As smart urban spaces become more commonplace, buildings are no longer just a place where people live and work – they’re becoming an essential catalyst for the transformation of our cities. Put simply, smart buildings are reshaping our cities.
The rise of smart buildings has created new business opportunities for organisations operating in the built environment sector, from suppliers to real estate developers and service providers. The market is expected to grow from $55 billion in 2014 to nearly upwards of $95 billion by this year.
In this article, we’ll explore how smart buildings are shaping the future of our cities and what this means for stakeholders in this space.
Why smart buildings are essential for smart cities
Cities are growing at an unprecedented rate. The world is expected to have 52 mega-cities with more than 10 million people each by 2030 – that’s two-thirds of the global population. How we manage this ongoing urbanisation will have profound and lasting impacts on our economies, our environment, and our societies.
A key driver of this change is the rapid adoption of technology. Technology enables us to build smarter, more efficient cities and to address many of the issues currently facing urban areas. As the world becomes increasingly digitalised and automated, the built environment is also evolving to become more connected and intelligent.
What are the benefits of smart buildings?
Smart buildings can deliver a number of benefits, including improved operational efficiency, reduced carbon emissions and maximised ROI. The latter is especially true for real estate investors.
When it comes to enhanced operational efficiency, smart buildings can improve this through a host of features, including demand-response systems, asset optimisation, and facility condition monitoring. New technologies are enabling organisations to optimise operational efficiency through improved monitoring and diagnostics of the building as a whole, too.
Monitoring sensors can detect issues with equipment, energy consumption and occupancy rates and then trigger actions – such as sending alerts or initiating repairs.
Energy is a major contributor to carbon emissions in buildings, so reducing consumption is a critical part of any organisation’s sustainability strategy. Smart buildings are designed to optimise energy efficiency by using sensors and controls to monitor and manage energy consumption. They can also benefit from the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, to generate electricity.
Building automation technologies, such as HVAC and lighting systems, can help organisations reduce operating costs and increase occupant comfort by responding to the needs of the building users. This can reduce the amount of energy used in a building and the related costs, which can significantly increase the ROI for organisations with physical office locations.
Key challenges in implementing smart buildings
Building owners and operators have traditionally focused on operational efficiency, but they are now increasingly focusing on broader issues of sustainability and occupant wellbeing. The rise of digital technologies has enabled new ways to address these issues, including enhancing building hygiene and improving indoor air quality. This has created significant opportunities for building automation systems, such as sensors and control devices.
However, implementing these disparate technologies effectively can be challenging. The level of investment required to implement a whole building automation system is can require significant upfront costs.
Fortunately, thanks to the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart sensors and intuitive dashboards are now more accessible than ever – sensors are relatively inexpensive, building intelligence and analytics dashboards are smarter, and there is a wider range of options to choose from compared to before.
This means organisations can now deploy smart building technologies more selectively, enabling them to start small and scale up based on the benefits achieved from each system. For example, if desk occupancy is a focus, businesses can easily deploy sensors that measure exactly that.
The role of real estate developers
Real estate developers are one of the main drivers for smart buildings, as they are increasingly investing in technological upgrades to attract and retain tenants. This is having a significant impact on the development of smart cities as a whole. Real estate developers will increasingly play an important role in the transformation of the built environment by designing new buildings with smart technology built-in as standard.
They can also retrofit existing buildings to add smart technologies. Real estate developers can also engage with city planners to integrate technology into urban planning and development. This can include establishing connectivity between smart buildings and the wider city infrastructure, such as the transportation system and energy grid.
The role of smart building technology suppliers
Smart building technology suppliers, like us here at Beringar, are responsible for providing building owners with the technology and insight that makes a building “intelligent”. This includes sensors, controls, and systems that help monitor and manage energy consumption, occupancy, carbon and much more.
Smart building technology suppliers can also help organisations manage the transition to smart buildings by providing technical assistance with installation and integration, plus key consultancy services that help building managers understand or interpret the data.
This can include providing training for building owners, asset managers and facility managers on how to use their systems to their full potential. This also comes into play when considering return on investment, through offering advice on how to reduce operational costs, such as by reducing energy consumption, or space costs.
They can also help organisations integrate their systems with other smart city technology, such as sensors from other organisations, or by integrating external systems with their own, contributing to a city-wide data network.
The role of facility managers
Facility managers have an important role to play in implementing smart buildings, too. They can help organisations identify ways to optimise operational efficiency and improve sustainability by managing their existing facilities. They can also engage with real-estate developers and building automation suppliers to integrate new technologies into new or existing buildings.
Facility managers can also help building owners maximise the benefits of their smart building systems by providing coaching and training to the building occupants. Bringing the workforce in on a project like sustainability or ESG initiatives, for instance, is a great way to strengthen company culture. Facilities managers can also help organisations integrate their smart building systems with other city-wide technology, such as sensors deployed in other places that generate data.
The rise of smart buildings is creating new business opportunities for organisations across the world, from suppliers to real estate developers and service providers, all while saving businesses huge sums of money in space and utilities. With smart technologies becoming more commonplace, buildings will no longer be just a place to live or work.
As we shape the future of our cities, our cities will in turn shape us.