By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
We’re in an age where technology can make inanimate objects “smart.” Most late-model cars can react to someone in your blind spot and put the brakes on faster than you can. Your smart fridge can tell you if you’re out of milk. Our ability to make objects “smart” is profound, but it’s confusing the more complex the object is or as its scope of abilities grows. For instance, what are intelligent buildings designed to do?
What is an “intelligent building?”
Unlike a car or a refrigerator, a building’s purpose is up in the air. You can use it for anything, and it can become whatever the size of the space permits it to be. Which begs the question of how intelligent a building can be when its prospects are so diverse. What is an intelligent building capable of?
- Set a smart thermostat to turn on the A/C when building temps rise above 72°F
- Use motion sensors to trigger lights in less-trafficked hallways to save energy
- Install an access control system to improve building security and restrict access
- Manage connected facilities through a Building Information Modeling (BIM) system
These examples are indicative of near infinite-possibilities to improve the way we use buildings and what we get out of them. To really understand intelligent building benefits, lets look at a couple of broad examples of what’s possible when you digitally enable a physical building.
Operate more efficiently
Efficiency is an important metric in facilities management. Are you justifying the cost of your lease? Are employees making the most of the space available to them? These questions aren’t just yes/no questions—they’re a sliding scale of answers. Smart buildings help push those margins more in your favor.
How do you know if a 12’x12’ conference room is really the best use of space? Install an occupancy sensor and sync it to a data aggregation program for a “smart building” solution. The occupancy sensor tells you how often and for how long people occupy the room during normal business hours. If the data comes back at 86% utilization, it’s a good bet that space is well-allocated. If the data says 16% utilization, it’s time to reevaluate.
Smart building efficiency extends beyond space utilization, to cover almost any metric. Are your heating and cooling costs optimized? A smart thermostat can ensure they are. Are you saving energy wherever you can? Motion sensor lights can push your efficiency in the right direction. A smart building can educate you on how you use it and anticipate your needs, for actionable insights that help you run lean.
Support the workforce
Intelligent buildings offer direct support to the employees who interact with them. They can reduce pain points and friction, while raising workplace experience metrics to create a positive environment.
Take smart lights, for example—they turn on when they detect motion and automatically adjust to the level of ambient light from other sources. It’s a simple concept, but it creates a seamless transition for employees entering a new workspace. The room accommodates them, so they can settle in quicker and work comfortably.
In a more complex example, smart building badging systems manage accessibility. The engineering lab on the fourth floor contains proprietary, sensitive technology and is off limits to anyone outside of engineers and upper management. General employees only have access to floors one through three. The badging system restricts access as a function of the building’s infrastructure—no human intervention needed.
Again, examples of workforce support run the gamut. Look for situations where people interact with the building and you’ll likely find opportunities for digital augmentation.
Synchronize essential systems
Smart buildings are also designed to help facilities managers do their job better—particularly when it comes to the facilities themselves. Nowhere is this more evident than through an intelligent building management system.
Smart buildings constantly transmit information and data points to a system that aggregates them. Facility managers use this data to make informed decisions about everything from care and maintenance, to upkeep and improvements. Some examples include:
- Sensors that alert FMs to irregularities in normal building function and operation
- Automated ticketing systems that trigger work orders based on reported data
- Data from digital twins that improves asset management, re: service and maintenance
These examples and many more like them make it easier for facility managers to do a better job. Instead of relying on copious notes and reminders to do X or schedule Y, the building itself takes over the task. In many ways, smart buildings are also self-sustaining.
Streamline facilities management
Really, the single most beneficial aspect of a smart building is the way it empowers facilities managers. FMs gain the insights and capabilities they need to maintain and optimize a building for efficiency and utility, in ways that are impossible without smart building technology. It all culminates in a better workplace experience that empowers employees and drives business success.
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