Shot of a group of programmers working together on a computer code at night

5G and Pilot Projects to Optimize New Infrastructures

By Akira Jones, BIM Leader, HH Angus & Associates Limited

By now, most of us in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) sector have read about, lamented and experienced our industry’s general conservativeness and inability to affect change quickly, particularly with respect to developing and emerging technology. However, we are starting to see now that this is changing. Large-scale 3D printing, generative design, virtual/augmented/mixed reality, artificial intelligence, design process automation through software and a push towards a common data environment for design and construction information represent some of the many ways AEC is embracing the digital era.

The nature of design consulting is also changing. Multi-disciplinary design firms are transforming into software developers, moving their way into the SaaS market. General contractors employ teams of software developers. Companies from non-engineering sectors are rapidly entering into the AEC market. Professional services companies and technology start-ups are developing platforms for optimizing building infrastructure through Edge Devices and creating operational/digital twins. Much like the rest of the world, AEC is converging towards digital processes and the borders between different sectors are becoming less defined.

Edge Devices and Digital Twins will have a massive impact on how we design, build and operate building infrastructure, particularly as we continue our push towards a more sustainable built environment through low or zero carbon, net zero and more. We are already seeing a big uptake of smart buildings technologies and the global smart building market is expected to reach almost 62 billons USD by 2024.

Understanding Internet of Things, or IoT technology, in particular, and the current and future benefits to the built environment and how people interact with it will be instrumental in HH Angus’ ability to design spaces that perform better, create better and longer lasting value, and reduce the impact on the environment. It’s certainly easier to design and build new buildings with smart technology but what really interests us is the opportunity in the massive stock of existing infrastructure that can significantly benefit from these technologies. In fact, they provide an opportunity to evolve the ways in which we deliver our work and our relationships with the end-users, from the building owners and operators to occupants.

As designers, we often lose touch with the infrastructure we design, perhaps coming back years later to find something unrecognizable from its original state. At the opposite end, engineers also come into buildings later in their lifecycles, often without proper as-built documentation and have to scrape together any available information about how or why the building operates the way it does. Not an ideal situation, which can typically add time and expense to most projects.

Gathering operational, environmental and presence data can provide a bridge between the building, its occupants, and the engineers to create the potential for gaining useful insight into a building’s real-world operations and occupant behavior.

To this end, HH Angus had the desire to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between smart buildings technologies and improving building performance. We launched our Smart Spaces initiative in 2019. Through this, we are exploring these new technologies through our own initiatives as well as research partnerships with academic institutions and tech start-ups and established providers. With Smart Spaces, we are exploring the use of IoT edge devices to gather environmental and occupancy data in commercial and institutional buildings.

As our pilot project had begun pre-COVID, we, like many firms, had to quickly adjust our plans. With everyone working from home, our office was empty, and we were trying to figure out what data we could collect since there was no one in the building. Like any challenge, this presented an opportunity. Where our previous approach had been to install a set of sensors that gathered a wide array of data with plans to see what insights we could glean, we were presented with a situation that provided us an immediately relevant use case. We thought about ways that the sensors could be used to aid our eventual re-entry into our own office. We shifted the balance of sensors to include more presence sensors to aid in people flow throughout our office. The sensors were placed in common and high traffic areas, giving employees aid in maintaining the ability to socially distance while in the office while also giving insight into usage patterns of these common spaces. The collected data is integrated and aggregated into an intuitive dashboard and transferred to the cloud/other edge devices via the 4G network such that we can view the basic analytics.

This pivot has helped us gain insight into the challenges faced by many of our commercial and institutional clients.

With the first stage of our pilot implemented, we look to expand our research to the 5G network. We were fortunate enough to be awarded access to the 5G ENCQOR test-bed located in the MaRS Discovery District (in downtown Toronto) which gives us the opportunity to explore use cases that can benefit from the low latency performance of 5G technology. We are currently engaged with our clients to determine real-world use cases for existing buildings to research on the testbed, paving the way for purpose-built data platforms.

As with any new (or new to us), technology there are no giant leaps in innovation, only deliberate and incremental steps forward. Where the challenge lies is not in using these technologies, but in determining how these new technologies can help our clients and our employees adapt and succeed in an ever-changing world. As consulting engineers, we can (and should) take a little step out of the traditional AEC approach and adopt some of the best practices (and mindset) of tech start-ups – mainly being inherently curious; focus on possibilities as opposed to the way its always been done; and be willing to quickly prototype, learn, and modify to get a minimum viable product into the real world.

HH Angus is an employee-owned, independent consulting firm of engineers, technical specialists and project managers with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Our core services include mechanical and electrical engineering, lighting design, vertical transportation, energy, sustainable design, information communications audiovisual technology (ICAT) and security design and digital strategy consulting. Together, we create innovative solutions for our clients’ most complex challenges to expand what is possible for a better future.

Reprinted from CanBIM Innovation Spotlight Publication 2021
https://www.canbim.com/articles/why-consulting-engineering-firms-should-think-more-like-tech-start-ups

Akira Jones, P.Eng., LEED AP, Principal
BIM Leader
akira.jones@hhangus.com

Akira Jones, P.Eng., LEED AP, Principal
BIM Leader
akira.jones@hhangus.com

Creating intelligent, responsive and flexible spaces allows building owners to improve occupant comfort, productivity, health & wellness and security, while also increasing the value of the asset. By leveraging data from connected building automation systems, IoT devices and other applications, we can design ‘smart spaces’ that optimize the built environment – from workplaces to hospitals and more.


Benefits of smart spaces

  • Optimize work flows and processes
  • Realize operational and energy efficiency
  • Improve tenant/occupant experience
  • Increase the value of your property assets

Unlike new construction, where it is easier to design and implement smart building technologies,we wanted to better understand the process and pain points around retrofitting an existing structure into a smart space. HH Angus has launched a Smart Spaces pilot project to explore smart building technologies within our own office environment, with the goal of supporting our clients’ interest in similar initiatives.

The Smart Spaces pilot will evaluate technologies that can benefit our clients in a real-world setting. We are installing sensors in selected conference rooms and volunteered workstations that will anonymously monitor occupancy and environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity. We’re excited to be collaborating with Argentum Electronics, a Toronto-based start-up that is providing the sensors (Spacr.ai Smart Building IoT Platform).

We are also developing a Smart Spaces dashboard and companion mobile app that will aggregate and display data from the sensors and building systems to provide actionable insights, such as adjusting environmental conditions in the space, improve the meeting room booking process, increasing efficiency of lighting systems, and more.

What’s next? The sensors installation has begun, and when these have all been deployed in our office, we will be sharing our progress – including challenges and successes – throughout the process, so stay tuned for updates!  

Voir ci-dessous pour des informations en français

In light of the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in North America and the announcement by the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 as a pandemic, HH Angus is taking reasonable precautions to ensure the safety and security of our employees, clients, vendors and guests across all our office locations while maintaining a consistent level of client service. We are executing our Business Continuity Plan that covers maintaining office operations, remote working for all our staff, and delivering service to our clients during weather, natural disasters, and other emergency situations where our offices are shut down for extended periods of time. Our Senior Management Team is meeting daily to respond promptly to the latest conditions and to ensure that we continue as best we can to deliver on our commitments to our clients.

Highlights of our plan include:

Remote Working

We have been closely monitoring this situation and have made the decision to instruct our staff to work remotely beginning March 16, 2020 until further notice. We have technology implemented that enables our employees to provide service remotely for all our clients and projects if they are unable to be in our office physically or report to the project site. This includes access to our design software, network, email, audio and video conferencing, and other communications technologies. Our remote working protocols and equipment are being implemented to enable our employees to continue to deliver service to our clients. All our communication channels related to on-going projects remain unchanged. If you have any questions or concerns about a project we are working with you on, please reach out to your HH Angus contact. We will coordinate with you to make arrangements specific to your project including replacing, where possible, in-person meetings with tele/video conferences. If you require information but do not have an existing contact at HH Angus, please email info@hhangus.com, or reach out to one of the key HH Angus contacts listed at the end of this announcement.

Travel
HH Angus has suspended all international and all non-essential domestic travel until further notice. Personal travel is discouraged and any staff returning from travel outside of Canada must self-isolate for 14 days.

Meetings
We have encouraged our employees to not participate in large gatherings such as conferences or networking events and, where possible, to utilize video/teleconferencing or similar communications technologies for external and internal meetings. Our technical staff will continue to visit project sites but will contact the client in advance to ensure that the site is still open and inquire as to health and safety precautions that are in place to ensure that there are no restrictions preventing their visit. We will assess each site meeting on a case-by-case basis to assess compliance with our firm’s existing protocols to protect the health and safety of both HH Angus staff and client staff.

Office Environment
We have intensified cleaning standards for our offices. We have installed hand-washing signage based on best practices in all washrooms and have increased hand sanitizer stations, where products are available, across our properties in order to help minimize the spread infectious agents.

As mentioned previously, we have asked our staff to work remotely as of March 16, 2020. However, certain staff will be on office premises to facilitate deliveries and perform network maintenance. If you require coming to our Toronto office in person, please speak with Reception by telephone (416-443-8200) in advance. Our Vancouver, Montreal, Dallas and Chicago staff will not be available in their respective offices. Please get in touch with your contact in each region for any inquiries, or call Toronto Reception (416-443-8200).

Reporting procedures
We have established a reporting protocol with our employees, should anyone be exposed to coronavirus directly or indirectly, or is feeling unwell for any reason. Any employee travelling out of the country for any reason is required to self-isolate for 14 days upon return to Canada. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and adjust our response as required.

For more information, we encourage you to review the following resources:

Health Canada
World Health Organization

We will update this information page as the situation evolves. We are committed to helping our staff, clients and communities manage through this crisis to the best of our ability.

Key HH Angus Contacts:

Paul Keenan, President – paul.keenan@hhangus.com | 416 209 4374

Tom Halpenny, Vice President Operations & General Manager – tom.halpenny@hhangus.com | 416 580 0811

Sameer Dhargalkar, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development –sameer.dhargalkar@hhangus.com | 416 904 4592


COVID-19 – Réponse de HH Angus

Compte tenu du nombre croissant de cas de COVID-19 en Amérique du Nord et de l’annonce de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé déclarant la pandémie mondiale de COVID-19, HH Angus prend des précautions raisonnables pour assurer la sûreté et la sécurité de nos employés, clients, fournisseurs et invités dans tous nos bureaux tout en maintenant un niveau de service constant pour nos clients. Nous mettons en œuvre notre Plan de maintien des activités, qui assure le maintien des activités de bureau, le télétravail pour l’ensemble du personnel et la prestation de service à nos clients en cas de désastres météorologiques ou naturels, ou de tout autre situation d’urgence, dans les endroits où nos bureaux sont fermés pour des périodes prolongées. Notre équipe de direction se réunit quotidiennement pour répondre rapidement aux dernières conditions et pour s’assurer que nous continuons du mieux que nous pouvons à respecter nos engagements envers nos clients.

Les points saillants de notre plan comprennent: 

Travail à distance 

Nous suivons de près cette situation et avons pris la décision de charger notre personnel de travailler à distance à partir du 16 mars 2020 jusqu’à nouvel ordre. Nous avons mis en œuvre la technologie qui permet à nos employés de fournir un service à distance pour tous nos clients et projets s’ils ne peuvent pas être physiquement dans nos bureaux ou se présenter sur le site du projet. Cette technologie donne accès à notre logiciel de conception, aux lecteurs réseaux, aux courriels, aux conférence audio-vidéo, de même que d’autres technologies de communication. Nos protocoles et équipements de travail à distance sont mis en œuvre pour permettre à nos employés de continuer à fournir des services à nos clients. Toutes les voies de communication relatives aux projets en cours demeurent les mêmes. Si vous avez des questions ou des préoccupations concernant un projet sur lequel nous travaillons avec vous, veuillez contacter votre contact HH Angus. Nous vous aiderons à prendre les dispositions propres à votre projet, notamment le remplacement, si cela est possible, des réunions en personne par des conférences audio-vidéo. Si vous avez besoin d’informations mais n’avez pas de contact existant chez HH Angus, veuillez envoyer un courriel à info@hhangus.com, ou communiquer avec la personne-ressource de HH Angus donnée à la fin de ce communiqué.

Voyages
HH Angus a suspendu tous les voyages internationaux et nationaux non essentiels jusqu’à nouvel ordre. Les voyages personnels sont déconseillés et tout membre du personnel qui revient de l’Étranger doit s’isoler pendant 14 jours.

Réunions
Nous avons encouragé nos employés à ne pas participer à de grands rassemblements tels que des conférences ou des événements de réseautage et, dans la mesure du possible, à utiliser la vidéo / téléconférence ou des technologies de communication similaires pour les réunions internes ou externes. Notre personnel technique continue de visiter les sites de projet, mais doit d’abord communiquer avec le client pour s’assurer que le chantier est toujours ouvert et s’informer des mesures de prévention mise en place pour la santé et la sécurité afin de s’assurer que rien n’empêche la visite. Nous évaluerons chaque chantier au cas par cas afin de vérifier la conformité aux protocoles existants de notre firme en matière de protection de la santé et de la sécurité du personnel de HH Angus et du client.

Environnement de bureau
Nous avons intensifié les normes de nettoyage de nos bureaux. Nous avons installé une signalisation de lavage des mains basée sur les meilleures pratiques dans toutes les toilettes et avons augmenté les postes de désinfectant pour les mains, où les produits sont disponibles, sur nos propriétés afin de minimiser la propagation d’agents infectieux.

Comme mentionné précédemment, nous avons demandé à notre personnel de travailler à distance à partir du 16 mars 2020. Cependant, certains membres du personnel seront dans le bureau pour faciliter la réception des livraisons et l’entretien du réseau informatique. Si vous avez besoin de venir à notre bureau de Toronto en personne, veuillez parler à la réception par téléphone (416-443-8200) à l’avance. Nos employés de Vancouver, Montréal, Dallas et Chicago ne seront pas disponibles dans leurs bureaux respectifs. Veuillez communiquer avec votre contact dans chaque région pour toute demande de renseignements ou la réception de Toronto (416-443-8200).

Procédures de signalement
Nous avons établi un protocole de signalement avec nos employés, si quelqu’un est exposé directement ou indirectement au coronavirus, ou se sent mal pour une raison quelconque. Tout employé voyageant à l’extérieur du pays pour n’importe quelle raison que ce soit est tenu de s’isoler pendant 14 jours à son retour au Canada. Nous continuerons de surveiller la situation de près et d’ajuster notre réponse au besoin.

Pour plus d’informations, nous vous encourageons à consulter les ressources suivantes :

Santé Canada
Organisation mondiale de la Santé

Nous mettrons à jour cette page d’information à mesure que la situation évolue. Nous sommes engagés à aider notre personnel, nos clients et les collectivités à traverser cette crise au meilleur de nos capacités.

Personne-ressource de HH Angus :

Mohamed Kamel, Directeur du projet – mohamed.kamel@hhangus.com | C 514 863 9202