According to the IEEE XPlore Digital Library, “smart building is a trend towards the buildings automation paradigm”. The overarching aim is to autonomously control devices and systems in any given environment within the building. Although the systems are designed to function without human intervention, they are often supervised by facility management, and offer a wealth of data capturing capabilities.

Traditionally, due to the diverse data within the systems and applications – and the missing integration of data in building automation – the data was manually collected by facility management, for analysis and decision making. However, as the smart building revolution has grown, so has the supporting technology designed to capture, analyse and store this data in a usable manner.

To be effective, these systems must integrate data, implement front end functionality, and provide a base for analysis and decision making for facility management. According to IEEE, the aim is to structure the data, where active devices also identify according to connected systems and subsystems, while supporting and maintaining historical data for future analysis.

In the book Smart Buildings, A Handbook for the Design and Operation of Building Technology Systems (by Jim Sinopoli), the essence of the smart building is described as comprising “advanced and integrated systems for building automation, life safety and telecommunications systems.” Although traditional buildings contain multidisciplinary proprietary building systems, these systems share many common features. This necessitates a communication network, to integrate these systems, resulting in the development and implementation of converged systems.

Sinopoli delves into the two reasons for developing a smart building; saving money and garnering the ability to do what cannot be done with separate systems. “Savings are related to both the initial construction cost and the overall operations cost of a facility. Integration means the systems communicate and share data, provide more functionality, and allow information from one technology system to affect the actions of other systems.”

The author provides an example of a smoke alarm going off. When this happens in a smart building, the access control systems automatically change to emergency mode, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems adjust and video surveillance monitor the affected area. Essentially, “smart buildings leverage IT infrastructure benefits by taking advantage of existing and emerging mainstream technology.”

According to Barry Diedericks, Infor Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Subject Matter Expert at Softworx, these buildings offer a wealth of data. The key is to operate these buildings with insight, in order to harness the information that is readily available. From tenant applications and services; to smart building enablement services; security and accessibility services; and building operation services, operational efficiencies can be ensured through the correct use of this technology.

“The question is, what are we measuring?” asks Diedericks.

Earlier this year, the Financial Times reported on Deloitte’s Edge smart building in Amsterdam. The Edge contains about 28 000 sensors that record information about movement, light, temperature and carbon dioxide levels.

“This is used to control the building’s systems. Heat, air conditioning and lighting can be turned off in a room that is not used. Areas that have been heavily used can be earmarked for extra cleaning. Over time such monitoring can help tenants modify a building or move to a more suitable one,” says Marie Puybaraud of property investment and professional services specialist, JLL, in London. “Neglected areas can be redesigned, while sustained underuse of space might show that a business could find a smaller building better suited to its needs. Such monitoring can also help make the best use of a building’s downtime.”

The reality is that smart buildings can help businesses to reach their goals and optimise the capabilities of equipment and systems within the building – but only if they are managed properly. Inadequate systems will simply result in information overload, leading to more confusion, less certainty and a greater pool of irrelevant data to wade through.

Link to the book, Smart Buildings:

  • related expertise

Related articles