Nowadays most people have at least some smart devices in their homes, mostly in the form of smart TVs, printers, thermostats, or other household appliances. What makes them “smart” is their ability to connect to the internet and other devices within the home. The Internet of Things (IoT) has already begun to transform the way we live in our homes. Technology can be integrated into the entire building design and has the power to revolutionize how buildings are managed and maintained, as well as how we live and work in them.
What is a Smart Building?
Smart buildings are a new class of buildings that are equipped with sensors, meters and devices that are networked to communicate with each other and that can incorporate data from other intelligent systems and technology platforms. These buildings use automated processes to monitor and optimize building operating systems and other functions, including things like heating, lighting, waste management, and air quality. Smart buildings are controlled through real-time open data that automate building systems functioning. The systems can self-monitor, self-diagnose and even predict when upkeep or repairs will be needed.
Smart Building Benefits
Building designs have incorporated automated technologies for many years, especially in heating, cooling and ventilation, but smart buildings integrate all of the systems, using networked data to optimize operations leading to improved efficiency. The self-diagnostic abilities of smart functions can decrease and even eliminate downtime and boost the comfort and health of employees, influencing productivity and workplace satisfaction. Much more sophisticated than the old “fuzzy logic” of devices like thermostats, smart buildings can detect subtle changes like room occupancy, air quality and even movement. They then feed that information to building management systems, which automatically adjust various functions to create optimal room conditions.
Some other innovative smart technologies being put to use today include:
- LED lighting, which not only is energy efficient but can be programmed for users’ preferences. Lighting can mimic natural daylight or change intensity as needed. Fading or burned out bulbs can automatically send maintenance requests, so staff aren’t unnecessarily left in the dark.
- Air Quality sensors can monitor CO2 levels in the air and other harmful particles and turn on ventilation fans as required. Sensors can also detect when filters need to be changed or, in high-pollution areas, when outside air intake needs to shut off.
- Building security devices provide more security than simple camera surveillance. Things like badge readers and door sensors can alert staff to unusual activity and ensure that only appropriate personnel are accessing the building. Sensors can also detect when people have left for the day and adjust lighting, heating and cooling to save energy.
A fully networked smart building can detect when people are using a room, predict when coffee needs to be made, turn off or on lighting or heating/cooling and adjust for other conditions of office spaces or meeting rooms. This is all made possible because every element is interconnected, accessing and sharing data as needed on integrated platforms. The downside of connectivity is it opens systems to potential hacking. Building managers need to keep on top of cybersecurity protocols and implement strong data encryption by working closely with IT teams and performing frequent digital security audits.
Planning for the future
It’s hard to say what new smart technologies will emerge in the future, but it’s inevitable that systems and platforms will continue to evolve. Many IoT systems are wireless so they can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure. For new developments, designers need to assess how specific technology can support the purpose of the building and how people will interact with its systems, rather than trying to integrate the latest technology for its own sake.