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Smart Building-What It Is, Benefits and an Example

Smart Buildings: what are they used for, benefits and an example

Smart buildings are intelligent structures that provide greater comfort and better management and control of energy and security. Explore benefits and an example of implementation.

New technologies and building automation are enabling the evolution of buildings into smart buildings. Let’s delve into what is meant by a smart building, its benefits, and how it’s possible to transform buildings into intelligent ones through automated remote management of systems using BIM IoT platforms.

Managing technological systems of a smart building

Managing technological systems of a smart building

What is a Smart Building?

A smart building, or intelligent building, is a structure that employs advanced technologies, sensors, and control systems to enhance energy efficiency, comfort, and occupants’ safety. These buildings are designed to be connected, integrated, and interactive, enabling optimized resource management and improved quality of life for users.

Visualization of sensor data on the 3D model of a smart building

Visualization of sensor data on the 3D model of a smart building

Examples of Smart Buildings

Some examples of smart buildings include skyscrapers with intelligent facades that automatically adjust light and heat based on external weather conditions, buildings with heating and cooling systems that adapt to occupants’ needs, and structures with lighting systems that self-regulate based on people’s presence and activities.

Features of Intelligent Buildings

Smart buildings can encompass a wide range of technologies and solutions, including:

  • sensors and IoT devices (Internet of Things) for real-time monitoring and control of environmental conditions;
  • energy management systems to reduce consumption and CO2 emissions;
  • automation of security functions, such as surveillance cameras and access control;
  • integration with smart grids for distributed energy management and participation in demand response programs;
  • sustainable mobility solutions, like electric vehicle charging stations and bike-sharing infrastructure.

Smart Building: 5 Advantages of Intelligent Buildings

Smart buildings offer numerous advantages over traditional constructions:

  • greater energy efficiency: through the use of sensors, IoT devices, and advanced control systems, smart buildings can significantly reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions;
  • occupant comfort and well-being: a well-controlled and personalized environment can enhance air quality, temperature, and lighting, contributing to users’ physical and psychological well-being;
  • reduced operating costs: automation and optimization of building management functions can lower maintenance, energy, and human resource costs;
  • security and protection: integrated and automated security systems can enhance the protection of occupants and properties;
  • environmental sustainability: by using eco-friendly materials and technologies, smart buildings can reduce environmental impact and promote long-term sustainability.

In fact, a smart building can be fully managed remotely using BIM IoT platforms, enabling tasks like:

  • managing video surveillance and intrusion detection systems;
  • adjusting shading systems (blinds, shutters, etc.) based on natural light conditions;
  • controlling indoor climate (heating, cooling, humidity, etc.) in relation to external temperature;
  • managing lighting and appliances according to users’ needs;
  • detecting fires and alarms;
  • monitoring indoor air quality;
  • and more.

What Are Building Automation Systems and BMS (Building Management Systems)?

Building automation systems comprise technologies and devices enabling centralized and automated control of building systems and functions. These systems are often integrated into a BMS (Building Management System), a software platform allowing operators and managers to monitor, manage, and optimize building operations.
The BMS may include functions like lighting control, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, electrical energy, security systems, and communication networks. By integrating these functions, the BMS enhances energy efficiency, reduces operational costs, and ensures a comfortable and safe environment for occupants.

Currently, with a platform for IoT device control, it’s possible to manage all sensor data and building automation systems directly from the digital twin of the building. The 3D model becomes the digital twin of the real building, dynamically responding to events generated by IoT devices in real time.

Data collected by sensors are transmitted in real time to the application, where they are acquired, analyzed, and directly displayed on the 3D BIM model.

This way, the BIM model transforms into a dynamic model, updating its characteristics based on data from each sensor.

Real-time changes facilitate control and monitoring even of large and complex buildings.

Managing the real model through its virtual twin with usBIM.IoT

Managing the real model using a dynamic connection with its virtual twin and usBIM.IoT

Smart Building and BMS: A Practical Case

An implementation example of a smart building is the integration between Schneider Electric’s building management system (BMS) EcoStruxure and ACCA software’s usBIM platform. This solution enables operators to monitor and control building operations in real time, optimizing resource utilization and enhancing occupant comfort. Additionally, with the user-friendly interface of usBIM, accessing building information becomes simple and intuitive.
The integration between the usBIM platform and Schneider Electric’s BMS creates the true digital twin of the building, allowing control of all its technological systems (climate, electrical distribution, control panels, lighting, etc.). All systems are integrated into a common platform that maximizes building comfort and efficiency, turning it into a true smart building.

The integration between the two platforms provides managers, owners, and occupants with all the tools they need to monitor and manage their buildings. Through a visual interface, all technological systems can be easily controlled. For instance, the rooms in the 3D building model change color to indicate whether the environment is too hot or cold or if lighting levels are appropriate for the activity. Interacting with the system is straightforward, requiring only a common smartphone or tablet to adjust desired values and verify environmental comfort.

Interaction with the building can also include booking a meeting room in the facility for a specific date and having complete control over parameters regulating the comfort of that particular space.

The Future of Smart Buildings

The future of intelligent buildings holds great promise. With evolving technologies and increased awareness of the importance of sustainability and energy efficiency, there is likely to be a significant growth in the number of smart buildings constructed and renovated. Furthermore, the integration of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain could lead to new levels of automation, customization, and security in future constructions.
Emerging trends in the smart building sector include:

  • near-zero-energy buildings (nZEB): structures designed to minimize energy consumption and CO2 emissions, utilizing renewable energy sources and sustainable construction techniques;
  • adaptive and resilient constructions: buildings designed to adapt to changing climatic, social, and economic conditions while ensuring occupant safety and well-being;
  • integration between smart buildings and smart cities: connecting and interacting smart buildings with urban infrastructure could lead to more efficient resource management and a better quality of life for citizens.

In summary, smart buildings offer an innovative and sustainable solution to address the energy, environmental, and social challenges of our time. Through advanced technologies, automation systems, and integrated management platforms, intelligent buildings can provide a wide range of benefits, including energy efficiency, occupant comfort, reduced operational costs, and long-term sustainability. With the advancement of technologies and increasing awareness of these solutions’ importance, the future of smart buildings looks exceedingly promising.