The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to a report from the United Nations. As the population increases, it’s likely to be concentrated in urban areas, creating issues with crime, traffic, sustainability, and sanitation.
One of the best solutions to the growing population is smart buildings. Using automated processes, smart buildings can optimise heating, ventilation, lighting, and more to produce more comfortable and safe spaces, all while maximising efficiency and energy use.
What is a smart building?
Smart buildings are internet of things (IoT)-enabled buildings that use devices and sensors to monitor different components, analyse the data, and create actionable insights to optimise operations. What makes buildings “smart” is the comprehensive system of integrated hardware, including sensors and gateways.
These buildings are operated from a centralised management system that simplifies oversight and responses. Most smart buildings use real-time data transfer, automation, and two-way communication.
Components of a smart building
The fundamental connection between the wireless network and accessible data is at the core of a smart building.
Real-time data analytics
Real-time data analytics from IoT devices and sensors allows operators to collect data and form actionable decisions. Operators can better understand user behaviours and patterns to optimise processes and reduce risks.
Wireless communications are necessary for the function of smart buildings. Without the ability to share data and collaborate in real time, the capabilities of sensors and devices would be meaningless.
Though analysing data can be complex, a simple and straightforward user interface allows technical and non-technical users to understand and analyse data to form insights. Central data collection is found in most smart buildings, along with reporting and management and analytics.
All of these features tie into the cloud, ensuring that operators can connect from anywhere, at any time.
Advantages of smart buildings
Smart buildings gather information from the environment and use it to inform decisions, much like a living organism.
Once populations grow in urban centres, city planners will struggle to address their needs in an efficient way. With the increasing social and regulatory pressure for sustainability, operators will need detailed usage and energy monitoring to adapt to the changing needs.
Smart buildings are more energy-efficient, due to the advanced monitoring that reduces the usage and costs without sacrificing comfort or safety for residents. For example, automated HVAC systems can keep rooms comfortable when occupied, but adjust temperature and ventilation when they’re empty to conserve energy.
Smart buildings are highly adaptable. The devices collect, process, and analyse data for users to create more personalised experiences and better security. On a building-wide level, the data provides information that allows operators to improve the efficiency of HVAC systems, conserve water, and ensure safety.
Automation is a helpful tool for reducing waste. Automated processes can take on repetitive tasks, freeing employees to take on more mission-critical work. Smart buildings are also more efficient to build initially, last longer, and easy to maintain throughout their lifecycle.
The demand for sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint puts pressure on city planners and building operators to improve energy usage. Operators can automatically collect data on sustainability and compliance, then generate rapid reports to help regulatory agencies get the data they request.
The residents of a building will have changing demands. Aside from sustainability, residents want personalisation and an improved customer experience, which is attainable with IoT. Users can gain control over their personal comfort and preferences, and the devices adapt to their changing needs automatically.
Health and Safety
Smart buildings allow operators to monitor and evaluate risks in the environment, such as air quality issues, a gas leak, or a fire. The system can be automated to respond in the event of a risk, saving valuable time between detection and mitigation.
Building contractors can leverage IoT devices to ascertain patterns and optimise the space based on sun exposure, weather, resident needs, and more, ensuring everyone has the best possible experience without added costs or waste.
Smart building use cases
Smart buildings are versatile and customisable based on the goals and needs of the residents and operators, but here are the most common use cases.
Building security is essential to the comfort and safety of residents and employees. Smart buildings can feature devices that monitor security tags and put out alerts if there’s a breach. Some examples include motion sensor tags, fire safety equipment, remote power shutoff, remote water shutoff, and wireless laser beams.
IoT devices can be used to monitor and adjust the environment in a smart building and optimise it with automatic responses. For example, smart lighting can be adjusted according to occupancy to reduce energy consumption while keeping the space comfortable for residents.
Smart buildings have technology to monitor air quality, optimise cleaning, and promote a more sanitary environment for residents and employees. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a new focus on keeping the workplace safe and sanitary.
Visibility is essential for organisations to track assets and processes. Smart tags with IoT enablement allow operators to track tools and resources, so if something is lost, stolen, or compromised, they can respond quickly.
The adaptability of smart buildings holds appeal for residents. As the data tracks resident behaviour and preferences, the system can be updated to provide a better overall experience. An example of this is the resident preferences for the thermostat setting and lighting, which can be adjusted as the seasons change or as residents reveal usage patterns.
Smart buildings are the solution to growing populations
IoT is experiencing widespread adoption in just about every sector, and smart buildings are just another in the long line of applications. With the ongoing issues of the pandemic, a renewed focus on safety and sanitation, and the pressures for environmental sustainability, smart buildings offer a solution to the challenges of a growing population.