Smart Buildings

Smart buildings are structures that use IP based sensors and devices to monitor and control their systems. The sensors end points used to create the “intelligence” in the building are often referred to as IoT (Internet of Things) or PoE (Power over Ethernet) devices since they are connected to an Ethernet/cloud based network and are often powered and controlled by a single port on a network switch (Cisco 3850 for example). Smart building sensors provide valuable granular control of building systems such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, occupancy, CO2, security and many other building system components. Smart buildings deliver top notch building performance data that help increase productivity at the lowest cost and environmental impact over the building lifecycle. There isn’t a set of qualifications that would make a building “smart;” rather, what they have in common is that they are connected and responsive to the owner, manager, or occupants needs.

Creating Smart Buildings

To make a building smart, the process starts by connect integral systems such as lighting, power, water, air conditioning, heating, alarm systems, and more with IP sensors and a software management platform. Even elevators, shading and access portals could become connected at a more advanced level. An example of a smart element that saves energy is the use of optimal start and stop, in which the building’s automated system knows when it should turn off the air conditioning for a particular area of the building. Another feature is electrical loads that are grouped into categories from critical to high priority to non-essential.

Smart buildings integrate property management with IT systems that can streamline the system, capabilities and improve building operations. Integration cuts hardware costs and frustration that comes along with the installation and operation of many different autonomous building features.

Integration starts with a centralized low voltage IT infrastructure; most buildings operate with separate systems that can only operate with their own individual and often proprietary controls, devices, processes, and cabling. After a building’s system is connected to one network, it can be controlled and observed through a single platform.

Oftentimes, the term “smart buildings” is equated with higher initial CAPEX to enable the “smarts”. In many situations such as lighting, access control, and security cameras the initial cost is actually the same or lower than traditional legacy methods. When deciding whether to make the switch to smart buildings, property owners and businesses must find the sweet spot of smart elements that increase productivity and give them the best return on their investment. Understanding the buildings opereational cost in a single platform enables the owner and facility managers to continuously optimize the space and environment over the lifetime of the building with the use use of factual data rather than guesswork. Make a change, track the effect, determine the performance or cost savings impact- repeat!

Benefits of Smart Buildings

Creating a new smart building or making an old building smart can benefit the property owner or business, as well as those working within the structure. There’s a tremendous amount of old, unproductive buildings in the United States, so there are untapped energy savings that would benefit more than just the building owners. This is a matter of national energy policy, and the Department of Energy has a long track record of working with the property industry and related industries to improve upon itself. On an annual basis, the energy costs for older buildings total about $202.3 billion, and the Department of Energy predicts that about 30 percent of that energy is used “inefficiently or unnecessarily.” Additionally, building managers benefit from the tremendous data they have access to, along with increased control access to fine-tune systems to reduce both energy and maintenance spends.

Smart technologies provide numerous benefits that range from energy efficiency to increases in productivity to sustainability. Smart buildings can diminish energy costs, improve the productivity of the building staff, enhance building operations, foster sustainable practices and even strengthen the decision-making process of an organization.