What if the building you worked in knew your unique preferences for lighting and temperature? For most, this would be a very favorable convenience. But, what if this convenience not only benefited you but also helped save energy and cost? For those that occupy smart buildings, this is possible and probable.

What is a smart building?

A smart building is one that uses automated processes to control the building’s systems. To better illustrate this, think of a smart building as a living, breathing organism. The building has a brain, known as the building management system (BMS), that controls other parts of the building’s body— HVAC systems, lighting, plumbing, processing equipment, access control systems, wayfinding, digital signage, and security systems. Smart buildings use automation to make a building grid flexible, healthy, productive, and energy and cost efficient.

What types of technology make a smart building “smart”?

Here are several technologies that smart buildings rely on:

  • Building management systems (BMS)– As mentioned above, a BMS, also known as a building automation system, is a computer based system that integrates and controls a building’s systems. It is the brain or central hub of a smart building that tells equipment what to do. It ensures operations run securely and efficiently.
  • Internet of things (IoT) – The IoT is a network of physical connected devices that “talk” to each other by exchanging data. The IoT connects the technology in a smart building. IoT devices include sensors, lights, and meters that collect and analyze data.
    • Sensors – Electronic, infrared, thermal, and proximity sensors collect electronic signals that are then interpreted by humans or AI. In a smart building, sensors may be installed to monitor power consumption, lighting, occupancy, temperature, etc.
    • Actuators – This is a device that uses power to convert a control signal into mechanical motion. In smart buildings, they are used in locks, blinds, solar panels, security camera positioning, or any other system or object that moves.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) – AI is the simulation of machines designed to mimic human decision making. For example, AI can learn what is normal energy usage for equipment like refrigerators or HVAC systems. If there is a leak or abnormal energy output, AI can suggest maintenance. AI can also learn occupant preferences and adjust lighting and temperature based on a specific occupant.
  • Augmented reality (AR) – AR allows you to see your real-life environment with a digital augmentation over it. AR technology can enhance smart buildings in a number of ways including emergency situations or outages. For example, AR-enabled glasses could help a maintenance professional view equipment instructions, warnings, installation dates, and troubleshooting tips that “hover” over the piece of equipment.

These technologies enable a building to be “smart.” Skyfii’s IO Platform harnesses data from these sources as well as any other technologies the building deploys like people counters, guest WiFi Captive Portal, etc. This data is then analyzed by Skyfii’s IO Insight tool and results in specific alerts, insights, or actions that can be used by building owners, personnel or occupants.

Smart building benefits

Memoori, a smart building research firm, predicts that installed connected devices in commercial buildings will grow to just under 3 billion by 2025. Sensors and devices that track occupancy movement and analytics will experience some of the highest rates of growth. It’s easy to understand this increase given the benefits smart buildings bring.

Buildings that enable smart technologies can reduce costs by an average of 15% and create an environment that reduces energy waste and stimulates employee productivity (Albany Business Review). Let’s take a closer look at some smart building benefits.

  1. Increased energy efficiency – A smart building gives visibility to systems and equipment that are inefficient and can make real-time adjustments to reduce energy consumption. For example, smart buildings can control light and HVAC settings to turn them on, off, or adjust them based on occupancy or the amount of natural sunlight in the room. Buildings that have large refrigerators can run them at off-peak times to decrease energy usage and costs.
  2. Reduced operating and maintenance costs – A smart building can perform automatic checks for equipment or lamp failure and can notify personnel when preventive maintenance or replacement is necessary. This cuts down on manual service checks. Proactive maintenance also helps reduce costly downtime needed for reactive maintenance.
  3. Improved occupant comfort and health – Smart buildings have advanced climate and lighting controls that help improve indoor air quality and lighting levels. They can record carbon dioxide and particulates in the air and alert operators of high levels. According to a World Green Building Council study, enhancing ventilation and indoor air quality can improve worker productivity by 8-11%, and enhancing lighting conditions can improve productivity by 23%. Also, smart buildings with occupancy sensors know where occupants are located and can help owners understand and maintain social distancing.
  4. Visualized data insights and analytics – An important benefit of smart buildings is the ability to collect a large amount of data that can be analyzed to make decisions. Building owners can see how much energy is used in real-time and how much it costs. This can lead to better data-driven decisions. Oftentimes, it’s difficult for organizations to invest in equipment or systems where they can’t see an impact. Smart buildings provide accurate, real-time data that shows impact. This helps organizations make investment decisions on similar improvements across buildings.

Interested in making your smart building “smart”?

Implementing smart building technology takes expertise and careful planning to ensure successful adoption. We can help. Skyfii offers a leading smart building platform to collect data and provide insights building owners can use to improve energy efficiency, save on costs, and provide healthier, safer, and more comfortable spaces. Request a free demo.