What is a smart building?

Smart building is an innovative technology powered by IoT devices to monitor buildings with connected systems, collect data, and analyze it to obtain meaningful insights for the optimization of the building’s performance.

Do you know that 30 percent of the building energy is wasted?

Yeah, the main issues of building usage are inefficient energy consumption and usage of space. Thanks to the evolution of smart technologies, buildings can get more control over the environment, and smart HVAC and lighting operations identifying key areas in the building that waste energy.

According to Markets and Markets, the global smart building market is anticipated to experience a significant rise in the coming years, reaching $108.9 billion by 2025. Among the main determinants for the smart building there are:

  • The growing number of implementation cases of IoT-powered BMSs
  • Increased industry standards and regulations
  • Increased demand for energy-efficient systems and space utilization

People are inclined to overspend their expenses on buildings that are often wasteful and unreasonable due to unintelligent approaches toward building operations. Therefore, a smart building is a great solution to avoid excessive energy levels, cut costs, and improve efficiency. Smart building technology ensures enhanced control over your HVAC. For instance, by measuring Co2 levels in real-time, it can regulate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning throughout the day and turn on/off it according to collected data. So that if there is a limit of Co2 in the building, smart building IoT devices and sensors notify the system to automatically increase the outside air intake.

Once you have total control over your HVAC system you save energy and expenses and at the same time take care of comfortable and healthy environmental conditions for your occupants. Basically, the main goal of smart building technology is to:

  • Enhance energy-efficiency
  • Improve users’ comfort
  • Monitor and ensure the safety of the building

The main goals of smart building technology

How does a smart building work?

With the proliferation of IoT technologies, building management systems get a new data layer for more efficient facility management. In contrast to obtrusive modifications to the existing wired infrastructures in BMSs, IoT battery-operated sensors are deployed across the facility, and via IoT getaways, the data is forwarded to BMS servers. Such solutions allow automated execution of the following smart building workflows:

  • Intuitive equipment reconfiguration
  • Activation/shutdown
  • Maintenance scheduling
  • Alert triggers, etc.

IoT devices help capture smart insights that are unified in a single hub for streamlined and integrated management activities.

Smart building technology features

There are three main features that every smart building has:

1. Connectivity & analytics of all building systems

With systems interconnected via IoT, the smart building gets power-quality monitoring, advanced analytics, and energy measurements. When all the equipment is connected and permanently monitored you have the possibility to track the HVAC and lighting operations in real-time and have access to all the historical data. Moreover, with all this advanced data you can react remotely in the case of an emergency.

2. Remote facility management & control

With smart building technology, people are allowed to collect and manage data in a simple and intuitive way. For instance, voice control can be applied for automated door opening for the disabled, or footfall counters; or smart lighting solutions may be incorporated in the building system to determine which areas are more occupied. This data can be a significant determinant for efficient building usage.

3. Controlled resources use & connectivity to smart grids

With sensors, people can make more advanced decisions leading to reasonable energy consumption and more opportunities in general to make targeted improvements. The smart building approach ensures enhanced control over the HVAC energy flexibility while increasing the monetary incentive for it. Buildings can exploit remotely controllable thermostats and meters to predict the ambient energy and use it in real-time.

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What are the key benefits of a smart building?

1. Reduction of energy consumption and utility savings

IoT granular and real-time data monitoring provides building management systems with on-demand and micro-zoned equipment control to improve the outcomes. Moreover, IoT technologies incorporated in BMSs empower building managers to optimize HVAC and lighting equipment scheduling so that there will be no wasteful hours. For example, occupants of your building work till 6 p.m., and your systems are set to operate till 7 p.m. By leveraging insights provided by IoT devices you can significantly save up on your utility bills.

When we think about office buildings, overbooking is also one more concern that can be overcome by IoT applications that can track the occupancy of each meeting room through the uplink payloads sent by sensors and the collection of real-time data. For instance, Euristiq implemented a room occupancy management system for Tektelic, the Canadian provider of IoT getaway sensors, to increase the efficiency of meeting room utilization with user-friendly dashboards that demonstrate room analytics and display real-time occupancy status.

2. Enhanced tenants’ productivity and wellbeing

Wireless IoT sensors play an important role in the maintenance of occupants’ healthy and comfortable environment by monitoring the air quality, humidity, and lighting levels. Furthermore, with advanced analytics and occupancy sensing, smart building remembers occupant’s preferences and makes appropriate predictions. For instance, the previous time you booked a conference room and set HVAC and lighting appropriately to users’ needs. The system utilizes the data collected and offers facility amenities contributing to a positive user experience.

IoT motion data helps accurately identify the most used areas to accordingly offer cleaning activities. High-standard sanitation is also a crucial factor in employees’ productivity.

Due to the COVID pandemic, people tend to keep social distancing, so that it’s of high priority for building managers and businesses to ensure occupants and employees with uncrowded areas to ease any concerns and anxiety in terms of proximity with others. In this context, smart building technology can help optimize space by setting capacity limits to certain areas that will be demonstrated on the dashboards.

3. Predictive maintenance and timely equipment replacement

Mechanical and electrical equipment breaks can potentially create health and safety concerns. IoT technologies bring immense value to effective building management by offering unique visibility into facility operations. Water, temperature, vibration detectors, and metrics coupled with advanced analytics algorithms are applied to reveal issues and prevent damages.

When you have a more insightful overview of your building operations, you can ensure timely safety and activate maintenance procedures in advance.

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Examples of smart buildings across the world

The Edge (Amsterdam)

Being the smartest building in the world, The Edge is constructed in Amsterdam. It is awarded by the British rating agency BREEAM and got the highest sustainability score. The Edge is the building shaping both resource efficiency and human comfort and wellbeing.

The core attribute of intelligent control is a smartphone app developed by Delloite that has a direct impact on the occupants’ working style of life throughout the day from the minute they wake up. Just imagine the day when you are connected to the app that knows everything about you that is needed to ensure your efficient and optimized daily working routine. It knows where you live, your schedule, and your car to direct you to the most convenient parking slot. No one has a set desk since all the workspaces are based on employees’ schedules so that they can work on balcony seats, meeting rooms, or even concentration halls. All that is created to break employees away from their fixed location and rigid ways of thinking. IoT sensors automatically tweak the environment conditions according to each person’s preferences. You can even order a dinner recipe via your app and have your products awaiting you at the end of the day. Perfect!

From a resource and energy-efficiency perspective, the building offers sustainable solutions. Let’s take a look:

  • Mesh panels. Set between each floor mesh panels create a loop of natural ventilation.
  • Central tracking dashboards. The aim of dashboards is to monitor space and energy usage across the building to cut the costs of HVAC and lighting. It means advanced analytics to prevent wasteful spaces and even be aware when coffee machines need to be refilled.
  • Long blue tunes. Heating and cooling systems were developed for water supply until winter for heating purposes. It is considered the most efficient thermal energy storage in the world.
  • Solar panels and windows. Powered by the sun, The Edge produces more energy than it consumes (70% less electricity). Via sensors in the LED light panels, the smart building receives temperature and humidity insights.
  • Trickle-down toilet water. The amazing smart solution in the back of the parking garage. Rainwater is gathered to flush the buildings’ toilets and water gardens.

The Crystal (London)

The Crystal is the largest well-known exhibition site, including the exhibition hall, auditorium, conference halls, meeting rooms, and offices. In the exhibition space, Siemens technological portfolio of environmental issues (water, energy, healthcare, etc.) is presented.

The combination of solar power and a ground source heat pump allows the building to generate 100% of its own natural heat. Why is this building considered to be the first smart building to reach the highest sustainability rates? Here is why:

  • The rate of CO2 emissions from the Crystal building is significantly lower in comparison with other British buildings (70 percent lower).
  • The building is equipped with solar photovoltaic panels and triple-layered solar exterior glasses which provide 70% of visible daylight minimizing the artificial lights. Together with the advanced lighting control system, the building immensely optimizes electricity usage.
  • The Crystal Building Energy Management System allows controlling temperature and ventilation by automatically opening/closing the windows and ventilation systems.
  • Rainwater is recycled for drinking and use in the toilets.

Glumac (Shanghai)

Considered to be the most sustainable office space in Asia, Glumac combines biophilic elements and traditional Chinese motifs with a focus on the visualization of natural materials and a healthy indoor environment. The building was certified under the Interior Design and Construction rating system for Commercial Interiors for net-zero energy, water, and carbon.

  • With indoor air monitoring systems, employees are empowered to monitor oxygen levels, humidity, and track the toxicity of the air on their smartphones.
  • Automated daylight and occupancy sensors allow employees to control the light for increased comfort while reducing energy usage.
  • Pollution outside the building is cleared by five air purification systems and a planted green wall.

Bullitt Center (Seattle)

Firstly, it is worth mentioning that known as the world’s greenest commercial building, Bullitt Center was constructed on exceptionally an energy and water efficiency basis without any toxic chemicals. Net-zero energy was obtained thanks to 575 rooftop solar panels that generate more energy than consume.

Bullitt Center building systems include:

  • Triple paned windows to maximize the use of daylight and minimize glare
  • Energy-efficient lighting with occupancy sensors
  • Rainwater collection system supply filtered water for hygiene, irrigation, and eventually for drinking
  • Air-tight construction with radiant in-floor heating and cooling pipes to keep indoor temperatures comfortable.

DPR Construction (San Francisco, California)

DPR Construction is the first zero-net office in San Francisco supporting such features as daylight, natural ventilation, and daylight harvesting. In terms of lighting to improve the access and the quality of daylight, the building is equipped with solar tubes and solar sensors. With operable windows and BMS control ceiling fans, the building has an optimized temperature climate and increased airflow.

There are two solar thermal panels to help the supply of domestic hot water. Efficient cooling and heating operations are obtained through a VRF system. For effective energy use, there are dashboards demonstrating real-time insights.

As for water efficiency, the DPR Construction building is equipped with low on no-flow plumbing fixtures: 30 K water gallons are saved annually.

Why do we need smart buildings?

There are a lot of economic and social reasons why smart technologies incorporated in workspaces have to be the ultimate goal for real estate businesses and building managers. Smart buildings integrated with IoT getaways and sensors not only cut energy consumption and optimize resources but also enhance occupant’s comfort by offering tailored solutions for their wellbeing and health. This, in turn, has a significant impact on overall productivity and business performance. Considering that an occupant can be provided with personalized offerings, starting from where to park his/her car to automatic adjustment of light or temperature via the apps connected to IoT sensors (which identify each person’s preferences), smart buildings are destined to make our everyday lives better and are becoming an indispensable part of smart cities.

If you are looking for smart solutions to facilitate your building’s operations, contact us and we will help you make the right decision.

  • Author Ivan Muts
  • Published March 09, 2021
  • Category IoT
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