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Garrett Rowland
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 “smart buildings.” Since the mid-1980s, a new generation of products, technologies, and analytical tools has transformed the building landscape. The benefits of “smart” 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. “Then, about 15 to 20 years ago, we started working on buildings that optimized controllability and comfort for the users,” 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: “Do the building’s design and systems anticipate programmatic change over time? Is it a ‘well’ building that helps keep people healthy? If it’s smart, today’s thinking goes, it can accomplish these goals, and more.”

Tech-enabled properties transcend time and place, too. “Smart buildings can also be defined as connected buildings,” says Marco Macagnano, PhD, Senior Manager, Lead: Smart Real Estate with Deloitte Consulting. They are “the product of an omni-channel approach focused on generating meaningful information to support decision making through data analysis.”

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.

“The 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,” says Jan-Hein Lakeman, Executive Managing Director of Edge Technologies and OVG Real Estate USA.
Amazon
With these smart systems and connected devices installed, your smart home can help take care of you in your golden years.

As we age, our homes can become dangerous places, especially if we live alone or have health problems. Fear of falling or being unable to carry out daily routines safely are often driving factors behind a decision to move out of a much-loved home and into an assisted living facility. Here’s where the smart home can help.

Smart security systems, connected sensors, and a multitude of other smart home devices can address many common challenges of aging, helping seniors stay safer and healthier in their homes for longer. By equipping our homes with this type of smart tech today, it's possible to create a space we can live in for (almost) all our tomorrows.

Here, we look at some of the technology you can install in your home, or the home of an elderly parent, to make it not only a safer home, but also a caring home.

"The number one technology you need in a home to help you stay in it for longer is a home security system," says Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch. "Second, there should be some form of social engagement technology in the home, such as a smart speaker, so people are not isolated. And these both depend on number three, which is having some form of high-speed Internet access into the home."

Mesh WiFi Systems

The advent of Mesh WiFi—a system that uses multiple routers working together to channel high-speed Internet to every corner of your house—has made aging in place technology much more viable. It’s now possible to have connected devices that will work reliably anywhere in your home. Mesh systems from Samsung, Google, and Eero (now owned by Amazon) can all deliver this type of high-powered connectivity.

A benefit of the Samsung SmartThings WiFi system is that it doubles as a smart home hub, which supports a wide range of connected devices, including sensors that can help monitor movement in your home (or lack of it) to alert a family member or caregiver if there is a problem (see Smart Sensors).

Smart Security Systems

Safety, both from intruders and disasters such as fire and flooding, is a major concern for elderly people living alone. A smart security system like Abode's home security solution can be installed to monitor doors, windows, and motion—triggering an alarm that can notify authorities and/or caregivers if there’s a problem.

This type of system also works with smoke alarms, flood sensors, and freeze/temperature sensors. If a senior shares access to the Abode system with a caregiver, that person can check in via a smartphone app and know that the temperature is comfortable, all the doors and windows are secure, and they'll be alerted if a smoke or CO alarm is triggered.