What is a Smart Building and What are the Key Benefits?

According to a recent report published by Allied Market Research, the smart building industry was valued at USD 69.80 billion in 2021 and is predicted to grow to USD 201.16 billion by 2031. As a result of this fast-growing trend, our industry has and continues to see a large variance in the maturity of technology strategies, coupled with a vast marketplace of vendors pitching themselves as the next big disruptor.

Many commercial property developers are still contemplating the advantages of a building with adaptable and automated technology. Regardless, most property owners have commenced their digital journeys with varying results and differing approaches. Before we get into the benefits, we’ll first answer the question…what is a smart building?

What is a Smart Building?

Simply put, if a building can increase comfort, occupant satisfaction, productivity and output, drive up operational performance and drive down operational cost, energy and wasted time through the uptake of integrated technology and processes then it is a smart building! 

Taking a human-centric design approach – smart buildings are focused on making buildings or spaces work for the people who use them.

Key principles underpin the ability to create a flexible digital environment within any given property. These principles form the four cornerstones for achieving desired outcomes when it comes to planning for a smart building:

  1. Digital Strategy and Master Planning
  2. Open Systems for Specialised Operational Technologies
  3. Integrated Communications Network (ICN)
  4. Integrated Data Platform (IDP)

Cornerstone 1: Digital Strategy and Master Planning

Digital strategy and master planning is the key starting point for every property owner. This includes taking the steps to outline the needs and KPIs of the business both short and long term. Setting a day one strategy helps to make a start on what can seem like a daunting and unachievable task.

From here we look to set a digital roadmap over the following 3, 5 and 10-year periods that strategically align with the ESG and net-zero goals of the organisation. This planning and strategy plan is the first step to setting a business, portfolio or property on the path to achieving its digital goals. Digital strategy and master planning is workshopped and designed by a Digital Strategy Advisor.

Cornerstone 2: Open Systems for Specialised Operational Technologies

These are the day-to-day building technologies that every building has. This includes security, lighting control, HVAC control, and vertical transport to name a few. Each of these systems can expand and connect to the smart building network through open protocols and a structured approach. These products are designed and installed by their relevant sub-system experts (SSE) and it is essential to design and set them up in an open and connectable manner.


Cornerstone 3: Integrated Communications Network (ICN)

ICN is not a new concept. ICN is being adopted within a commercial property from tried and tested IT methodology and applied to operational technologies. An ICN allows a building owner to converge all technologies to a central network, resulting in tighter cyber security, better structured and managed network practices and infrastructure for future expansion for the base building or future tenancy. This system would typically be provided by a Network System Integrator (NSI).

Cornerstone 4: Integrated Data Platform (IDP)

Once open building technologies and an ICN are established, this allows data to flow freely within the newly created secure networking environment. By sharing data across the network, smart digital workflows are enabled, resulting in powerful outcomes such as the drive down of cost and drive up of performance. The IDP becomes the fourth pillar in positioning a property as a smart building.Once open building technologies and an integrated communication network is established, this allows data to flow freely within the newly created secure networking environment. By sharing data across the network, smart digital workflows are enabled, resulting in powerful outcomes such as the drive down of cost and drive up of performance. The IDP becomes the fourth pillar in positioning a property as a smart building.

Key Benefits of a Smart Building

The benefits of smart buildings are diverse. Utilising the right smart technology for your assets enables insight for you and your team to make improved strategic facility & operational decisions. This is increasingly important for building owners and property developers looking to deliver enhanced user experiencesreduced operational costs, maintain agile building infrastructure, increase property values, gain valuable space utilisation data, and lead the way to a sustainable future.

Benefit 1: Enhanced User Experience

A human centric design focus is the core of smart buildings. Smart building technology is tailor-made to the individual needs and functions of each building with the overall goal of meeting the needs of its occupants to provide enhanced comfort, wellbeing, engagement & productivity. 

Comfort & Wellbeing
Smart buildings will integrate data analytics with the many and varied HVAC sensors to monitor airflow and keep the staff in each zone in a comfortable condition.

NABERS IEQ and WELL Standard are the two emerging reporting metrics for a comfortable building. Understanding the outcomes of these standards will assist when planning the technology stack to deliver on a comfortable building.

Engagement & Productivity
Tailored smart technology also meets end-user requirements for specific user groups like visitors, tenants, and facility operators to interact with a building and its spaces. They work by integrating multiple protocols into a centralised user-friendly interface, so end-users can optimise their day-to-day activities and movements.

Benefit 2: Reduced Operational Costs

Smart building technology makes it easier for building operators to monitor the building’s energy usage through a centralised control interface that provides accurate and real-time data at all times.

This allows building operators to optimise every inch of space, assessing the areas within the building with the lowest and highest levels of foot traffic. This means they can focus where energy can be reduced, revamped or increased, ensuring no space within the building is wastefully consuming power.

A truly smart building will not only report on energy efficiency but also automatically change the operations of the plant to adapt accordingly in the most efficient manner. Further to this, several automated fault diagnostic tools and automated directed maintenance regimes have entered the market to not only reduce operational costs but also reduce maintenance and repair time too.

Benefit 3: Flexible & Agile Building Infrastructure

Smart technology providers understand that the technology embedded in the infrastructure during the building’s development will eventually be deemed ‘outdated’. This is why we plan a building with the three pillars of Smart Building Infrastructure. This puts smart buildings ahead of the game both now and in the future to ensure your building is never left with outdated technology.

It’s important for a space to be seamlessly maintained and easily adaptable for future changes. When a problem with hardware or software is detected anywhere in the building, the alarm can appear instantly on a centralised control interface, allowing for a quick and efficient fix. Systems with reporting capabilities allow for simpler maintenance and replacement regimes.

Benefit 4: Increased Property Value

With the constant and easy improvement of the building performance, ability to utilise space to its maximum capabilities, lowered costs due to energy output reductions, happy operators, happy tenants and so on, you will see a tremendous amount of productivity and efficiency from a smart building. This will result in improved ratings such as NABERS and therefore lower carbon footprint, and lower outgoings for the owner and tenant which all result in a higher capital value of the asset.

Finding and retaining high quality tenants is pivotal for building owners and tenants are discerning as to what features they will actively seek out. Providing a sustainable building will maximise the appeal of your investment property attracting premium long-term and loyal tenants.

Benefit 5: Insight into Space Utilisation

How many people leave and enter your building each day? Which spaces are getting the most use? How can staff work more productively? Where can energy be reduced and refocused? Where can resources and retailers be better utilised and focussed? Smart building technology allows for all these questions to be answered by providing accurate and measurable space utilisation data. 

Obtaining more data from various building sub-systems allows you to make more informed decisions on improving the quality of your building to provide spaces that improve productivity for those within.

Benefit 6: Lead the Way to a Sustainable Future

Smart buildings aim to extend equipment life while lowering energy consumption. Smart buildings identify the optimal point of operation and where energy can be reduced, which lowers carbon output. Coupled with a strong net-zero strategy, this is setting the new standard of workplace operations to an incredibly high level.

A smart building utilising intelligent technologies enables insights that can help optimise energy and utility use and then measure and verify the results through accurate data and reporting. This will help property owners achieve their net-zero goals and maintain them.

Smart buildings will take your offering to a whole new level by delivering the performance insights you need to create more human-centric, eco-friendly & cost-effective spaces.

These are six key benefits of utilising smart building technology, but the advantages are limitless. Smart buildings avoid disengagement and being at the responsive end of the spectrum. They are ahead of the game, driving strategic decisions through insights that optimise building quality and performance, as well as the lives of its occupants, and the value that brings is immeasurable. 

Investing in smart building technology might seem confusing and costly, but the financial and non-financial savings you make in the long run means it pays for itself. Smart buildings that drive insight increases the quality of your building and the lives of the occupants within – and that value is immeasurable.

Contact us to transform your building into a smart building

Operational Intelligence are leaders in technology strategy and innovative design, trusted around the world and backed by over 30 years of experience. We have enabled three Smart Cities, seven 6-Star NABERS rated precincts, sixty-seven 5-Star NABERS rated precincts and over 3,700 smart solutions worldwide. 

Contact our team for more information on how you can optimise your building utilising the most advanced smart building technology and solutions.

Benefits of Smart Buildings

Disclaimer: The content within is the opinion of the author and engineering team of Operational Intelligence.

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