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Smarter Cities: Intelligent buildings create efficient, green and liveable environment


Jamal Abdullah Lootah, CEO, Imdaad shares his vision of smart buildings, innovative technology and need for sustainability


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July 6, 2019
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Smarter Cities: Intelligent buildings create efficient, green and liveable environment

The Dubai Government has embarked on an ambitious project to transform the entire emirate into the world’s most modern and sustainable city—fully utilizing the optimal potentials of technological innovations. All public agencies have launched their own initiatives geared towards turning the vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, into a reality in the next seven years. The ultimate goal is to deliver highly sophisticated interactive services to the people in a cost-efficient, timely and effective manner. The vision is aimed at catapulting Dubai into the ranks of the most progressive places in the world.

In this age of rapid digital evolution, nothing seems impossible. The emirate, a cosmopolitan metropolis and business and cultural hub in the Middle East region, is now at the forefront of becoming a smart city. The Dubai Government has been continuously implementing smart initiatives since last year, all of which are focusing on making public agencies interconnected to provide faster and enhanced services. It is also looking at making all important information easily accessible to the general public anywhere by offering high-speed internet connection in public places across the city. Smart systems have also been installed across the emirate to improve governance and raise the living standards of all Dubai citizens and residents.
The Dubai leadership has been emphasizing on the significant role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the city’s economic, social, and environmental advancements and progress. For Dubai to fully transform into a smart city, every aspect, industry, sector, and person must be in sync with the leadership’s grand vision.

What is a smart city?
The idea of smart buildings is intimately connected with the smart city concept. Intelligent buildings, or the utilization of technologies and interconnected systems, is an integral and essential component of a smart city. They go beyond employing automation features amid the emergence of more advanced and next generation technologies. Essentially smart buildings involve utilizing ICTs to centralize the controlling and monitoring of building operations and services such as lighting, heating, security, CCTV and alarm systems, access control, audio-visual and entertainment systems, ventilation, filtration, and climate control, among others. Efforts must be done to promote intelligent buildings across Dubai to fully achieve its vision to become a smart city. This is important, especially in terms of promoting environment protection and sustainability. 
According to the National Science and Technology Council in the United States, commercial and residential buildings consume a third of the world’s energy. By 2025, the same report warned that buildings will become the largest consumer of energy worldwide – more than transportation and industrial sectors combined – if the current trend in energy consumption continues. During the same year, buildings are also seen to become the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, further worsening the devastating effects of global warming.

How can smart buildings bring the change?
One of the benefits of intelligent buildings is the significant reduction of energy consumption through the use of digital technology. This has been made possibly with the unprecedented emergence of smart sensors and control systems over the decades. Green or conventional buildings may now put in sophisticated systems that allow them to measure, control, and oversee the conditions within their facilities. For instance, power hungry HVAC and lighting systems can be adjusted automatically in some parts of the buildings based on occupancy. Sensors that provide occupancy data to HVAC and lighting systems allow the buildings to limit energy use by confining their operations only in areas that are occupied at certain hours.
Aside from this, smart buildings may also utilize sophisticated technologies to improve indoor air quality through automatic ventilation adjustments and air-quality monitoring. Installing automatic shading systems will also maximize the use of daylight to further save on power. Systems in some smart buildings are interoperable, reaching the next level of building intelligence. Sharing of data between a fire system and a security system, for instance, is now likely, as information can now be communicated through the use of high-tech devices based on the information received from sensors. These sensors are strategically installed within the building premises.
The benefits are immense in operating and managing smart buildings, especially in terms of efficiency, costs, environment, health, and security. Intelligent buildings also draw a big number of prospective tenants, citing high customer satisfaction as the main reason. Transforming facilities into smart buildings are also becoming increasingly important amid escalating efforts worldwide to protect the environment and promote sustainability.

Aside from HVAC, access, and lighting controls, smart systems may also be employed in other building management systems such as intruder alarm, fire alarm, CCTVs, water management, waste management, utilities, and standvby generators or UPS. Given the daunting task of realizing Dubai Government’s smart city goal, it is, therefore, important that public and private sectors and all stakeholders must work closely together.

From the private sector’s perspective, facilities management (FM) companies play an important role in this endeavour. FM companies are capable of deploying monitoring and sensoring technologies and intelligent traffic systems as well as energy management systems for buildings as part of the development of a smart city. Buildings must have a centralized system to interpret all data in the building such as temperature, carbon emissions, and average energy consumption. All information must also be shared with all tenants for them to play a proactive role in the initiative.
Imdaad’s initiatives

In particular, Imdaad, a leading provider of integrated FM solutions in the GCC, shares the government’s vision. The company is a known advocate of implementing and installing smart building concepts to help build communities that provide the highest quality of life without harming the environment. It has been taking significant steps of its own to contribute to this goal. For one, the company has been utilising eco-friendly equipments and prioritizing sustainability across all its operations.
It also conducts recycling training for its clients, corporate partners and staff, in addition to providing free recycling bins in certain projects where it handles waste management and collection service. Last year, we installed FleetMAN, a GPS-based fleet/asset tracking and monitoring system, for vehicle management cycle of our fleet of vehicles. FleetMAN is a web-based system that enables Imdaad to improve the efficiency of its fleet by putting control on unauthorized use of vehicle and unnecessary consumption of fuel, keeping a check on maintenance and repair, and curbing theft while lowering the risk of accidents and operating cost. It can be viewed and controlled from the computer and GPS tracking equipments fitted in the vehicles, facilitating them to monitor the whereabouts of their fleet real time. We also formed strategic partnerships with various organizations to accomplish our environment protection goals. One of these collaborations was with the Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat), a UAE-based telecommunications service provider, for the latter’s smart solutions initiatives.
In 2013, Imdaad has mobilized its workforce through an end-to-end Mobile Work Force Manager for efficient work order management. The innovative System Application Programming (SAP)-based application will be integrated with Imdaad’s Maximo – an enterprise asset management system that will enable the company to boost productivity through real-time 360-degree view of operations, cutting down operational costs, and increasing asset longevity.

Through this mobile solution, the company is able to promote field service productivity and safety by empowering its employees to improve efficiency in the field and reduce the risk of injury by following safe work practices. The new SAP-based mobile service has enhanced our processes by shortening the work cycle and reducing both cost and time – two critical elements in FM industry. This move was also in line with the Dubai Government’s vision to transform the emirate into a smart city by enabling the company employees to access services and facilities through latest technological advancements and smart devices.

The smartphone solution will be highly effective in the areas of field force management, workflow approvals, asset management, and facilities management. It captures high quality and accurate realtime data using information from location-based services, barcode scans, radio-frequency identification (RFID), and bluetooth connectivity to enhance its enterprise system.
Tech-driven projects by Imdaad
We are surrounded by technology, and at Imdaad, it is our constant effort to incorporate new innovations, ideas and energy efficient methods in our operations. Like for Hamdan Bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex (HSC), largest aquatic sports centre in the world, we used technology wherever possible. For their HVAC system-solar heater panels, under floor heating system, air handling units, fan coil units, etc., were used. Diving duller system, movable floor and submersible boom, underwater camera and speakers were the main features of the swimming pool. Other highlights of this project were disabled toilet alarm, timing and scoreboard system, central emergency battery system, hot water calorifier, fire hydrants, water treatment plants along with other major equipments. For Trakhees, an entity of the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, the contract included street lighting, roads and buried services. We were happy to deliver our services with 100% customer satisfaction, participation in the Earth Hour and zero incident of critical systems failures during emergencies. For Dubai Custom, we provided MEP and civil maintenance facilities. Latest technology and energy saving initiatives were also used for this project. Another, important project in this regard is that of DP World, we achieved compliance year-over-year for Fire Systems from FM Global Audit and major MEP and waste management services were carried out.
Call for preservation

Amid the growing population and increasing industrial and commercial activities, calls for environment protection and sustainability have been mounting. It is for this reason that the international community must invest heavily in smart cities to establish more efficient, green, and liveable environment. Governments from all over the world must put in significant efforts and implement strong measures to respond to various challenges such as pollution, traffic, emission, and scarcity of resources. Investing in smart buildings is an integral part of this effort. More than the economic benefits, intelligent buildings contribute significantly to the global movement aimed at promoting sustainability. Our leaders’ vision to preserve the emirate’s urban landscape and natural resources while enhancing its global competitiveness deserves our full attention and support. All of us must work and strive together in order to achieve the kind of future that we aspire for and want for the next generation.