Intelligent Building vs. Smart Building: 11 Differences

Published Categorized as Innovative Technology
Intelligent vs. Smart Buildings

In recent years, there has been an increase in the development of “intelligent buildings” and “smart buildings.” While there is no single definition for these terms, they are both used to describe structures that use technology to improve the efficiency of the building and the experience of the people inhabiting it.

An intelligent building is more efficient, sustainable, and comfortable than a traditional building. A smart building uses technology to collect data and uses that data to optimize its performance. All smart buildings are intelligent buildings, but not all intelligent buildings are smart buildings.

Some critical differences between intelligent and smart buildings are important to understand. In this article, we will explore 11 of these differences in detail.

1. They Are Designed With Different Goals in Mind

An intelligent building is a structure that uses data and technology to improve the efficiency of its operations. This can include using sensors to monitor traffic patterns and optimize the flow of people through the building or using data to improve the energy efficiency of the building.

On the other hand, a smart building takes things a step further by using data and technology to improve the efficiency of its operations and the experience of the people who use the building. This can include using data to personalize the environment of the building to the needs of the people using it or using technology to improve the safety and security of the building.

2. Smart Buildings Only Improve Specific Functions

Smart buildings have become a popular topic in the architectural and engineering world in recent years. These buildings improve specific functions, such as energy efficiency or connectivity. On the other hand, intelligent buildings take a more holistic approach. They aim to optimize all operations, including safety, security, comfort, and productivity.

While both smart and intelligent buildings can offer benefits, intelligent buildings are the more comprehensive solution. By integrating all systems and optimizing all functions, intelligent buildings can provide occupants with a more holistic and efficient experience.

So, which is better? Well, it depends on your specific needs and goals. A smart building is likely the way to go if you’re looking to improve a particular function. But an intelligent building is better if you want to optimize all operations.

3. Intelligent Buildings Are Designed From the Ground Up

Smart buildings are usually older structures that have been renovated to include features like energy-efficient lighting, automatic temperature control, and occupancy sensors. These buildings may also use Building Information Modeling (BIM) software to help manage maintenance and operations.

On the other hand, intelligent buildings are designed with these types of systems built in from the start. In addition to being more energy-efficient, these buildings can also be more adaptable to the changing needs of their occupants. For example, an intelligent building might have floor plans that can be easily reconfigured to create more or less office space as needed.

Intelligent buildings also tend to be better equipped to handle things like power outages and extreme weather conditions. While a smart building has been retrofitted with new technology, an intelligent building has been designed from the ground up to take advantage of the latest advances.

4. Intelligent Buildings Use Data to Optimize Operations

Smart buildings use technology to improve the efficiency of their systems. In contrast, intelligent buildings use data and analytics to optimize performance. Smart buildings are usually equipped with energy management systems that use sensors to track occupancy and adjust heating, cooling, and lighting based on need.

These systems can also monitor weather conditions and make adjustments to the building to reduce energy consumption. In some cases, smart buildings even generate their own power using renewable energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines.

Intelligent buildings go one step further by using data and analytics to optimize performance. Building managers can use data from sensors and other sources to identify inefficiencies and make changes that improve comfort, safety, and energy efficiency.

For example, they might use data to identify how occupants use the space and make changes to the layout or amenities to improve satisfaction. Or they could use data from security cameras to identify potential security risks and take steps to mitigate them.

But data analytics doesn’t only play a part in the final result of an intelligent building—it’s also a key feature of their construction. Compiling data about worker performance and the environment lets construction managers improve worker safety, optimize resource utilization, and speed up the timeline.

5. Intelligent Buildings Use AI To Automate Decision-Making

Human operators make all the decisions in a smart building. They use sensors and data to gather information about the building and its occupants. Then they use their own judgment to decide how to keep the building running smoothly.

Many decision-making processes are automated using artificial intelligence (AI) in an intelligent building. AI can analyze data more quickly and accurately than humans, making decisions about things like heating, cooling, and lighting based on real-time conditions. This can save energy and money and make the building more comfortable for occupants.

This may seem like a slight distinction, but it can have a significant impact on the efficiency and safety of a building. Since there is no need for someone to constantly be monitoring the building. Intelligent buildings can also react quickly to environmental changes, such as a fire or a power outage.

While intelligent buildings have many advantages, they also come with some risks. Since they are making decisions on their own, there is the possibility that they could make the wrong decision. This could lead to a lot of damage, depending on the situation.

For this reason, many buildings employ the best of two worlds: an AI capable of making routinary decisions and a small staff that keeps an eye in case of emergency situations.

6. Intelligent Buildings Are Interconnected

One of the critical differences between smart buildings and intelligent buildings is how data is collected and used. Smart building systems often use silo data, making it difficult to get a holistic view of what’s happening in the building. Intelligent building systems, on the other hand, are designed to share data across all systems, giving occupants a clear picture of what’s going on in the building at all times.

A smart building might have a connected security system, HVAC system, and lighting system. However, each of these systems is likely to be operated independently. On the other hand, an intelligent building would have all of these systems integrated into one central platform. This platform would allow data to be shared across all systems, allowing for greater efficiency and coordination.

The benefits of an intelligent building come at a cost. Intelligent buildings are more expensive to build and maintain than smart buildings. They also require more complex management, as all of the different systems must be appropriately coordinated.

However, the benefits of an intelligent building are worth the investment for many organizations. Intelligent buildings can lead to improved efficiency, safety, and security.

7. In an Intelligent Building, Systems Are Centralized

A smart building has various systems that are controlled independently. For example, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system might be controlled by a separate thermostat in each room.

In contrast, an intelligent building is one in which all systems are centrally controlled. For example, the same thermostat that controls the entire building might control the HVAC system.

The main difference between a smart and intelligent building is the degree of control. Each system is controlled independently in a smart building, while in an intelligent building, all systems are centrally controlled. This central control can provide several benefits, such as increased energy efficiency and improved safety.

This centralized control is also a prerequisite for implementing more advanced features, such as AI-based decision-making.

8. An Intelligent Building Is Fully Automated

A fully automated intelligent building is one where all the systems are automated and connected to create a seamless experience for the occupants. The goal of an intelligent building is to optimize the systems’ performance while reducing the environmental impact.

A smart building may have some automated features, but an intelligent building is fully automated. The significant difference between the two is that a smart building uses manual controls. In contrast, an intelligent building relies on technology to make decisions.

For example, a smart building may have an automated lighting system that turns the lights off when no one is in the room. However, an intelligent building would take things a step further by using sensors to detect when people are present and adjust the lighting accordingly.

9. Smart Buildings Are More Widely Used

In recent years, the term “smart building” has become more widely used than “intelligent building.” However, the latter is starting to gain popularity.

The benefits of an intelligent building make it an attractive option for businesses. Still, some challenges need to be addressed before they can become more widespread. One challenge is the cost of implementing and maintaining an intelligent building system.

While smart buildings are becoming more common, intelligent buildings are still relatively rare. This is due in part to the cost of implementing such technology. However, as prices continue to fall, more and more buildings will likely become intelligent.

10. Smart Buildings Save More Money

Smart buildings are typically driven by cost savings in terms of energy or operational costs. On the other hand, intelligent buildings are focused on improving the quality of the built environment, often through cutting-edge technology.

One of the main benefits of intelligent buildings is that they can be adapted to changing needs and conditions. For example, if energy prices increase, a smart building can be quickly retrofitted to become more energy efficient. This flexibility is not always possible with a smart building, which is often designed around a specific set of criteria that may not change over time.

Another key difference is that intelligent buildings tend to be more user-friendly than smart buildings. This is because they are designed with the end-user in mind rather than being purely functional. Smart buildings, on the other hand, often put function over form, making them challenging to use for those unfamiliar with the technology.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue a smart building or an intelligent building project comes down to priorities. If saving money is the primary goal, then a smart building project is likely the way to go. If improving the indoor environment is the primary goal, then creating an intelligent building would be the better choice.

This doesn’t mean intelligent buildings don’t have any money-saving benefits. Over time, they can significantly increase the efficiency of energy usage, saving some money.

11. Smart Buildings Are More Tech Heavy

In construction jargon, “smart building” and “intelligent building” are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. A smart building uses technology to optimize performance and create a more efficient and “connected” experience for occupants.

On the other hand, an intelligent building goes beyond just the use of technology. An intelligent building also considers the people and processes that make up the building, using all of these elements to create a truly “smart” and efficient environment.

An intelligent building must have all three of these components working together to be truly effective. The technology must be able to do what it’s supposed to do, the people must be trained to use it properly, and the processes must be in place to ensure everything runs smoothly. So, if you want to create an intelligent building, ensure you have all three of these components.


In this article, we discussed 11 differences between intelligent and smart buildings. The main differences are that smart buildings are focused on energy efficiency. In contrast, intelligent buildings focus on creating a comfortable and convenient environment for occupants.

While both types of buildings use technology to achieve their goals, intelligent buildings use more data and analysis to create a custom solution for each building. In contrast, smart buildings use off-the-shelf solutions that may not be as effective.


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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