With the criticality and increasing complexity of infrastructure systems in commercial buildings, manual monitoring becomes both inefficient and error-prone. Automating fault detection and diagnostics addresses these challenges directly. It enables real-time, continuous monitoring of building systems to minimize the risks of system failures by identifying issues before they escalate.

Understanding fault detection and diagnostics in CRE

Fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) plays a vital role in the digital transformation of facilities management, especially in commercial real estate (CRE). It’s an intelligent technology that identifies and diagnoses issues in building systems to prevent minor problems from escalating into significant failures. This makes buildings smarter, and management processes more efficient.

Definition: What is FDD?

FDD is a technology-driven process that identifies and diagnoses problems within a building’s systems. These could be mechanical faults, such as a broken pump, or operational faults, like an HVAC system running longer than necessary. Once identified, diagnostic procedures determine the cause of the defect, enabling facility managers to rectify the problem promptly.

Why is it essential for modern facility management?

Modern facility management places a premium on proactive condition assessment, and FDD plays a key role. It enables early fault detection to prevent minor issues from ballooning into significant problems. This early detection reduces unnecessary wear and tear on systems by identifying issues that could cause additional damage early. It also increases the efficiency of building systems by identifying equipment faults that impact efficiency immediately.

What are the methods for fault detection?

Depending on a facility’s needs, different methods for fault detection can compensate for data limitations, system complexity, and more. Here are a few standard techniques for fault detection:

  • Statistical process control (SPC): Based on the principle that a system in control (functioning correctly) has a predictable, statistical distribution of process parameters, SPC identifies faults with statistical analyses.
  • Knowledge-based methods: Using a knowledge base with possible faults and their symptoms, these fault detection methods set rules to alert facility managers when symptoms appear.
  • Model-based methods: With a mathematical model that describes a system’s normal behavior, this method looks for deviations from the model to identify faults.
  • Data-driven methods: Also known as machine learning methods, data-driven systems learn from historical data to understand a system’s normal behavior, and then they detect anomalies that may indicate a fault.

How do FDD tools work?

FDD tools operate by continuously monitoring data within your building management systems. The data is gathered from a network of sensors dispersed throughout the facility. Then, it gets scrutinized for irregularities indicative of a fault. Once it identifies a fault, the diagnostics stage identifies the nature and origin of the fault so corrective measures can be taken.

The difference between model-based and data-driven methods

While model-based methods offer simplicity, they miss any faults outside their predefined parameters. Data-driven methods use more complex algorithms to find a broader range of defects and learn new weaknesses based on historical data. However, they require a larger dataset to operate effectively.

How can you automate fault detection and diagnostics?

Automating fault detection and diagnostics requires an analytics system and continuous data stream. Here’s how you can automate your fault detection and diagnostics process:

  1. Sensor integration: The first step in automating FDD is integrating sensors into your building systems. These sensors monitor system parameters and provide real-time data about the system’s status. The type and number of sensors you need depend on the complexity and size of your building systems.
  2. Data collection and storage: After integrating sensors, the next step is to collect and store the data they generate in a consistent format. RealEstateCore offers an open-source format for all your real estate data, making it an accessible and scalable option.
  3. Implementing fault detection algorithms: Fault detection algorithms analyze your building’s data to look for patterns and anomalies that could indicate a fault. The algorithm that will work best for your facility depends on your specific needs.
  4. Diagnostic procedures: After a fault is detected, the diagnostic process begins. Automated diagnostic methods rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine the cause of the defect.
  5. Alerts and reporting: When a fault is detected and diagnosed, the system can automatically alert the necessary personnel via email or text message. It can generate reports detailing the fault and the suggested corrective action.

Transforming the way you manage your buildings

By automating fault detection, facility managers can uncover issues in real-time, drastically reducing response times. It shifts the monitoring process from a manual, labor-intensive activity to a continuous, real-time operation, reducing the likelihood of overlooked issues. This also enables a transition from reactive to preventive maintenance, reducing downtime and extending equipment lifespans.

Choosing the right FDD software for your needs

When choosing FDD software, always look for software that aligns with your organization’s specific needs and objectives. This includes its compatibility with your existing systems, how it can fit into your current workflows, and the systems it monitors.

ProptechOS can help you get the most out of your FDD software by integrating it with your other Proptech solutions. Acting as your building’s operating system, ProptechOS unifies all your sensors, building data, and software solutions into a single platform. With this integration, you can bring every data point into your fault detection and diagnostics software to leverage data-driven FDD methods. Try ProptechOS for free to see how you can integrate your facility software and data!

Dr. Erik Wallin

Chief Ecosystem Officer, and founder of ProptechOS and RealEstateCore is recognized as a leader in Building Operating Systems (BOS) and making the buildings of the world smarter. He holds an MSc and a Ph.D. in Media and Computer Science from KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Read his full bio and information here.