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1 Sep 2022

Smart buildings; the future and the facts

IoT means everything is getting smarter – including buildings. Heightened awareness of sustainability, energy efficiency, well-being and connectivity means landlords and facilities managers can apply these topical issues to their offices.

The concept of ‘smart buildings’ has been around for some time. According to Google the term first appeared in its search engine during 2005. But the increased emphasis on sustainability and the current energy crisis has put the subject at the top of many agendas.

But what are the future possibilities for smart technology in buildings and how can you avoid some of the pitfalls of a smart install or upgrade?

What smart tech is popular and why?

We surveyed Facilities Managers to discover what smart technology they would add to their building in an ideal world. The result was very clear – smart lighting and heating (see chart).

What smart technology would you add to your office building?

This makes perfect sense. It saves energy, which not only reduces costs but also helps an organisation’s sustainability program and its green credentials.

But it’s interesting to note the other options. We’re surprised that 12% of respondents wouldn’t choose to add additional smart technology. This may be because of budget restrictions but could also be because they are unaware of the full benefits.

These Facilities Managers may find their building becomes more costly to run. If the higher costs are passed to tenants, tenants may choose to move to smarter, lower-rent buildings.

Installing smart lockers has become popular as hybrid workers in many offices no longer have a dedicated desk. Hot desking means they have nowhere to store personal items or their laptop. Yet it was ranked third on the list. Perhaps this proves that energy efficiency is the focus.

Before adding smart technology

Peter Schwartz, Senior Technology Consultant at OryxAlign, has a wealth of experience in smart building technology. He often sees poor planning in the adoption of smart technology and believes communication between the Facilities and IT departments is critical.

Peter commented “We often find clients get a quote for installing smart tech but overlook issues such as the wiring. They don’t check if there are connections in place, they don’t check if there is capacity in the network switches to take the additional load, etc. It seems the technology that supports the building is a second thought at times.”

The result is an additional cost – and an unhappy CEO, tenant, or landlord.

Peter has seen better project outcomes when the General Manager and Facilities Manager (who tend to drive smart buildings) sit with the IT Director to formulate a plan. It can highlight challenges (wireless or wired, technology testing and validation, etc), and the agreed actions can be documented before suppliers are invited to quote.

The future of smart buildings

Every landlord aspires to have a building that is fully rented, and Facilities Managers want a building that is fully occupied.

Peter Schwartz believes to achieve this they need a property that does more than simply look pretty. “I’ve been doing some work recently with a client to ensure all their tenants have a connection with the Building Management System so they can see how much energy they are consuming. An obvious benefit but not all buildings provide that information.”

He continued “Initiatives such as the Well accreditation and WiredScore are also being seen as a differentiator. If you can prove your building is smarter and more human-friendly it increases its attraction.”

The Well accreditation promotes ‘people-first places’. It aims to create healthier, happier and more productive tenants. WiredScore assesses and certifies your building’s digital connectivity and smart technology.

Giving granular reports on energy or water consumption, air quality and space utilisation may help achieve either award. But Peter has a word of warning; “All these things need to be connected to the network, and when anything is connected to the network it needs to be secure.”

The possibilities for IoT in smart buildings seem endless. Already there are sensors that will measure how many people have visited the toilets and trigger a cleaning regime if a figure is met. There are weighing machines for bins that alert trucks to collect them when full, and leak detection sensors to help prevent water damage.

If you would like to discuss your smart building project with Peter Schwartz you can book a 30-minute meeting. No obligation.

Graham Smith

By Graham Smith