The Global View

Eight definitions of ‘smart buildings’

So what exactly are “smart buildings”? The simple answer is that there’s automation involved somehow that makes managing and operating buildings more efficient. Pinning down an exact definition, though, isn’t easy in a sector that’s evolving so quickly. Here’s how various organisations define — for better or for much worse — “smart buildings”:

  • Nice. Not thrilling, but nice. IBM says “Smarter buildings are well managed, integrated physical and digital infrastructures that provide optimal occupancy services in a reliable, cost effective, and sustainable manner. Smarter buildings help their owners, operators and facility managers improve asset reliability and performance that in turn reduces energy use, optimises how space is used and minimises the environmental impact of their buildings.”
  • Good on the details, if a bit dry. Smart Buildings LLC (a US-based engineering and design firm) offers this definition: “A smart building is the integration of building, technology, and energy systems. These systems may include building automation, life safety, telecommunications, user systems and facility management systems. Smart buildings recognise and reflect the technological advancements and convergence of building systems, the common elements of the systems and the additional functionality that integrated systems provide. Smart buildings provide actionable information about a building or space within a building to allow the building owner or occupant to manage the building or space.”
  • Classic tech-speak. Cisco emphasises the multisyllabic when is says smart building development focuses on “Identifying responsible practices in site location and materials selection for new construction; Defining and incorporating intelligent information infrastructure into the building architecture; Developing simple, flexible, and scalable network systems for buildings; Incorporating power-management for network systems.”
  • Standards-based. The Smart Buildings Institute (a new Texas non-profit that’s developed a smart building certification process, describes a certified smart building as one that, “1. Provides actionable information regarding the performance of building systems and facilities; 2. Proactively monitors and detects errors or deficiencies in building systems; 3. Integrates systems to an enterprise business level for real-time reporting and management utilisation of operations, energy and occupant comfort; 4. Incorporates the tools, technologies, resources and practices to contribute to energy conservation and environmental sustainability.”
  • Yawn. Accenture describes its own smart-building solution as one that “leverages an existing building’s systems information infrastructure to enable energy and operational savings through continuous, data-driven analytics and remote implementation.”
  • Please, make it stop. According to the European Commission, “Smart buildings means buildings empowered by ICT (information and communication technologies) in the context of the merging Ubiquitous Computing and the Internet of Things: the generalisation in instrumenting buildings with sensors, actuators, micro-chips, micro- and nano-embedded systems will allow to collect, filter and produce more and more information locally, to be further consolidated and managed globally according to business functions and services.”
  • Finally, an elegant vision. In terms of building structures that will work well for us in the future, Siemens says in its sharp YouTube video that, “only solutions which create the greatest synergies between energy efficiency, comfort and safety and security will be sustainable over the long term … solutions that turn buildings into living organisms: networked, intelligent, sensitive and adaptable.”
  • The human touch. Describing itself as “America’s largest real-estate agency,” the US Government Services Administration (GSA) says of its mandate to cut the energy levels of all government buildings by 30 per cent by 2015 and make properties smarter: “(T)echnology alone won’t do it. The GSA realises that the smartest part of smart buildings is people and wants to engage them. Providing feedback and information through a dashboard is a good start. With smart technology, we can learn anything we want about a building and optimise its performance. But real performance means happier, more productive tenants. And that requires insights into the hears and minds of the people inside. What a dashboard can really do is enable better decisions, inspire participation, spread knowledge and best practices, communicate at a human scale and propagate new norms in how we use our buildings.”

1 thought on “Eight definitions of ‘smart buildings’”

  1. I am surprised you do not reference CABA and the Building Intelligence Quotient or BIQ which is a building intelligence rating system which has a definition and a clear path and rating for intelligent buildings.

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