Smart Buildings can present real opportunities to save natural resources, reduce harmful and hazardous emissions and improve living, working and leisure environments. For these to be effective, there are real challenges to overcome. Robust, affordable and functional Intelligent Systems need to be identified and installed.
Design and construction communities around the world have been talking about Intelligent and Smart Buildings for many years. Some like to talk about wiser and smarter buildings but consideration must be given to both the challenges and opportunities that exist as we try to improve our building stock. These challenges and opportunities are not restricted to new development. There is also scope to improve existing ‘Intelligent’ Buildings that are equipped with controls and sensors. Such systems frequently need to be fine-tuned to the way a building actually responds.
It is important to consider Smart Buildings as part of a bigger system. A Smart Building with Smart Meters can be connected to a Smart Grid that then helps create a Smart City.
Smart Buildings are not that smart if they increase the maintenance of the building. Equally, they must not limit the flexibility of the occupied space. A building can be defined as ‘smart’ if it reduces maintenance, for example, by making it easier to clean. It can also be ‘smart’ if it learns from the way occupiers use the building.
Most definitions of a Smart Building relate to the controls systems and how the building can optimise energy use. Such narrow definitions need to be extended to embrace all use of resources and also need to cover the construction of the building and the resources needed to make the building ‘smart’ in the first place.
A Smart Building should proactively monitor energy consumption and detect if excessive heating and cooling are happening. Controls can be linked to a security system that can then only supply services to occupied spaces. The control of water systems and the introduction of fresh air should be based on demand control. Smart Buildings can really benefit from being linked to Smart Energy Grids that provide a better use of shared resources; helping to create Smart Communication Systems. Much of the hardware needed to make this happen is now much more affordable. What was once just a dream can now be implemented using actuators, sensors and the computer power that now exists.
The three key goals are to save material usage, create a cleaner environment and provide more productive built environments.
- Save natural resources by becoming more efficient (doing more with less)
- Reduce harmful and hazardous emissions to air, earth and water (be clean)
- Improve living, working and leisure environments
The three key challenges are to ensure systems are robust, affordable and functional:
- Robust – systems need to be reliable and maintainable
- Affordable – systems should pay for themselves through savings on utility bills within an acceptable lifecycle
- Functional – systems should create the required comfort conditions with optimal use of resources
In essence, when planning a Smart Building, better building performance should be the key, with more comfortable and productive work spaces as the desired outcome.