Smarter buildings… Building smarter

by Ben Coulston

You have probably heard of the Internet of Things, cryptically described as ‘dumb things‘ connected by the internet. Smart buildings are one application. At one end of the spectrum we’re talking about buildings with a variety of activity sensors managing climate control or light monitors directing self-actuating blinds to follow the movement of the sun. Smart buildings function without regular human intervention and systems run responsively to gain maximum efficiency by using less power, resulting in lower electricity and maintenance bills.

At the more intrusive end of the scale, big brother is watching with buildings that know when you’re about to arrive and then prepare for you.  In commercial applications, the building can track essential equipment or locate people with particular skills when needed. Some systems collect data on the buildings inhabitants and run proactive predictive measures across daily, weekly or yearly time frames.

The UOW SMART Infrastructure Facility, designed by GBB before merging with Edmiston Jones, accommodates academics researching efficient and intelligent buildings, infrastructure & logistics

The magnitude of savings is the big driver and potentially the initial investment is recouped in the first few years of operation depending on the scale of application and nature of building use.  Additional benefits of regulating the environment of commercial buildings can be improved productivity from cleaner air and more natural lighting.

While existing buildings can be retrofitted with smart systems as accessories, optimum gains are made when the complementary smart construction methods are used.  For example, if sealing around the building openings is substandard then the smart building network will have to compensate and efficiency is lost.

If saving energy and creating a healthier environment are objectives of your building development it is likely that smart building technology is part of the answer but not a standalone solution.

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