11 Different Types of Smart Buildings Compared

Published Categorized as Innovative Technology
Smart Buildings Hologram

It’s fascinating to see how the modern world is embracing technology at an ever-increasing rate. Today, just about everything can be made smarter – including buildings. This concept is starting to revolutionize the construction and real estate industries, how we live, work, and the environment around us.

Here are 11 types of smart buildings:

  1. High-performance buildings
  2. Intelligent buildings
  3. Connected buildings
  4. Green buildings
  5. Sustainable buildings
  6. Living buildings
  7. Passive houses
  8. Positive energy buildings
  9. Net zero energy buildings
  10. Zero carbon buildings
  11. Resilient buildings

Let’s explore these types of smart buildings in a little more detail and see how they compare.

1. High-Performance Buildings

High-performance buildings are among the world’s most advanced types of smart structures. These buildings go beyond being “green” and focus on achieving maximum performance in terms of energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water conservation, maintenance, and more.

Most high-performance buildings are designed to have minimal to zero environmental impact and operate at a high level of comfort for all occupants.

These smart buildings emphasize operational excellence through integrated control systems such as building management systems (BMS), security systems, and energy management systems.

These aim to monitor and optimize all aspects of the building’s operation in real time while reducing energy consumption and operating costs. For example, the BMS may adjust the indoor temperature based on the number of people in the building or the time of day.

Additionally, high-performance buildings often use renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy to offset their energy consumption and reduce their environmental impact.

2. Intelligent Buildings

Intelligent buildings are similar to high-performance buildings but focus on providing occupants with a high-quality experience.

These buildings have centralized control systems that monitor all aspects of the building’s operation, including HVAC, temperature, lighting, security, CO2 levels, and more.

Sensors are placed throughout the building to collect data, which is then used to monitor noise, light, and temperature levels. The sensors send this information to the BMS, which then adjusts the building systems to provide a comfortable environment for occupants.

Intelligent buildings also use cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance the living experience. For example, you can use AI to provide building occupants personalized recommendations based on their preferences.

Additionally, you can use the IoT to connect all devices located within the building so they can share data and information. This data can improve the building systems’ efficiency and provide occupants with real-time information about the building’s operation.

Internet connectivity is important for these buildings as it allows occupants to connect to the building’s systems from anywhere in the world using their smartphones or other mobile devices.

Intelligent buildings, therefore, allow for greater flexibility, efficiency, and energy conservation. They also provide occupants with a high-quality living experience that is comfortable, safe, and convenient.

3. Connected Buildings

Connected buildings are similar to intelligent buildings because they feature extensive sensor technology. The difference is that a centralized system doesn’t necessarily control connected buildings.

Instead, they provide more granular control over various systems throughout the building than their intelligent counterparts. Connected sensors send data to different systems throughout the building providing control over different areas, such as the HVAC and temperature system.

The benefit of this approach is that it allows for more customization and flexibility. For example, if the HVAC system isn’t working properly, the building’s occupants can use their smartphones to adjust the temperature.

Additionally, if there’s a power outage, the building’s backup generator can be automatically activated to keep the lights on and the temperature comfortable.

The downside, however, is that it can be more difficult to manage and monitor all of the different systems within the building.

Like intelligent buildings, connected buildings enable owners to control building systems remotely. Data communication networks — such as the internet — are used to connect all the devices in the building. These networks allow for two-way communication so that you can send data back and forth between the devices.

Owners can schedule systems for specific times of the day or let them respond to real-time conditions. The buildings can also collect real-time data, such as sensor readings and system performance, then send it to building owners and managers. Owners and managers can use the information to monitor building operations and find ways to improve performance.

4. Green Buildings

Green buildings are designed to be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than their traditional counterparts. They also use low-emission materials and systems that are sustainable, recyclable, reusable, and made from renewable resources. They also use water-efficient plumbing and fixtures.

These buildings are designed with natural materials and construction methods to minimize environmental impact.

They often incorporate energy-efficient systems, such as LED lighting and efficient heating and cooling systems. Solar panels and green roofs are also common features of green buildings. These systems reduce the overall impact of the build on human health and the natural environment.

A unique thing about green buildings is that they’re not just designed for the present but also the future. They consider the impact of climate change and the need for sustainable development.

Green buildings are also adaptable so that you can easily modify them in the future to accommodate changing needs.

5. Sustainable Buildings

Sustainable buildings are designed to last for decades — even centuries. They’re constructed with materials that will age well and perform as expected even after decades of use.

The buildings are often made with local materials that are durable and require little maintenance. They also often incorporate features that allow them to adapt to changing conditions, such as solar shading and natural ventilation.

Unlike green buildings, sustainable buildings operate with all three sustainability pillars: environmental, social, and economic. They take into account not just the impact on the environment but also the impact on the people who live and work in the building. Moreover, they’re designed to be economically viable so that they can generate revenue and create jobs.

These buildings are an important part of the fight against climate change. They use less energy, water, and other resources, reducing our carbon emissions and environmental impact.

6. Living Buildings

As the name suggests, living buildings are designed to be alive — they are self-sufficient ecosystems that generate energy, collect water, and produce food.

Living buildings are built with natural materials that allow the building to interact with its surroundings. For example, the walls may be made of plants that purify the air, or the roof may be covered with solar panels and green roofs.

Rainwater is collected and stored on-site so occupants can use it for watering the plants or flushing toilets. Additionally, the food is grown on-site in vertical gardens or greenhouses.

Greywater systems often recycle water from sinks, showers, and other sources. Blackwater systems are used to treat sewage so it can be reused as fertilizer.

They also often incorporate natural ventilation and daylighting to reduce the need for artificial lighting and heating/cooling.

The Living Building Challenge is the most well-known certification for living buildings. To be certified, a building must meet several stringent requirements, including generating all of its energy, collecting and treating all of its water, and managing all of its waste.

7. Passive Houses

Passive houses take sustainability to the next level as they are designed to be extremely energy-efficient, using very little energy for heating and cooling. Solar panels and other renewable energy sources often offset the remaining energy needs.

To achieve a high level of energy efficiency, passive houses are built with extremely well-insulated walls, ceilings, and floors. They also have tight seals around doors and windows to prevent heat from escaping.

Additionally, solar shading and natural ventilation regulate the temperature inside the house. These features keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter, minimizing the need for artificial heating and cooling.

8. Positive Energy Buildings

Positive energy buildings produce more energy than they use over a year. They achieve this by using clean electricity and renewable energy sources.

The buildings use an integrated system to track energy production and consumption. The system optimizes energy production from different sources — such as solar panels and wind turbines.

It also manages loads and uses energy only when it’s needed. Moreover, it shuts off any energy sources that aren’t necessary to maintain a comfortable living environment for occupants.

Positive energy buildings use sensors and controls to manage energy demand and supply. They can gather data from various sources to ensure they use energy only when needed.

Positive energy buildings will play an increasingly important role as the world progresses towards a more sustainable future. They represent a key part of the climate change solution and can help create a more sustainable built environment.

9. Net Zero Energy Buildings

Net zero energy buildings consume as much energy as they produce. These buildings generate renewable energy on-site, such as solar or wind power, and use that energy to power the building.

These buildings are designed to be as energy efficient as possible, using energy-efficient appliances and lighting, passive solar design, and natural ventilation.

The goal of net zero energy buildings is to reduce the overall environmental impact of the building and the costs associated with energy consumption.

Sometimes, a net zero energy building may consume non-renewable energy but offset that consumption with an equal amount of renewable energy generated on-site. This is known as a net zero energy balance.

The viability of net zero energy buildings has been increasing in recent years, as the cost of renewable energy technology has fallen and the efficiency of these buildings has improved.

10. Zero Carbon Building

Zero carbon buildings are buildings with no net carbon emissions. In other words, the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the building over its lifetime equals the amount sequestered or offset.

There are many ways to achieve zero carbon status for a building. The most common is through energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy generation, which can be accomplished through a variety of measures, such as:

  • Improving the insulation of the building envelope.
  • Installing high-performance windows and doors.
  • Using energy-efficient lighting and appliances.
  • Installing on-site renewable energy generation systems, such as solar panels or wind turbines.
  • Another way to achieve zero carbon status for a building is through carbon offsetting. Carbon offsetting can be done by purchasing carbon credits, which fund projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions elsewhere. For example, a building owner could purchase carbon credits to offset the building’s electricity use emissions.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, zero carbon buildings often use less energy and water, resulting in lower operational costs. These buildings also have better indoor air quality and acoustics and can boost employee productivity when used in a commercial setting.

11. Resilient Buildings

Resilient buildings differ from smart buildings in that they focus on preparing for and surviving major disruptions, such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or terrorist attacks.

Resilient buildings are resistant to physical damage and able to maintain their core functions in the face of disruptions.

They are designed to be adaptable and to withstand a wide range of threats. They often incorporate features such as:

  • Design structures that can flex and absorb the energy of an impact rather than shatter.
  • Reinforced concrete or steel framing to help buildings withstand shaking and other types of damage.
  • Modular designs that allow for easy repair and replacement of damaged parts.
  • Impact-resistant windows and doors that can withstand high winds and flying debris.
  • Watertight seals and waterproof materials to protect against flooding.
  • Redundant systems that can quickly take over in the event of a failure.
  • Emergency generators to maintain power in the event of a power outage.
  • On-site water storage to ensure a supply of potable water in the event of a water outage.
  • Communications systems that can maintain communication in the event of a power or communications outage.
  • Security systems that can deter or defend against criminal activity or terrorism.

Many factors must be considered when designing a resilient building, such as the location, the climate, the type of disaster that’s most likely to occur, and the needs of the people who will be using the building.

Resilient buildings are an important part of disaster preparedness and can help to ensure the safety of occupants and the continuity of operations in the event of a major disruption.

However, it’s important to remember that no building is completely disaster-proof. The goal is to design a structure that can withstand or quickly recover from a disaster and continue to be used for its intended purpose.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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