We are reaching a new age when it comes to building construction. No longer is it simply enough for our homes and offices to provide shelter and keep us warm. Today, thanks to the evolution of technology, it’s possible to not only deliver all the services that occupants need - for example, heat and light to power for electronics - but this can be done while minimising costs and reducing the environmental impact of the building over its lifecycle.
This is a balance that will be key to business going forward. The age of the smart building is here.
What is a smart building?
At its most basic, a smart building is one that is using technology to share information about what goes on in the building between systems so as to optimise the building’s performance. This information is then used to automate various processes, from heating and ventilation to air conditioning and security.
Building overheads are a significant cost for any building owner/user. However, while these are a necessary business expense, the level of spend is often wasteful because it’s not intelligently applied. So, lights may be on in unused rooms or spaces heated when there are no people around to enjoy the warmth. The main motivation behind the smart building is to avoid this kind of wasteful use of energy and resources, both to cut cost and to improve energy efficiency.
The main features of smart buildings
Systems are connected. The most fundamental feature of a smart building is that the core systems within it are linked. So, water meters, pumps, fire alarms, power, lighting etc are all connected. This is what makes a building “smart” – the ability of the systems within it to talk to one another.
The use of sensors. Sensors are an integral part of smart buildings and play an important role in collecting data to inform decisions about where to allocate resources. So, for example, footfall counters and thermal sensors may be integrated into the building to provide information on where people are at certain times of the day and which areas are high traffic.
Automation. Information is gathered and analysed by the systems that have been put in place in a smart building – importantly, this is done constantly and in real time. This ongoing monitoring allows for automated adjustments that can control conditions across an entire building.
Data. Smart buildings generate a large volume of data about their own use, which is something that regular buildings simply don’t do.
The benefits of smart buildings
- They make the occupants more productive. Air quality, physical comfort and security, sanitation and lighting can all be delivered at an optimum level to enable occupants to perform well.
- Reducing energy consumption. Smart buildings are greener, more energy efficient and more cost effective.
- The end of guesswork. The use of sensors and cameras provides precise data on how the building is being used, which can be converted into insightful decision making. Space utilisation can be improved based on actual data, as the building generates actionable, living intelligence automatically.
- Significant operational savings. This includes the savings that can be made in terms of everyday spend and maintenance on equipment. It also extends to the potential savings that are offered by identifying underutilised resources and the potential for growth into unused spaces.
- Data protection. Equipment, such as thermal sensors, measures data without using identifiable images of staff or the public.
There are many benefits to implementing smart systems within a building, from cost efficiency to improving the environmentally friendly credentials of the construction. Smart buildings are relatively new today but, given the wide range of benefits that they offer, will soon become the norm.