If you’ve been hearing the term, ‘smart building’, but haven’t been able to fully grasp how today’s smart technology has managed to get as far as controlling an entire building, we’re here to explain what it’s all about, and how smart building technology has really started to deliver considerable advantage to building owners, occupants, visitors and facilities managers, in numerous ways.
As a developer, should you be factoring smart building technology into your new build? As a prospective tenant or purchaser of commercial property for your own use, or to let to commercial tenants, should you be seeking out a smart building? As a facilities manager, should you be demanding an upgrade of your building management system to incorporate smart technology?
Once you are aware of what a smart building is, and its capabilities and benefits, the answer to all of these questions will become clear.
What is a smart building?
Smart technology might appear to be a fairly recently introduced term. But in actual fact, it can be traced back to 1975 when the very first home automation platform was invented, using radiofrequency bursts to control electrical wiring.
However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that different smart technologies began to emerge and become slowly integrated into homes and offices. As affordability improved, smart automation became the ‘in’ thing, with convenience and controllability at its core. But as security, greener living and saving energy became higher priorities, so smart technology stepped in and provided the solution everyone needed.
Generally, smart technology is all about control and automation. But exactly what is a smart building? It basically means there is control over the indoor environment, and the various functions of the building, with many of those functions able to be automated. But why is this control and automation so advantageous?
In short, with its control and automation abilities, a smart building can save time and money, reduce waste and improve conditions. And it does this in a number of ways, all courtesy of Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
Smart buildings use Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors to monitor a variety of building functions. These devices are all interconnected, and able to produce insightful data that reveals trends and patterns. For example, lights being turned on at certain times of the day, or heating being adjusted in line with changing external temperatures.
The data is funnelled into a central platform, where it can be analysed manually, or with the help of smart building analytics. Machine learning and artificial intelligence create automations from the aforementioned trends and patterns, which can be used to ‘smart’ control the likes of air quality, temperature and lighting.
These trends and patterns can be put to use in optimising the operational aspects of the building, such as security, meeting room and workspace bookings and wayfinding, as well as various elements of the building’s indoor environment, including air quality, temperature and lighting.
Connected systems within a smart building typically include power, lighting, HVAC, water, security and fire alarm systems.
How does a smart building work?
IoT connected sensors are placed strategically around the building. They monitor all sorts of things, from the efficiency of appliances and machinery to indoor air quality, occupancy levels and energy consumption.
Sensors can detect and relay anything from unusual sounds coming from appliances that may signify the need for servicing or maintenance, to drops in temperature or natural light, increases in airborne pollutants or unbalanced indoor humidity levels.
Basically, you can locate your IoT sensors anywhere you need something measured, from the amount of natural light coming through a window, to the number of people in a given space.
Whatever could impact upon occupant safety, comfort or security, or could affect productivity or finances, you can generally measure it with an IoT sensor, and use the data produced to your advantage in making cost savings, reducing energy wastage and improving the indoor environment of your building.
Why should I be interested in smart building technology?
If you are a developer, the appeal of the smart building and its ability to save the ultimate occupants money and reduce energy wastage will make it more saleable.
If you are a landlord letting out commercial property, the same applies in terms of the building being more rentable for the long term to prospective tenants.
For employers, the benefits of the smart building are all about attracting and retaining great people courtesy of providing a healthy and comfortable working environment, as well as appealing features, such as worker-controlled lighting and automated meeting room bookings, and by improving employee engagement.
For facilities managers, there are so many benefits that the smart building is actually said to have revolutionised facilities management.
Here are some working examples to help illustrate the benefits of smart building technology:
- The indoor air quality of the building drops below healthy levels – sensors trigger an automated response via the smart HVAC system, or send an alert to the building or facilities manager to make adjustments or evacuate the building.
- An individual worker has specific preferences as to the lighting in their personal workspace, and makes adjustments at various times of the day depending on the amount of natural light available, or the task in hand. The smart lighting system uses machine learning to identify optimum lighting settings, and responds by altering the type and tone of lighting to suit.
- A particular room within a building has become unoccupied. Smart sensors detect no people present, and so trigger the lighting and air conditioning to be switched off so that energy is not wasted.
- A machine is making unusual sounds. Sensors detect those sounds and relay the data via the dashboard to the facilities manager, who can then summon a maintenance engineer to resolve the issue before it turns into a major problem that threatens productivity. Alternatively, the alert can automatically summon an in-house maintenance engineer, without the need for FM intervention, freeing them up to focus on other tasks.
What can I achieve through smart building technology?
There is much to be achieved by investing in smart building technology. You could:
- Reduce energy bills – by using rich IoT produced data to inform decisions that increase efficiency, and by using automated smart features to optimise energy usage and cut wastage
- Maintain productivity – courtesy of early detection of machinery and appliance failure
- Boost sustainability – by monitoring energy consumption, water usage and indoor air quality and automating functions in order to reduce waste
- Improve workplace comfort – by monitoring indoor air quality, temperature and lighting and allowing individual workers to control their own personal workspaces
How can Smart Spaces help me achieve a smart building and enjoy all the benefits it brings?
Smart Spaces is an app-based, Internet of Things led smart building technology. It has the power to control various elements of a building management system, returning highly valuable data, empowering facilities managers in the process and providing building occupants with the ability to personally control their own workspaces.
Want to learn more about how Smart Spaces can help you transform your property into a smart building?
Request a free demo or get in touch to discover how our pioneering operating system can help you take control of your building.