What is a smart building and how can it benefit you?
What is a smart building?
A smart building is any structure that uses automated processes to automatically control the building’s operations including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, security and other systems. A smart building uses sensors, actuators and micro-chips, in order to collect data and manage it according to a business’s functions and services. This infrastructure help owners, operators and facility managers improve asset reliability and performance, which reduces energy use, optimizes how space is used and minimizes the environmental impact of buildings.
Buildings that aren’t “connected” are the same buildings they were decades ago. They have provided the essentials: shelter, temperature control and safety at the same efficiency level for years. But newer buildings, or older structures that have been converted to smart buildings, are constantly changing. They are living organisms connected to a network with intelligent and adaptable software.
At the most fundamental level, smart buildings make occupants more productive with lighting, thermal comfort, air quality, physical security, sanitation and more at lower costs and environmental impact than buildings that are not connected.
Smart office buildings, health care facilities, hospitals, educational facilities, stadiums and many other types of smart buildings exist around the world. Navigant Research estimates that the smart building technology market will generate global revenues of $8.5 billion in 2020, up from $4.7 billion in 2016, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.9 percent over the forecast period.
The creation of a smart building
Making a smart building, or making a building smart, begins by linking core systems such as lighting, power meters, water meters, pumps, heating, fire alarms and chiller plants with sensors and control systems. At a more advanced stage, even elevators, access systems and shading can become part of the system.
There is no single set of standards that makes up what a smart building is, but what they all have in common is integration. Many new building have “smart” technology, and are connected and responsive to a smart power grid.
You don’t even need to move offices or create a new building to work in a smart building. Building automation systems (BAS) like those from Honeywell or Johnson Controls exist so property owners can take advantage of the power available in older structures.
Creating or transforming a building into a smart building is beneficial for both the land owners and the organizations working within.
These benefits range from energy savings to productivity gains to sustainability. Smart building strategies can reduce energy costs, increase the productivity of the facility staff, improve building operations, support sustainability efforts and enhance decision making across the organization.
One example of energy efficiency is the use of optimal start/stop, which allows the building automation system to learn when it should bring the air conditioning system on line for a particular zone in the building. Another feature is electrical loads that are grouped into categories from critical to high priority to non-essential.
“When the building load is rising and approaching the high limit setting, the non-essential loads are turned off in their sub-group order, followed by the high priority loads,” Garry Myers, vice president and director of building automation services for WSP Flack + Kurtz, told Siemens.
MGM Resorts International acquired several hotels with various types of building automation systems, all of which saved hundreds of thousands of dollars with efficient energy systems.
“When you pay in excess of $1 million monthly for energy, even 5% savings is a huge amount of money,” said John Leslie, manager of energy and building automation at MGM Resorts, to Siemens. Leslie’s smart building management system at The Mirage in Las Vegas uses load-shedding programs to keep from operating during peak demand times.
“The highest rate can occur between 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. If we can reduce energy usage and keep equipment from starting during that time, it can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars saved,” Leslie said. The Mirage is outfitted with a chilled water program that constantly measures set points, heat loads and demand as well as weather stations that monitor wind, weather, humidity and sunrise/sunset data.
Building managers also benefit from all of the data they receive as well as control capability so they can fine-tune processes to lower energy and maintenance costs.