Smart buildings are buildings which collect data via IoT (internet of things) from user devices, systems and sensors within the property in order to make the building responsive to the user and building manager’s needs.
Smart buildings are constructed to be easier to manage than standard buildings, and to make it easier for building managers to reduce operating costs, improve tenant comfort and automate management of energy consumption. While they are a more recent development, both commercial and residential properties are adopting smart building technology at a rapid pace.
Why build a smart building?
Over recent years the development of smart buildings has gone hand in hand with the development of green buildings. Property developers understood that by monitoring the energy consumption of the building, as well as the lighting, the heating, parking, waste management etc, they can reduce the impact the building has on the environment.
So, rather than building managers or tenants manually switching off the heating or the lighting systems, the building can do it automatically when it senses that no one is around to use it.
Smart buildings are also constructed to be easy to use for tenants. A lot of smart buildings use apps for payment, to call the elevator, to book meeting rooms and for access control, among others, making the experience of working or living in a smart building easy and user-friendly. Implementing technology that allows users to just use their cell phone to do everything makes sense when it comes to technological progression.
What are the benefits of smart buildings?
- Saving energy costs: One of the largest benefits of a smart building is reducing energy costs. By implementing light sensors, solar panels or temperature sensors, energy costs can be significantly reduced…even to the point where a building can pay nothing for the energy bill.
- Safer living and working environment: By implementing access control systems, doors can be made accessible only to those that have the authority to enter them, keeping out unauthorized individuals and ensuring the property's security.
- Automatic maintenance: By monitoring the building, many maintenance tasks can be done much more efficiently. For example, systems can be put in place to inform the property manager that a piece of equipment is near the end of its life, or that one area of the building needs more cleaning than another part.
- High resale value: Lower maintenance costs and energy consumption make for a very appealing building that could go for a much higher price than a building without smart features.
- Dangers can be monitored remotely: With movement sensors, AI powered cameras and other monitoring technology, any danger, including break-ins or fire can be monitored remotely, meaning that action can be taken quickly and strategically.
Are there any downsides to smart buildings?
- High initial investment: With so much technology involved and often a lot of specially designed elements, the upfront investment for the development of a smart building can be very high.
- Privacy and data issues: With monitoring technology often implemented into smart buildings, the topic of privacy and the sharing of data comes into the limelight. With a lot of property managers possibly never having to have dealt with this topic before, there could be steep legal fees to ensure everything is compliant and in place.
- Internet connections: Smart buildings rely heavily on a good internet connection. In the case that the internet goes down, some elements of the building could stop functioning.
- Accessibility for all: Smart buildings are a relatively new thing when it comes to real estate. For older generations, or analogue people, it could be difficult to navigate the property, even creating a stressful situation.
Where do property development companies start when constructing a smart building?
At the very start of the property development process, architects should be sure to include ethernet cables and ac power outlets at access points, so everything can be connected easily. It would also be smart to, at this point, consult with a smart building specialist to identify the smart devices and systems best suited to the property and the needs of the tenants and building manager. This could involve planning out specially designed smart devices that need to be tailor made for the property.
As the construction of the property nears completion, it is important to teach property managers and tenants how to use the smart building devices, so that devices that have been installed are used correctly.
What examples are there of smart buildings ?
Frasers tower (Singapore): Featuring 179 bluetooth beacons and 900 lighting, air quality and temperature sensors gathering data in real-time, the building is constantly being optimized for maximum efficiency and productivity. Employees and tenants use an app that is integrated with Microsoft to find directions, determine room occupancy and book facilities in real time.
Glumac (Shanghai): The building is 100 years old and yet it has the best air quality in Shanghai. Featuring an indoor air monitoring system, employees are able to see how the air condition is in the building on their cell phones. It has 5 air purification systems and a green wall to filter out the pollution outside the property.
The crystal building (London): With a heating bill of zero, this building spends 46% less on energy than any other building of its size. Along with its innovative thermal envelope, a sophisticated management system allows every element of this building to be monitored and altered for comfort and minimal energy use, while surplus energy is returned to the National Grid.
Smart buildings stand at the forefront of contemporary property development. By optimizing energy usage, ensuring safety, streamlining maintenance, and enhancing user experience, they signify a large shift in how buildings function and serve their tenants.
As the real estate world continues to evolve, the balance between embracing these innovations and addressing potential drawbacks will continue to shape urban landscapes. Examples from global cities such as Singapore, Shanghai, and London further attest to the growing footprint and potential of smart buildings in the global architectural narrative.
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