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What is Predictive Maintenance and How It Helps Buildings?

No matter how big your commercial building is, you must perform certain maintenance activities. These activities include general repairs, special inspections, and emergency repairs. However, one often overlooked type of maintenance is predictive maintenance. Many people confuse predictive with preventive maintenance. Let’s define what predictive maintenance entails.

What is Predictive Maintenance?

Predictive maintenance, also called PdM, is a maintenance operation warranted when a predefined condition occurs. It depends on a system of sensors that monitor the state of assets. The sensors collect real-time data that you can use to predict when the assets will need repair. Pre-empting equipment failure helps you avoid significant losses because of not conducting repairs early.

Predictive maintenance is the most sophisticated type. Companies that do routine maintenance could be doing too little or too much maintenance, exposing them to unnecessary risk and preventable expenses. Moreover, reactive maintenance could cost companies substantial amounts of money and downtime. The sweet spot between preventive and reactive maintenance is predictive maintenance. You only conduct it when it is needed and before the equipment fails.

worker doing maintenance work in a commercial building

Origin of Predictive Maintenance

Companies started using predictive maintenance in the 21st century. Early variations of this concept used periodic sensor measurements and compared the readings to an ideal figure. However, recent techniques use real-time monitoring and software to predict when equipment is on the brink of failure. Modern systems also have remote monitoring using IoT sensors that communicate with predictive maintenance software. When the sensor readings exceed a predefined threshold, the system triggers a work order for inspection.

Significance of Predictive Maintenance to Smart Buildings

The essence of a smart building is to give you more control over its environment and operation. Although maintenance is a crucial part of managing a building, it is often left out when integrating intelligent devices into the building.

One of the challenges of maintenance is balancing your approach. If you replace parts too early, you waste time and money. On the other hand, if you wait until something breaks, you will spend even more time and money to repair it. Installing a predictive maintenance system enables you to strike the correct balance, wasting less time and avoiding disruptions that could grind your business to a halt. So, how do you integrate predictive maintenance into a smart building?

How is Predictive Maintenance used in Smart Buildings?

Predictive maintenance in commercial buildings often revolves around mechanical equipment. The maintenance includes everything from tiny actuators in manufacturing lines to HVAC blower motors. Other systems like water supply and electricity supply also benefit from it.

The most efficient way to maintain a smart building is to analyze the data generated by the building management system. The BMS provides accurate data that is current and actionable. You can use the data to refine the services in a building while achieving optimal building performance and cost-effectiveness. The data can enable building owners to make decisions based on relevant data that sheds light on how performing maintenance will affect the building’s performance.

To introduce predictive maintenance into smart buildings, companies attach IoT sensors to the equipment in the building. These sensors continuously collect data about the performance of the equipment. For instance, you could connect sensors to measure the temperature of coolant entering and exiting the compressor in a commercial refrigeration unit. Another sensor could count how often the compressor starts and how long it runs. You could correlate the data with the ambient temperature and the settings of the unit’s control panel.

You can use such a large amount of data to establish a baseline performance figure when the unit is operating normally. You could also use the baseline performance figures provided by the equipment manufacturer. During the unit’s operation, you might encounter aberrant data that could indicate a problem. If you cannot explain the anomaly by checking all other parameters, it could point to a potential problem with the unit. Abnormal sensor readings should be the first hint to tell you to begin maintenance on the equipment.

Such a high level of insight into your equipment will enable you to better plan your maintenance activities. You can prioritize predictive maintenance for areas that are more critical than others. You can also use data from the sensors to preemptively order parts or buy new equipment before it suffers a catastrophic failure.

Factors to Consider Before you Implement a Predictive Maintenance System in your building

You can use predictive maintenance in any commercial building. But, before starting, you should think about the following factors.

What are your maintenance pain points?

Every building has a different experience when you ask about recurring failures. Moreover, some breakdowns are more disruptive than others. Therefore, you should decide the failures to address when they occur and their priority level. All mission-critical equipment in the building needs predictive maintenance.

Which sensors are the most accurate in predicting failure?

At this point, you might want to consider hiring maintenance professionals. Only a person with training can create a system that predicts failures accurately. The expert can use information about how the equipment works and how frequently you use it to figure out how to detect potential failures.

Is predictive maintenance worth it?

You can use sensors to predict failures in virtually any equipment. But, sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to conduct predictive maintenance for some equipment. It might not be easy to justify spending money on equipment that is not mission-critical. The best way to know if predictive maintenance for a piece of equipment is worth it is to do a cost-benefit analysis. It helps you to know if the value you would gain from predictive maintenance is worth the money you’d spend.

office buildings need predictive maintenance

Pros of Predictive Maintenance

You cannot predict equipment failures for commercial properties that don’t have IoT sensors. However, smart buildings with integrated sensors have the following advantages.

1 | Predictive maintenance is cost-effective.

When you implement a predictive maintenance system, you could benefit from substantial financial gains. The return on investment for predictive maintenance systems is between 25% and 30%. You could also reduce your maintenance costs by up to 75%. Moreover, according to the US Department of Energy, your breakdowns will decline by up to 45%. The department also noted that 45% of the top-performing facilities use predictive maintenance, which is higher than the average of 12% for all commercial facilities.

2 | Get precise information about your assets

The sensors in a smart building can gather enough data to be able to use to calculate the mean time before failures. This data allows you to replace components before they wear out. Moreover, collecting more data can give context to seemingly random events. For instance, you could assume that a sudden temperature drop occurred because of a malfunctioning HV/AC. However, if a sensor recorded a person opening a window before the temperature drop, you can overrule equipment issues as the cause.

3 | Eliminate downtimes

Unplanned downtime is the most feared consequence of equipment failure. The downtime can significantly reduce productivity and cause unwanted expenses. Predictive maintenance prevents these costly downtimes by enabling you to make proactive repairs on your equipment.

4 | Optimizes your productivity

With a predictive maintenance system, managers and technicians can focus on mission-critical equipment. Your maintenance technicians save a lot of time because they don’t have to walk around to check the condition of your equipment. Moreover, when you have fewer emergency repairs, you can use your technicians more effectively since you can add critical repairs to the regular maintenance schedule.

5 | Increased service life of the equipment

A predictive maintenance strategy allows you to calculate how frequently to conduct repairs, assess how severely equipment is damaged, and how it works after repairs. The approach ensures that no equipment gets severely damaged. In comparison, reactive maintenance only kicks in when a machine breaks down. Allowing breakdowns to occur ultimately reduces the service life of devices because of the propagation of defects.

6 | Improved product quality

When machines are not working well, the final product in a manufacturing plant will be inconsistent. You can correct the problem of faulty machines permanently by installing a predictive maintenance system.

Cons of Predictive Maintenance

While there are many benefits to Predictive Maintenance, before implementing these solutions the downsides must also be considered.

1 | You need additional planning and scheduling time

A predictive maintenance system usually results in unexpected maintenance. It forces you to modify the existing maintenance schedule to include the predictive maintenance task.

2 | Requires additional equipment

When you want to introduce predictive maintenance in a commercial building, you have to buy monitoring equipment for the building. The savings you get by using the equipment pay for acquisition costs over time. However, you still have to spend money to buy the equipment.

3 | Predictive maintenance requires skilled interpretation of data

After implementing predictive maintenance, you need staff members to interpret the data collected by the sensors. They must scrutinize the data to look for signs of imminent failure. For the staff to analyze the data correctly, they need to know how the equipment and maintenance software both work.

Companies that implement predictive maintenance should hire new workers or provide training to their existing staff. It is an additional expense to the company. However, it is an investment that pays off in the long term.


Predictive maintenance is one of the investments that every robust company must implement. Despite having a high initial investment, the predictive maintenance system pays for itself within a few years.

If you want to learn more about smart buildings, smart cities, PropTech, and sustainability, feel free to take a look at our other articles.

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