Smart buildings might sound like something out of a Jetsons episode – a building supported by automated systems that adjust our environment. However, they’re a great way of creating more eco-friendly spaces. Smart buildings collect data about their internal environments using sensors, microchips and other hardware. We can then analyze this data, and use it to make a smart building run in a way that better suits its occupants. Like cloud PBX phone systems, smart buildings bring a new level of sophistication to the buildings we inhabit.
A smart building’s systems are distinct from a building management system, or BMS. These systems control things like ventilation, lighting and power, and have clear overlap in functionality with smart buildings. Indeed, the two systems usually work in tandem with each other. Smart buildings can help their accompanying BMSs work in a more sophisticated manner.
For example, you might program a BMS to interface with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (or HVAC) so that it turns this system on (or off) at specific times. However, a smart building can connect to your HVAC and activate it based on CO2 levels instead.
The most obvious benefits of a smart building are financial savings and reduced environmental impact. Even with the best of intentions, the buildings we occupy tend to waste a lot of energy—through processes like heating and lighting, for example. While a new roof (aided by a roofing contract template free and easy to use) can alleviate this, a smart building helps you reduce this waste through measures like automatically switching off heating and lighting in empty rooms.
This idea of environmental benefits manifests in other ways. In a workplace, a smart building can show you who’s using your facilities—or if they’re being used inefficiently. This data helps spaces like meeting rooms fulfill their potential, and prevents unnecessary expansion.
Furthermore, if you have sensitive equipment on your premises a smart building can monitor things that might affect it, such as humidity. This can help you to reduce repair costs or even stop a problem from occurring in the first place.
Another major advantage of smart buildings is their positive impact on the people inhabiting them. A smart building’s sensors can monitor particulate levels and—therefore—prevent disease from spreading. Its data on facilities usage can also help cleaning staff to work more effectively, resulting in a more pleasant environment. We’re already seeing similar initiatives in fields like industrial cleaning, so it’s not hard to imagine similar moves in smart buildings more broadly.
However, if you use a smart building, make sure you don’t compromise the privacy of people within it. Avoid using cameras or identifying information where possible, and ensure any data you collect can’t be accessed by third parties without your permission.
To make an existing building smart, you need to partner with a specialized company that can install the relevant hardware. However, you need to have a clear idea of the problem you want a smart building to solve. This helps you materially improve a building’s internal environment, and avoid spending money on hardware you don’t need.
Make sure any company you partner with knows what they’re talking about. At a minimum, it needs to provide you with both building sensors and a way to analyze the data you collect. It may also help if it understands how to solve your particular problem—like wasting water or energy, for instance.
Another consideration is how all the different components of your smart building fit together. Today’s smart building sensors use radio waves to transmit information. An unreliable connection will reduce the usefulness of your smart building—and prevent you from improving it.
Ultimately, smart buildings reflect broader digital trends in our workplaces. Expect to see more automation and concern for employee health over the next few years.
Smart buildings are an exciting new development, allowing you to create healthier and more eco-friendly environments. However, we need to have a clear idea of the issues we want to fix with their technology. We also need to respect the privacy of the people exposed to these systems, to ensure we don’t create more problems than we solve.
By doing this, you’re well on your way to creating a superior working environment.
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Dialpad.