Lately, we've seen companies, building owners and facilities managers increasing their interest in using smart buildings for offices, hotels and apartments. In fact, it's an interest that's set to grow the smart building market by $24.73 billion in this year alone.
But what do we mean by smart? Like many other bits of tech that have gone smart recently, smart buildings focus on giving companies and owners greater control – specifically over the building's environment and operations.
Capable of supplying numerous benefits, smart buildings have hit the market with a fair amount of hype. So, what's the big deal?
Here to help you get to grips with smart buildings, we'll go into what they are, how they can benefit you, and some real-life examples of the technology in practice.
A smart building uses technology to optimise performance between systems. The information shared is then used to automate various processes, from heating and ventilation to air conditioning and security.
If you're a building owner, then you'll know how costly overheads can be. As necessary as they are as a business expense, the level of spend is wasteful due to improper applications.
Think about how many lights remain on in unused rooms or spaces that are heated when nobody is around. Smart buildings seek to avoid such wasteful energy use, cutting costs and improving energy efficiency in the process.
For managers and businesses that own their facilities, smart buildings offer numerous benefits, including:
Switching to real-time maintenance helps reduce downtime and ensures everything runs as smoothly.
Smart building technology can identify the key parts of the building which are wasting energy, locating where energy costs, and the resulting carbon footprint, can be minimised. These automation systems can be retrofitted to existing buildings too, so businesses can get the same smart building benefits without having to move or build new premises.
Although smart buildings employ varying solutions, many of them utilise the Internet of Things (or IoT). IoT connects building systems through networked IoT sensors or devices, which can then send and receive data between building systems. All this adds up to enhance the way a building works.
Through IoT, it's possible to access, control, and monitor all of these interconnected systems from anywhere on a centralised hub, which can be done remotely. As a result, there's no need for time-consuming management of individual systems.
Additionally, IoT puts an end to the reliance on assumptions and guesswork in order to make decisions. Instead, any processes implemented are grounded in precise data, which can help with everything from improving efficiency and cost savings to forecasting maintenance budgets.
Analysing how your building is being used provides insight into the space and capacity each floor and department needs. From here, the data lets you decide whether you require more building space and a change of premises, or if you just need to repurpose your existing space because you haven't utilised it in the most effective way.
For example, if you have a 10-person conference room and it's only ever used by groups of, say, four or less, then it's not being used as efficiently as it should be. By optimally configuring the usage through data insights, the business can be better served by repurposing the room into two smaller rooms.
Smart building tech is already in use around the globe, used to reduce energy use in a variety of buildings, including:
Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, is home to The Mirage, the hotel and casino that's lowered their energy costs through what's known as load shedding. A deliberate shutdown of electric power, load shedding is a means of preventing system failure caused by demand straining the capacity of the system.
Elsewhere, The Mirage also uses weather stations to monitor things like wind, temperature, and humidity, which can help chill water on days when the temperature spikes. And in a place that gets as hot as Vegas, that's definitely a plus!
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Vienna's UNIQA Tower features a heating and cooling system that's automated and changes according to the temperature of the environment outside. Such technology has helped reduce CO2 emissions by 84 tonnes, making the operation of the building far more cost-effective as a result.
Said to be one of the most efficient buildings in the world, The Crystal produces about 70% less CO2 than other buildings of its kind in the UK. It does this through a combination of rainwater harvesting, black water treatment, solar heating, and automated building management systems.
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