Sensors can tell you what needs maintenance and when.

Predictive HVAC Maintenance

Predictive Maintenance - again this is an area often under used. Being able to predict failures and save repair bills is of real benefit to customer. These sensors can be used in a proactive way. The sensors analyze the HVAC system and lets you know how the system is performing- helping Businesses stay ahead of problems before they cause problems and possible costly failures.

Regular remote HVAC checks allows Businesses to find and fix small problems before they turn into major repairs.

If a warning is detected an alert will be sent in real time via SMS and Email

Specialty sensors – such as IoT Thermal Imaging and Remote Refrigerant pressure sensing also allow for preventive measures to be taken and to prevent failures.


But is the message getting through to the right people and is there a preconception that these are expensive, complex to install and who will be the main beneficiaries?

1. Cost Pre-Conception. - Contrary to popular belief costs are extremely low, substantially lower than equivalent BMS hard-wired devices, and because they are quick to install. - Hardware can be purchased outright or bundled together with a monitoring contract much like a mobile phone contract. i.e. a typical 10-sensor contract fully installed with instant alarms, reports and live interactive web based dashboard can cost just £95/Month for a 2-year contract.

2. Installation – Sensors can be fitted in a matter of minutes. The same 10 sensors and gateway can be installed in just 2 hours so inconvenience is minimal and can usually be carried out by 1-person that simply needs to be given access to the main plant to be monitored.

3. Beneficiaries – The following can all benefit in different ways and this will be where the billing will have to be applied, but at such a low cost its hardly going to break the Bank!

a. Tenant/Occupier – Clearly if they can reduce failures and be notified that things are going wrong so they can be fixed before they fail has to be a great benefit, also if they can reduce their Insurance premiums. Also the system can be used from a condition based maintenance perspective then they can potentially reduce their maintenance needs and costs.

b. Management Company – If they are acting on behalf of the landlord then they can attract tenants who will view this technology as an asset to letting, also they can provide an enhanced service to the tenants and landlords.

c. Landlords & Developers – They will be able to add value to their buildings and provide a better experience to their existing tenants and be able to attract new tenants who might be looking at other more modern buildings with newer technologies.

d. Facilities/M&E Maintenance Contractors – They will be able to respond to issues immediately and be pro-active with their clients, whether they be the occupiers themselves or the Managing Agents. They will receive notifications of issues and let their clients know that there is potentially an issue.

These systems would benefit Smaller Offices of 5,000 Sq/ft up to 60,000 Sq/ft are often owned by Landlords and Developers such as Pension Funds, Insurance Companies and other Institutional Investors and are usually managed and operated by local Managing/Letting Agents.

Which M&E Systems Benefit Most from installing IoT systems?

Whilst there are a whole host of M&E systems and sensors available, we have found the following systems to benefit most, as they represent the ones that can cause mitigate any disruption and cost savings:

  • Air Handling Unit Filters- Being able to change Filters when they need to be changed rather than pre-planned regular schedule.

  • Water Tanks – Automatic Temperature Monitoring for compliance with Water Regulations.

  • Chillers, VRV and other A/C and Refrigeration units – Constant Refrigeration Gas Pressure Monitoring, to reduce refrigerant losses and possible Failure

  • Chillers, VRV and other A/C and Refrigeration units – Energy Consumption & Energy Management, identify what is being used and when and possibly reduce consumption.

  • Water Leak Detection in Hot & Cold Closed Water Distribution, inc Toilets, and Sinks. Quickly identify issues and isolate to reduce damage and costs.

  • Water Pumps – Unit Vibration and Body Temperature to identify impending bearing or seal failure.

  • Low Heating and Hot Water Temperatures – Indicates Possible Boiler Failure.

  • High Space Temperature – Indicates Possible A/C Failure.

With IOT having so many benefits, who is going to pay to install it?

Therein lies the dilemma. To make it an easy process for anyone – whoever decides that they would like it, why not try it on a suitable site Risk free?

Risk-Free 3 Month Trial

We will install a mixed 15-sensor system Free of Charge for 3-months. You choose the site, the items you would like to monitor, and we will install the system, connect it to a private secure gateway, and set-up your dashboard all within 7-working days. If you decide you like it then we will bill you quarterly for a further 12-months at the monthly equivalent of just £130/month

Just click on this link and place your order

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