The Surprising Disadvantages of Smart Buildings Revealed

Published Categorized as Innovative Technology
Smart Building Device

Have you noticed that many new buildings are now smart buildings? Smart buildings can help you lower your carbon footprint, decrease your energy costs, and optimize resources. However, like everything else in life, smart buildings come with their set of disadvantages.

Here are 15 surprising disadvantages of smart buildings:

  1. They are costly to build.
  2. Building managers need extensive training.
  3. Technical problems are complex and costly to fix.
  4. Smart building technology is not always accurate.
  5. They require a reliable and fast internet connection.
  6. Smart buildings create a cybersecurity risk.
  7. Building users may be resistant to smart technology.
  8. Compatibility issues.
  9. They might not work in a power outage.
  10. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
  11. Smart buildings can breach privacy policies.
  12. They’re still in their infancy.
  13. Smart building devices have a limited lifespan.
  14. Small technological glitches can be annoying.
  15. Updates can be costly.

Let’s take a closer look at these surprising disadvantages and how they might affect your overall experience.

1. They Are Costly To Build

The main disadvantage of a smart building is its expensive upfront cost. This can be a significant offputting factor to investors because they will see a return on investment after several years.

Smart buildings are costly to build because they consist of the following elements that aren’t present in traditional buildings:

  • IoT devices. IoT (or Internet of Things) devices have wireless sensors or WiFi capability, which allows users to control them remotely. Examples include smart light globes, thermostats, HVAC systems, and more.
  • Device connectivity. In smart buildings, many devices are interconnected and transmit data to each other.
  • Intuitive software. Smart buildings use advanced software to measure footfall in certain areas, room occupancy, temperature, humidity levels, and more. This information can help you maximize office space and create a more comfortable working environment.

There are also many hidden costs involved in smart buildings, including:

  • Building manager training on smart building technology
  • Off-site support costs
  • IoT device maintenance and replacement
  • Internet connection upgrade
  • Cybersecurity strategies
  • Replacement of incompatible devices
  • Back-up power solutions
  • Software updates
  • Optional extras, including equipment tracking

Depending on your building’s size and the nature of the smart features, your monthly expenses might be similar to having a traditional building. In this case, you’d need to weigh up the pros and cons of moving to a smart building.

2. Building Managers Need Extensive Training

The building manager was traditionally the person you called whenever there was a leaking faucet, the air conditioning malfunctioning, or a loose ceiling tile.

Although there is still a vital role for building managers in smart buildings, traditional building managers need training in managing a smart building.

Smart building training can be time-consuming and costly, and you’ll need to outsource it. Some smart building occupants also end up hiring another employee to help manage and maintain the building’s smart system, which can be an extra, unwanted cost.

In addition to training the building manager, you might need to hold training sessions to bring your employees up to speed on proper construction practices and other dos and don’ts.

3. Technical Problems Are Complex and Costly To Fix

Smart buildings make temperature regulation and lighting control incredibly easy. However, if there’s a fault in the building’s smart technology, then it most probably won’t be straightforward to fix.

Smart buildings use intricate digital systems, and although you can train employees to operate them and troubleshoot problems, some issues can prove too complex and costly to fix.

As a result, you might have to pay an expert to solve the technical issue. While waiting for the expert to resolve the issue, some or all of the smart building’s features might function as expected, which can be incredibly frustrating.

In extreme cases, a technical issue might lock the building’s doors, preventing anyone from entering or leaving it.

Before going ahead and buying or renting a smart building, it’s worth checking if there is good smart building support in your area.

Lack of local smart building support could mean you have to wait for an extended period for issues to be fixed and costly services, and the technician will likely charge you for travel costs.

4. Smart Building Technology Is Not Always Accurate

Smart building technology uses data intelligently to help you create a comfortable working and living space in terms of temperature and lighting. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as the technology can be inaccurate or even malfunction altogether.

For instance, on the hottest day of summer, the smart building technology might set the climate control temperature too low, resulting in a freezing building that is uncomfortable for employees.

Some smart buildings are programmed to turn their lights off at a certain time in the evenings, not considering the employee who enjoys working late.

5. They Require a Reliable and Fast Internet Connection

Smart buildings offer fantastic convenience as they automate previously manual management aspects.

However, smart buildings are only as good as their internet connection. If the building is located in an area with an intermittent or weak internet signal, it won’t work as intended and could be a waste of the high investment.

Some buildings have thick walls that can interrupt the internet signal, making it necessary to invest in repeaters to ensure the signal reaches the entire building.

Before deciding on a smart building, you would need to assess the internet strength in the area. If you find it insufficient, you may need to invest in a more robust internet connection, which can be costly.

6. Smart Buildings Create a Cybersecurity Risk

Another important point to consider when deciding whether or not to purchase a smart building is the cybersecurity risk it poses. Smart buildings use the internet to control their functioning, and, as you might be aware, it’s vital to have a robust security system to protect your data online.

Cybercriminals can hack into the smart building’s system, affect its functioning, and demand a high ransom to return the system to normality.

Hackers or cyber attackers could breach the smart building’s system and shut off the following elements:

  • Heating and cooling
  • Lighting
  • Building access
  • Internet and intranet

Instead of shutting off the building’s smart features, the hacker could program the HVAC system at its lowest temperature during a cold snap, for example.

Having a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy in place is vital when dealing with smart buildings. You may need to consult with cybersecurity professionals, which can add to the total cost.

7. Building Users May Be Resistant to Smart Technology

Are you excited about the many benefits of moving your company into a smart building? You’re not alone, and many colleagues will understand your enthusiasm.

However, many people are still resistant to smart buildings and can’t see the benefit of long-term energy savings when you have to pay so much upfront.

Some people enjoy controlling their workspace’s lighting and temperature themselves and like the idea of opening a window whenever they need some fresh air. With smart buildings, this is not always possible, and you may need to convince them of the benefits by presenting a cost analysis.

8. Compatibility Issues

If you’re interested in moving your office into a smart building, it’s advisable to check if your current hardware and software will be compatible with the smart building’s technology.

You might have earmarked certain computers to house the smart building’s software, but it’s worth verifying if they will be compatible. Otherwise, buying compatible devices could be an extra expense.

9. They Might Not Work During a Power Outage

When the power’s on and the internet connection is strong and uninterrupted, a smart building can function incredibly well, allowing its users to focus on other aspects of the business.

However, the smart building might not work during a power outage unless it has a backup generator.

Some extreme weather events can bring down power lines, resulting in power outages for several days. To keep your smart building operating as normal, you would need a backup power source, such as:

  • Inverter. An inverter uses batteries as a power source and can provide power to the smart building for up to a day when the battery power runs out.
  • Diesel generator. Diesel generators are noisy and produce carbon monoxide fumes. However, as long as you have fuel, they will provide power for the smart building.
  • UPS. A UPS (or Uninterrupted Power Supply) has a small battery and can power the smart building for a limited time (usually only 20 minutes).
  • Microgrids. Microgrids are localized energy load sources that can obtain energy from the sun or wind. They can easily replace the main power source during an outage and, as long as there is sun or wind, will continue to power the smart building until the power comes on again.

If you’re considering a move into a smart building, you should analyze your backup power options, the power outage frequency in your area, and the associated costs, as these could influence your decision.

10. It’s Not a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

When you’re considering moving to a smart building, you’ll notice a strong focus on the potential energy savings over time. While using less energy and paying less for it should always be a priority, your company likely has unique needs that it wants the smart building to address.

For instance, you might use extremely expensive equipment in your building and want the smart building’s technology to track the location of each piece of equipment in real-time. Not all smart technology offers this solution, which could be a costly additional expense.

11. Smart Buildings Can Breach Privacy Policies

One of the most exciting aspects of occupying a smart building is how its software can gather and evaluate various types of data about the building. A well-functioning smart building will collect data, such as:

  • Temperature at various times of the day
  • Humidity levels
  • Average room occupancy per day
  • Busiest times of the day for various areas
  • Energy consumption

While this information can help building managers understand how to optimize costs more efficiently, it can also be a data breach, depending on your company’s privacy policy.

Allowing an external software program to evaluate how your company operates and uses energy could be problematic if it falls into the wrong hands.

12. They’re Still in Their Infancy

Smart buildings have been around for several years, but they’re still in their infancy. Although the demand for them is gradually increasing, there’s still not enough demand to scale the technology and make it cheaper.

Smart building technology can be annoying and a sharp learning curve. However, you can expect it to become more user-friendly and intuitive in the coming years.

13. Smart Building Devices Have a Limited Lifespan

Depending on the smart building’s size, it may have dozens to hundreds of IoT devices, such as wireless sensors.

Smart building devices are crucial because they:

  • Sense the number of people in a room.
  • Determine when to turn the lights on and off.
  • Adjust the ambient temperature.

These devices should last you for several years, but your budget should include their maintenance and eventual replacement. This extra cost can be substantial depending on how many devices you have.

14. Small Technological Glitches Can Be Annoying

If you opt for a high-quality system for your smart building, it should function well, allow you to automate many processes, and save you time and money. As with all technology, there can be bugs and small glitches that can cause a lot of annoyance.

An example of this is a smart building’s carbon monoxide detector sounding the alarm unnecessarily. Although the building manager can easily turn the alarm off, if there’s a system glitch, it may go off repeatedly and disturb the building’s occupants.

15. Updates Can Be Costly

Smart building technology is impressive, and if you’ve been considering a move into a smart building, you have probably been amazed at how high-tech its systems are.

Like all technology, smart building systems are continuously evolving, and what is cutting-edge today might be outdated in a few years.

When considering a smart building, you should, therefore, think about how often you’ll need to update its systems, as this can be costly and time-consuming.


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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