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By John Biggs
February 12, 2018
Today’s buildings are more technologically advanced than ever before, and with the continued improvement of Internet of Things and other smart technologies, more of these solutions are finding their ways into structures from residential homes to hospitals to high-rise office towers.
Many of the benefits of implementing smart technology into buildings is around precise collection of data, much of which once required human inspectors to gather. Critical building systems like lighting, HVAC, electricity and even security have been evolving with the advent of smart sensors, enabling building managers to keep watchful eye over the entire structure 24 hours a day using a mobile device or computer screen, all from a single control panel.
Smart building technology is quickly reaching a critical mass point where developers are partnering with building automation systems (BAS) companies during the construction phase, rather than just retrofitting existing structures with digital smarts. And it’s become big business; according to Mid-Atlantic Controls, the BAS market, which was valued at nearly $50 billion in 2016, is expected to grow to $141 billion by 2025.
Having a bead on the functionality of key building systems at all times means potential hiccups, or systems not operating at peak efficiency, can be identified early before requiring extensive repairs or costly emergency work. Smart buildings equipped with sensors or microchips continually collect and report data about the functionality of everything from lighting systems to elevators to climate control.
The sensors “know” what normal operating parameters look like, and can alert maintenance crews (and even automatically dispatch them) when something is amiss. This also slashes labor costs by reducing false positives and allowing workers on the scene to quickly diagnose problems, since a simple tweak or fix will always be less expensive and time-consuming than replacing an entire building system. This is especially useful in difficult to access area of buildings, where smart sensors can provide detailed reports on abnormalities, including precisely where the problem is, avoiding time-consuming guesswork and human testing to find exactly what part of an enormous system like plumbing or HVAC is malfunctioning.
Another clear advantage of outfitting systems with digital smarts is a dramatic savings in energy costs. According a recent report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, as reported by Construction Dive, smart technology can reduce the energy use in a commercial office building by nearly 20%. Identifying parts of a building’s climate control system, for example, where a portion of the structure is getting too much (or not enough) heating or cooling enables building managers to fine tune systems. Or in the case of fully automated smart building controls, automatically re-direct the system’s resources to areas where it’s most needed.
Advanced smart buildings even take external factors like weather into consideration and adjust HVAC systems accordingly. Lighting systems are another area that leads to wasteful energy consumption, particularly in large buildings. Smart buildings can detect when an area of the building is occupied and automatically turn lights on or off as needed.
With the technology proven viable at this point, big money is pouring into the space. Toronto is wrapping construction of a 3 million square-foot “digital city” as a sort of testbed for emerging smart infrastructure technology, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently spent $80 million on nearly 25,000 acres of land in Arizona to create a smart city, according to Construction Dive.
Internet of Things
building automation systems
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