Smart buildings have become increasingly popular recently, with many large corporations adopting the concept. So, what characteristics do smart buildings have?
Here are 16 characteristics that every smart building has:
- Energy efficiency
- Automated lighting
- Optimal temperature control
- Reduced operational costs
- Optimal humidity levels
- Excellent security
- AI-controlled maintenance
- Movement sensors
- Resource optimization
- Clean air
- Remote building control
- Building usage insights
- App-controlled space booking
- Valuable asset
I’ll describe these smart building characteristics in more detail below.
1. Energy Efficiency
The most important property of all smart buildings is their energy efficiency. Smart buildings use IoT (Internet of Things) devices, such as sensors and digital thermostats to optimize energy consumption.
As their name implies, smart buildings have intelligent designs. They harness the sun’s warmth during the day and can reduce the need for heating in the winter. In the summer, smart buildings shade the windows so that you don’t need to use the air conditioning as much. Smart buildings are also well-insulated and keep the cool or warm air inside.
You can program a smart building to light, heat, or cool occupied areas only, resulting in much less energy wastage.
When you move into a smart building, you can expect a pleasing reduction in your energy bill. A report published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) revealed that even basic smart buildings (with optimized lighting and HVAC systems only) could expect an energy bill to decrease from 30% to 50% compared with traditional buildings.
If you have a large building, this can be a significant saving.
Smart buildings are eco-friendly because they’re constructed from environmentally-friendly materials where possible and have a lower carbon footprint because they use less energy.
Companies with very low carbon emissions goals can reach their goal by moving into a smart building. However, if they have a more ambitious zero carbon footprint goal, they could choose a smart building with solar or wind-powered energy.
Smart building designers understand that in 50 to 100 years, the building might get torn down in favor of a more intelligently-designed one. Therefore, they try to use eco-friendly materials, such as:
- Rammed earth
- Recycled or reclaimed metal
3. Automated Lighting
Smart buildings have digitally-controlled and automated lighting. Lighting is one of the main factors that affect an energy bill, and a smart building helps you to minimize lighting usage.
The smart building’s technology will determine which times of day are the brightest and dim or turn off the lights at these times. Smart building technology also monitors sunrise and sunset times and will turn the lights on or off.
Smart buildings have a night mode, where only the most essential lights are kept on. Unlike traditional buildings, a smart building will automatically activate night mode, eliminating the risk of a building manager forgetting to turn the lights off.
Since smart buildings have pressure sensors, they can detect how many people are in a room. When the smart building detects no one in a room, it can shut off the lights after a predetermined period.
4. Optimal Temperature Control
Smart buildings optimize temperature control by determining the most comfortable temperature according to the:
- Time of day
- Time of year
- Number of people in the space
South-facing building facades typically get more sun in the northern hemisphere, and smart buildings account for this. Many smart buildings have tinted windows or windows with light-blocking shades on the southern facade. This helps to keep the building cool during the summer.
No manual intervention is needed when controlling a smart building’s temperature, but the building manager can adjust it if there is an unusual heatwave or winter storm.
5. Reduced Operational Costs
One of the main benefits of a smart building is saving money on energy costs. However, smart buildings also offer other money-saving opportunities, including operational spend.
Below are a few examples of where you might save money on operational expenditure with a smart building:
- System automatically detects and fixes minor structural faults. The ability to detect structural problems early and, in some cases, fix minor issues reduces technician call-outs. Fixing minor issues can prevent costly repairs later on.
- Insight into space optimization. Smart buildings make you aware of spaces that aren’t being used a lot. This allows you to split crowded departments over two floors or rent out the space to another company.
- Fewer maintenance employees. Since much of a smart building’s maintenance is performed automatically, there is a reduced need for maintenance employees.
- Fewer front desk employees. Smart buildings are very secure and have card or code access, eliminating the need for front desk staff to grant entry. Front desk staff are only needed for visitors and employees who have forgotten their access.
6. Optimal Humidity Levels
Smart buildings are designed with eco-friendly materials that help keep humidity levels comfortable. Some have large windows that can open to allow in fresh air when the weather is pleasant outdoors.
Smart buildings have humidity level sensors that alert the building manager when the air is too dry or too humid. Abnormal humidity levels are usually because of a fault in the HVAC system, and since smart buildings detect this early, building managers can quickly and easily fix them.
7. Excellent Security
Traditional buildings often have advanced access control systems that require an access card or code. While this helps improve security greatly, the system is not as advanced as a smart building’s excellent security.
A traditional building might have weak spots, including:
- Back or service doors
- Fire escape areas
- Traditional key access for some places
When smart buildings are designed, all of the above aspects are considered to be as secure as possible. For example, a back door will require card or code access instead of remaining open or unlocking with a key.
The smart building’s software allows the building manager to monitor all aspects of the building’s security and make changes where needed. For instance, it could require a special code for building access after hours or activate the alarm system in certain areas.
You can program your smart building’s software to detect unauthorized entry, light up the area, and sound an alarm when this happens. You can also automatically lock the doors, preventing the intruder from escaping, and notify your security company or the police.
8. AI-Controlled Maintenance
In traditional buildings, a building manager usually takes care of maintenance issues. Although building managers need training in managing a smart building, their lives are easier because smart buildings use AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology to help manage all maintenance aspects.
This technology automatically monitors several aspects of the smart building, including:
- HVAC system
- Smoke detectors
- Alarm system
- Cleaning schedules
- Access control system
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Power supply
The AI technology will remind the building manager when to do a routine check for a system or call in a technician to perform a more complex maintenance job.
This predictive maintenance characteristic frees the building manager’s time and saves the company money. Not forgetting to do routine maintenance helps ensure that everything operates optimally and decreases the chances of a system breakdown, which can be costly.
Some smart buildings have software that detects system faults and automatically fixes them remotely, saving the company money as there’s no need to call in a professional to do the job.
9. Movement Sensors
Smart buildings use wireless pressure sensors to determine the amount of footfall in a room or working space at any given time. This helps the smart building’s system to determine the following:
- When the lights must be turned on or off.
- When the HVAC system should start working in a previously-unoccupied room.
- If there are too many people in the space, and if it should be enlarged.
- When most people enter or exit the building.
- High traffic areas that might require more suitable, hardwearing carpet.
- If they need to create another entrance or exit.
10. Resource Optimization
Smart buildings provide management with in-depth analytics on how and when the building is being used. This allows them to find ways to optimize resources and make the workspace more comfortable for employees.
Here are some examples of how smart buildings help optimize resources:
- High demand for desks on a certain floor. There might be too few or a high demand for workstations in busy departments. A smart building can reveal this in the analytics, allowing management to add more desks or move some employees to another floor.
- Low demand for meeting rooms in a certain location. If the data reveals that a meeting room seldom gets used, management can convert it into an office.
- Crowded bathrooms. Reports might indicate that bathrooms get very busy at certain times. In such cases, management could consider expanding the bathroom or encouraging employees to use quieter bathrooms on different floors.
11. Clean Air
If you work in a smart building, you’re more likely to breathe in clean air than when working in a traditional building. Traditional buildings often recycle indoor air, producing high allergen and pollutant levels.
Most smart buildings use HVAC systems with outdoor air intakes to ensure a continuous flow of fresh air inside. This helps to reduce odor-causing germs, disease-causing viruses, and bacteria.
Smart buildings are also made from materials that aren’t prone to harboring mold or are harmful to human health.
12. Remote Building Control
In traditional buildings, you need to control lighting and temperature manually, which can be time-consuming.
If you’re a smart building manager or owner, you can program the software so that the lights and HVAC system come on at specified times of the day. You can also override this by entering a command in the software or app.
You don’t have to be inside the smart building to control its functions and can control it from anywhere in the world.
13. Building Usage Insights
Smart buildings are digitally controlled, and building managers can gather valuable insights into their usage. For instance, over one year, the building manager can analyze reports about:
- The building’s average daily occupancy rate.
- Occupancy rate per floor, office, or meeting room.
- How often the building is used after hours.
- Bathroom and kitchen usage rate.
After analyzing these reports, management might notice specific trends that enable them to
can make strategic workplace decisions, which may include:
- Moving a department to a more spacious workspace.
- Enlarging or decreasing meeting room sizes or creating more meeting rooms.
- Widening walkways
- Activating the building’s “night mode” earlier or later.
- Increasing or decreasing the number of bathrooms and food preparation areas.
- Renting out one or more floors if the analytics show they have too much space.
An ergonomic building makes working as physically comfortable as possible for employees. Smart buildings are ergonomic because they:
- Have optimal temperature control
- Manage humidity levels
- Optimize light
- Give the building owners insight into how to maximize space and comfort
- Minimize noise levels
Since smart buildings are ergonomic, they can help employees become more productive and happier at work.
Research conducted by Oxford University showed that happy employees are 13% more productive. Although this doesn’t sound like much, if the company has hundreds of employees, it can make a huge difference, increase company revenues and improve its reputation.
15. App-Controlled Space Booking
Booking a meeting room or desk using a smart building’s software is easy. Many smart building technologies now include apps, which give building managers and owners full functionality and building occupants limited functionality, including booking workspaces.
Although you can book meeting spaces and offices in traditional buildings, apps come as standard with smart buildings and include other features on a central platform.
16. Valuable Asset
Smart buildings are valuable assets and make excellent investments. They are much more expensive than traditional buildings, and the high initial cost may put off some property investors.
Thankfully, smart buildings offer a fantastic return on investment because:
- They are in demand.
- Their maintenance costs are much lower.
- You pay much less on monthly energy costs.
With an increasing number of new buildings being designed as “smart,” this demonstrates that smart buildings are the way of the future.
- ACEEE: Smart Buildings: Using Smart Technology to Save Energy in Existing Buildings
- University of Oxford: Happy workers are 13% more productive
- ZDNet: What is the IoT? Everything you need to know about the Internet of Things right now
- Greenspec UK: Rammed earth
- Western Governors University: What is AI technology and how is it used?