The next generation of intelligent buildings offers promise for unseen levels of energy efficiency, optimization, and occupant health and productivity.
Buoyed by a surge of high-tech innovations and several years of robust U.S. construction markets, AEC teams are working on ideas for ‚Äúsmart buildings.‚ÄĚ Since the mid-1980s, a new generation of products, technologies, and analytical tools has transformed the building landscape. The benefits of ‚Äúsmart‚ÄĚ technologies and operations for design, construction, and ownership/operations are now inescapable.
Prior to the 1990s, the notion of intelligent buildings focused on controls and automated processes for building operations, mainly in HVAC, lighting, and security systems, says Joachim Schuessler, Principal with Goettsch Partners. ‚ÄúThen, about 15 to 20 years ago, we started working on buildings that optimized controllability and comfort for the users,‚ÄĚ he says. By the late 1990s, tools like building information modeling were making built projects a digital extension of the architectural/engineering and fabrication processes, with valuable impacts on downstream operations such as facility management.
The latest definitions of smart buildings embrace a much broader, more futuristic outlook. Schuessler and other experts describe the new paradigm as buildings and building portfolios created and operated using technology systems that aggregate data, make decisions, and continuously optimize operations with ongoing predictive feedback, including from building systems and occupants.
David Herd, Managing Partner with BuroHappold Engineering, asks: ‚ÄúDo the building‚Äôs design and systems anticipate programmatic change over time? Is it a ‚Äėwell‚Äô building that helps keep people healthy? If it‚Äôs smart, today‚Äôs thinking goes, it can accomplish these goals, and more.‚ÄĚ
Tech-enabled properties transcend time and place, too. ‚ÄúSmart buildings can also be defined as connected buildings,‚ÄĚ says Marco Macagnano, PhD, Senior Manager, Lead: Smart Real Estate with Deloitte Consulting. They are ‚Äúthe product of an omni-channel approach focused on generating meaningful information to support decision making through data analysis.‚ÄĚ
Connected systems should add practical value while protecting against hackers and other breaches. They can benefit O&M by tracking energy-use intensity (EUI) across multiple campuses or by alerting a facilities department that an escalator is in jeopardy of failing. Owners can use the cloud and the Internet to access existing systems to do more. Bring in the ability of Big Data to tap into worldwide reporting on facility operations, and building owners can suddenly identify patterns and trends that could lead to better design choices.
‚ÄúThe biggest difference with current smart buildings is that tech is the enabler of three primary pillars: sustainability and carbon neutrality, the well-being of users, and user-centered design,‚ÄĚ says Jan-Hein Lakeman, Executive Managing Director of Edge Technologies and OVG Real Estate USA.