Smart Buildings – not only Green but also Intelligent!

Dr. Haşim Altan
The Bristish University in Dubai (BUiD)

Nowadays and in the last five years the term ‘smart’ has been used more often than ever to refer to something different and important besides the terms ‘green’ and/or ‘sustainable’, as the same term refers to the term ‘intelligent’ but something plus (+). The article will touch on not only ‘smart’ aspects but also intelligent aspects in the context of buildings.

The information age with the Information Communication Technology (ICT) and through technological breakthroughs over the years have revolutionised communications and the spread of information by allowing the human kind to innovate ways to integrate services and systems together with technologies that are now part of our daily lives and lifestyles, and most importantly part of our buildings and the built environment. In this sense, the term ‘smart’ has now become our way of life (lifestyle), operations and expectations. Smart buildings would therefore buildings that have such integration of services and systems incorporated and integrated with technology (also referred as IBT) so that intelligence are there to provide, to serve and in other words, to make our lives much easier (compared with the past, e.g. pre 2000s) whatever the requirements, the need and the demand there are and might be. Integrated building operations, systems, and technologies made easy for smart buildings to be an existence today. Smart way of life is driving innovation and would therefore assist with green and intelligent buildings to truly perform and be aspired of towards our sustainable living and future.

In the last decades, Building Intelligence (BI) has become a widespread concept applied in different types of buildings of diverse scales. Whether a building is intelligent in terms of its performance, services, systems or all of the three aspects combined, the aim of BI is to enhance the comfort and safety of the occupants, and at the same time enable them to acquire a high level of control over the various parameters that can determine how healthy the environment inside a building is. Consequently, BI not only enhances the productivity and the wellbeing of the users (building occupiers), but also helps to achieve resource efficiency, cost effectiveness, flexibility and adaptability. Moreover, BI is recently being intertwined with sustainability concepts (incorporating green buildings in the context) as means to achieve energy conservation requirements of today due to ambitious targets set by many countries around the world.

Due to the rapid progress in network technology and the information system (as part of the ICT), the ways of living and working have been directly and indirectly affected. Traditional residential buildings (i.e. our homes) are no longer capable to satisfactorily accommodate the impact caused by the developing technology. Thus, the scope of Intelligent Buildings (IBs) has gradually extended from office building automation to residential building automation, and created something may be called as ‘smart or ‘intelligent’ homes these days. Smart Buildings (SBs) are dynamic buildings and can gain new capabilities to meet organisational or residential needs which are part of learning new things. Existing buildings can also be SBs with integration, i.e. integration of systems, services and technology, to serve their users and to operate, maintain and manage the buildings. Integration can similarly be used to enhance safety and security. Importantly, cost can be a challenge as a smart building often means investing upfront money for life-cycle savings, however, by spending upfront it is possible to lower life-cycle costs dramatically in the long term which is also sustainable.

What exactly is a Smart Building?

A Smart Building is a building that is not only intelligent but also green in many ways to help with the context of sustainable building design and operation. According to an article by Wang (2010), there are three different approaches when defining Intelligent Buildings (IBs): Performance-based, System-based, and Services-based. Smart Buildings (SBs) therefore would have to incorporate these three approaches together sustainably to accommodate the needs of the users today and in the near future. All three approaches can be a sign of smartness as in BI embedded to each and every aspect considered. Below are the definitions of those three approaches:

  • Performance-based definition views BI in terms of the way a building should perform. Accordingly, IBs provide their users with a productive environment and utilise resources in the most efficient and cost effective manner, as suggested by the European Intelligent Building Group (EIBG).
  • Service-based definition emphasises on the quality of services that IBs should provide to their users as suggested by the Japanese Intelligent Building Institute (JIBI).
  • System-based definition defines IBs as buildings that have main focus on technology systems available for their users and combine automation as in automatic functions such as Building Management Automation (BA), Communication Automation (CA), Office Automation (OA), Maintenance Automation (MA), Fire Automation (FA), and so on. This definition mainly based on Singapore’s and China’s definitions placed on control and communication using advanced technologies.

Most designers today would agree that IBs are not intelligent by themselves but they can furnish the users with more intelligence and enable them to work more efficiently, which forms the basis for SBs. Building design today has to be (needs to be) integrated in a way to ensure a building is suitable for the users to work and live in safely, comfortably, effectively and efficiently. Recently, another aspect has been added to the definition of IBs, the ability to learn, which brings the element of smartness on board, and therefore IBs should not only respond to the changing parameters of the surrounding environments, but also to be capable to learn and adjust their performance accordingly. SBs are part of a smart grid embedded within districts that make up a smart city. We must not forget also that a smart building may mean many things to many different people. However, a smart building is generally expected to be adaptable for the changes of users’

needs and also the advancement of ICT integrated with green building solutions. At this point, if we were to explain SBs today (or near future); we can refer to the following figure:

SBs are buildings with High Performance in terms of their Building Systems and Services such as comfort, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, wiring, controls, automation, voice, data and video communication, safety, fire and security. At the same time, SBs are Efficient Buildings in terms of their Building Structure and Management considering space utilisation and flexibility, furnishings, maintenance, energy and working efficiency. Last but not least, SBs are Buildings with Smart Grid Connection and Smart Generation Systems that can utilise Renewable Energy Sources through Innovative Technologies (Storage and Control) and/or have the capacity and compatibility for future upgrades (within a smart city platform). Some of the smart building attributes can be a several list of items such as Physical Infrastructure; Communication/Data Infrastructure; Network and Security; System Integration; HVAC; Electrical; Digital Lighting Control System; Plumbing and Water; Access Control System (ACS); Video Surveillance System; Fire Alarm; Audio/Visual; Metering; Occupant Satisfaction; Sustainability and Innovation; Integrated Building Management System; Facility Management, and so on. As can be seen from this list, SBs are equipped with complex building environments and such intelligence behind those attributes listed is important innovation for the users and building operations. It does not mean that other type of buildings will not have those services or systems; they will, of course, at some point in time, be forced to adopt some of those functionalities, however the intelligence (BI) is what is missing and therefore the element of smartness is not yet embedded.

The development of SBs has become a global movement and can be stated that SBs are buildings of combination of both ‘Green’ and ‘Intelligent’ buildings due to emphasis on reduction in energy The development of SBs has become a global movement and can be stated that SBs are buildings of combination of both ‘Green’ and ‘Intelligent’ buildings due to emphasis on reduction in energy

Case Studies for Smart Buildings

Below are two examples of existing buildings which are considered as Smart Buildings with embedded intelligence and green credentials:

1. The Duke Energy Center

This is a LEED Platinum 48-storey office tower located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Owned by Wells Fargo & Co., the Duke Energy Center was chosen in 2010 as a grand prize winner of the inaugural Siemens Smartest Building in America Challenge. In this smart building, there are 16 separate building systems, including three building automation systems, which are integrated through one routed Internet Protocol (IP) network. The 140,000m2 office building also has a Tier IV data center. The complex building automation system was customised to accommodate multiple protocols, e.g. BACnet, OPC, LonWorks, Modbus and PLC, to allow for efficient system operations and data collection from diverse building systems.

2. Le Hive

The world’s first building to be certified as ‘Outstanding’ by BREEAM In-Use with a huge focus on the comfort, happiness and security of the building’s users, evidenced by the health and welfare scores, which are among the highest of the nine BREEAM categories. Le Hive is Schneider Electric’s global headquarters in Paris and has 1,850 employees working within 35,000m2. Le Hive’s name is an acronym from the French for hall of innovation and energy showcase (Hall de L’InnovationetVitrine de L’Energie).The retrofit of the 7-storey office building reflects Schneider Electric’s position as an energy management specialist, incorporating comprehensive energy monitoring, which was carried out largely by the company’s own in-house experts. Also known as a test bed for Smart Buildings, Le Hive has delivered impressive energy performance through design and the use of intelligent systems, as well as significantly has engaged with staff through behavioural education to achieve a 50% reduction in consumption. This engagement also delivers benefits in waste and water reduction, and recycling.

Smart Building Photo Sources:

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