Innovation is changing our lives in every way possible. In the building and construction space, innovation has completely morphed the landscape from early dwellings with the primary objective of shelter from wild animals and vagaries of nature to today’s modern structures where sophisticated communication technologies, energy efficient appliances, sensors, access controllers and video surveillance devices come together in a glorious dance to create an oasis of comfort, security and productivity.
Back in 1980s, when the term ‘Smart Buildings’ was first used, it simply meant providing individual telecommunications services to tenants under the shared tenant services. Connectivity had finally come to the fore as an important reason for the selection of buildings as offices, homes, manufacturing or retail sites.
So, what does a Smart Building mean in today’s times? The technologies have evolved over the years to a point where their integration and interoperability using internet-of-things (IoT) protocols is finally helping realize the aspirations of creating a ‘Truly Smart Building’. All the wants and desires of the occupants of these Smart Buildings as well as other criteria from an environmental or a scalability perspective can be categorized into the three essential pillars – Secure, Green and Connected.
Smart is Secure
Security and control is primary to the basic definition of domain. Whether the domain is home or business office, humans have to feel complete privacy and security about who else has what level of access to the space. What was originally keys and locks along with a security guard translates in a Smart Building to a sophisticated cloud based security system that thrives on centrally managed and remotely accessed video surveillance and access control systems built to be scalable for multiple locations In the wake of increased IT penetration, it must also deploy best-in-class network security measures at all times.
Smart is Green
Energy efficiency is a minimum for a Smart building. It involves taking a top-down holistic perspective in looking at every aspect of a customer’s operation that has the potential to impact energy requirements. Energy conservation has been an acute focus in the industry and technologies such as ones that allow interrupt-operation mode of air-conditioners while continuing to ensure comfort of residents, solar panels, recycling, motion triggered light switches, sensor based alerts for refrigeration unit door left ajar are all examples of initiatives designed to optimize consumption of energy or schedule its timing for load on the electric grid.
Smart is Connected
Interoperability is the key here. Linking building systems together and then connecting the building automation system to enterprise systems is enabling facility executives to reap smart-building benefits. Integrated with access control, video verification, for instance, allows a user to see live video as well as the cardholder’s picture when a given access card is presented at a reader. Another example is using data from the building security system to turn off lights, reduce cooling when occupants are not present or even unlock doors from your mobile to let in maintenance personnel. Proximity beacons, cameras or sensors to track foot traffic in retail is another example of how connected technologies are yielding insights, that in turn is helping design and utilize building spaces even better.
As more owners specify open, standard communications for building control systems ‘Cloud’ seems to be the ideal platform where all the building data resides and is consumed by one or more of these advanced systems. Unlike local building-centric systems, a cloud based infrastructure allows an unprecedented degree of data aggregation (even across multi-site multi-location building infrastructure) and analytics that lends new insights into enhancing the customer experience and operational efficiencies. Video analytics including facial recognition, for instance, can easily be accomplished with a central video storage repository that is integrated with advanced facial capture applications.
‘Smart Building’ is Smart Business
Smart Building is also a profitable business venture. It provides many distinct advantages for both the tenants as well the owners of a building. The tenant gets a good control of the internal climate conditions, effective resolution of HVAC related issues and greater reliability, which translates into higher rental value for the owner. Remote access of centralized, aggregated information with control and monitoring of a building offer increased level of comfort and time savings to the facilities managers. Early detection of problems is possible through predictive rules and algorithms that can automate maintenance and ease of information access in case of any issue.
The up-front costs depend on the scope of a Smart Building project but the returns are proportionately commensurate not just in terms of cost savings over the years but also in reputation and consequent premiums for additional services and smart capabilities offered. The level of sophistication implemented can vary greatly based on the location. For instance, water conservation systems if applied in an area that receives heavy rainfall will have lower payback compared to one placed in drought region.
Thus, a calculated and well thought out approach can reap rich dividends from Smart Buildings initiative – ones that have the potential to power a sustainable, happier, and more productive usage by the building inhabitants.
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