An important aspect in making a building “smart” entails the use of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). Integrated, automated building systems have benefited greatly from this technology, which has made it possible to inexpensively gather data throughout built environments. Not only does this give facility managers access to real-time data that helps identify inefficiencies in a building’s systems, it also reduces operating costs overall.
Historically, installation of lighting systems and controls was kept separate from other building systems. But this siloed approach no longer makes sense in an age of smart building technology. Building owners and facilities managers are realizing that integrating an intelligent building management system with lighting controls is a powerful way to lower energy costs and improve performance.
The 1970s energy crisis caused a significant change in how buildings were designed and built, many of which are still in use today. Structures became increasingly airtight and insulated to conserve energy. While these design changes resulted in energy savings, they also reduced the fresh air circulating through a building’s HVAC systems. Additionally, synthetic materials became common in the construction, decoration, and maintenance of built structures.
In 1979, Purdue University held a workshop called The Dynamic Response of Environment Control Processes in Buildings. One of the most lively areas of discussions involved how emerging computer technology could curtail energy usage—a topic that was both new and urgent. In the US Department of Energy’s report on the workshop, we find this prescient statement:
The benefits Internet of Things (IoT) technology offers to built environments are immense. Some of these—like reduced energy consumption, better environmental conditions, and higher lease rates—are well-known. But one of the most important benefits of IoT is less frequently discussed: predictive maintenance.
An indoor air quality (IAQ) management plan is invaluable for protecting the health of building occupants. Since 2020, such plans have become more important and more prevalent than ever before, and forward-thinking building owners are turning to innovative technologies for help. Automated smart systems that monitor and analyze air quality make it easier to implement robust IAQ management plans and quickly identify and resolve issues. This means safer buildings and healthier people.
In 1792, Robert B. Thomas came up with a secret method for predicting weather throughout the next year and shared his predictions in a publication he called the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Still published to this day, the almanac boasts an 80% accuracy rate and is used by farmers, gardeners, and weather watchers across the United States.
An automatic sprinkler system is an excellent example of a basic building monitoring system in action. When an event (smoke) happens in a building, it triggers an action (a cascade of water). These have been around since the 1870s and have saved a lot of lives. But they aren’t smart; they provide no complex insight, they don’t learn over time, and they don’t refine their functionality in response to new data.
Smart buildings are changing commercial real estate. From streamlining maintenance to reducing operating costs to increasing lease rates, smart technologies can transform the way buildings are managed and enhance their economic value. Meanwhile, their ability to improve energy efficiency makes them a vital asset in the fight against climate change.
In many ways, buildings have changed very little over the last half-century. HVAC, security, lighting, and other systems in most buildings continue to function separately. This results in reactive rather than predictive or preventive maintenance and limits automation opportunities. Often this creates burdens for building owners. The inefficiency inherent in separated systems not only contributes to higher maintenance costs, but also to energy waste. Building owners should look at how system integration helps them administer their assets though integrating cloud and on-premises apps in built environments.