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Your Guide to Smart Buildings
Nov 11, 2020
6 min read
What technologies make up a smart building ecosystem? How are they used and why are they important? This post will give a high-level overview of these components and review the benefits of smart building infrastructure.
What is a Smart Building?
Smart buildings use Internet of Things (IoT) devices to monitor various building elements, analyze data, and generate insights on usage patterns that can be used to optimize the building’s operations.
What are the different types of Smart Building technologies?
There is a variety of equipment and operations that can be powered in a smart building, each serving its own unique purpose. Below are some key components within this infrastructure.
Building Management Systems (BMS)
The goal of a traditional building management system is to provide automation and data for a building’s main operations. Today, IoT allows buildings to take this process a step further and collect more detailed data and analytic reports. A huge advantage of a modern BMS is the ability to collect data in real-time, allowing facilities managers to take action as soon as a problem or opportunity is flagged.
Sensors are at the core of many smart buildings and are used to trigger an action or to collect data on a room’s current conditions. There are many different types of sensors. Some examples include:
Air quality sensors
Water quality sensors
Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS)
Accurate indoor positioning provides two key benefits: improved experience for occupants and visitors, and in-depth and accurate data on building traffic, occupancy, and usage. Similar to sensors, IPS can be used to collect data on device movement throughout the building, in addition to providing additional services such as turn-by-turn directions. An IPS can be powered by installing hardware (e.g. beacons) or through hardware-free indoor positioning for iOS or for Android.
Digital Indoor Mapping
On its own, a digital indoor map can provide helpful information to visitors, employees, and facilities teams as well as intuitive and up-to-date wayfinding to various points of interest within the building. Used in combination with indoor positioning or other smart building technology, however, it can further unlock efficiencies and experiences for tenants and building managers. Integrating a digital indoor map of your office building with a BMS or workplace application allows employees to locate available meeting rooms, submit tickets for empty hand sanitizer stations, and gain quick access to emergency routing in the unfortunate case of an evacuation.
With accurate IPS and digital maps in place, businesses can implement additional services such as Contact Monitoring software to help keep employees safe in the wake of COVID-19. As outlined in our blog Making Venues Safer and More Efficient with Smart Building Technology, workplace applications can be used to notify specific employees if they come into close proximity to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Used correctly, smart lighting can generate huge energy savings and reduced operating costs. Optical sensors can be used to determine the necessary amount of lighting in a room as the sun begins to set, or can turn off lights all together if a meeting room is unoccupied. Not only does this offer convenience to employees and cost savings to building managers, but smart lighting can also be used to limit the amount of contact that personnel need to have with office equipment such as light switches, helping to reduce the spread of germs in the workplace.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
A smart building’s HVAC system can reduce cost of operations, improve control over different building systems, and create smarter automations. Sensors can be used to detect varying levels of multiple factors including occupancy and CO2 throughout the building and fine-tune the temperature, humidity, and air flow accordingly. By monitoring this energy consumption and usage, building owners can be more strategic about heating and cooling various workspaces.
Fire & Security
Not only does smart building technology help to reduce costs and improve the tenant experience, but the same tools can be used to greatly increase safety on-site. According to StateTech, IoT sensors and devices can be used to better monitor smart buildings and quickly detect spikes in heat or carbon monoxide levels:
IoT sensors and devices can better monitor [smart] buildings... to detect fires more quickly, provide incident command centers with more information, enhance computer-aided dispatch, improved situational awareness for firefighters once they are on the scene of a fire and help with fire suppression in the form of smart sprinklers.
What are the benefits of a Smart Building?
Reduced energy consumption
With a system in place to actively monitor energy consumption, businesses can identify key areas for savings and automations can be used to turn off lights or adjust temperatures based on occupancy. A study led by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy finds a cost savings of 24-32% when smart lighting and smart HVAC systems are used.
Enhanced occupant productivity
Smart solutions provide greater convenience and comfort to its users. Building or facilities managers are able to conduct their job with improved efficiency thanks to modern BMS that allow them to tend to on-site problems, even while they are off-site. By monitoring different indicators such as air quality, humidity, light levels, and more, smart buildings can help increase employee productivity.
Improved building efficiency
Smart technology not only allows adjustments to be made at the discretion of a facilities manager, but most systems can be automated to adjust at certain times of day or when outdoor lighting conditions change, for example. These systems also help to identify over and underused areas within a building, providing the opportunity to optimize space utilization.
Data driven decisions
Smart buildings, their sensors, and a BMS allow tenants to review huge quantities of data not previously available to them. With this up-to-date information, building managers are able to make informed decisions and showcase a clear ROI on their smart systems.