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What is a Smart Building? Technology Solutions & Examples

What is Smart building? Definition and a practical use case

Smart buildings are solutions to automate energy consumption management and improve occupant comfort. Let’s have a look at some pratical examples

In recent years, the notion of smart buildings has become increasingly popular due to their potentials for deploying emerging technologies as architecture and the construction industry continue to move toward more responsive and adaptable buildings.

Smart buildings are equipped with remote monitoring, maintenance and management systems thanks to the use of IoT BIM platforms that enable you to:

  • manage video surveillance and anti-intrusion systems;
  • adjust shading systems (sunscreens, shutters, etc.) according to the conditions of natural light;
  • check indoor air conditioning (heat, cold, humidity level, etc.) in relation to the outdoor temperature;
  • manage lighting controls and appliances according to user needs;
  • detect fires and alarms;
  • check indoor air quality;
  • etc.
smart building technological systems

Managing a smart building’s technological systems

There are numerous benefits to smart buildings, such as:

  • improve building performance;
  • minimize energy consumption;
  • provide a convenient and secure environment for its users;
  • improve sustainability;
  • reduce environmental impact;
  • etc.

But what exactly does smart building mean and how these solutions are implemented? In this article, we will explore the concept of smart building, the benefits offered and have a look at some practical examples.

What is smart building?

A Smart Building is a structure that uses advanced technology, such as sensors, and control systems, to optimize its performance and improve the comfort, safety, and productivity of its occupants. They are designed to be connected, integrated and interactive, enabling optimized resource management and a better quality of life for its users.

Smart building design

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

Example of Smart buildings

Some examples of smart buildings include skyscrapers with smart facades that automatically regulate light and heat based on outdoor weather conditions, buildings with heating and cooling systems that adapt to occupant needs, and structures with lighting systems that self-regulate according to people’s presence and activity.

Smart Buildings Features

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

  • ioT (Internet of Things) sensors and devices 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 systems;
  • integration with smart grids for distributed energy management and participation in demand response programmes;
  • sustainable mobility solutions, such as charging stations for electric vehicles and bicycle sharing infrastructure.

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

Building automation systems are a set of technologies designed to connect and automate certain functions inside a building. They are often integrated into a BMS (Building Management System), a software platform that allows operators and managers to monitor, manage and optimize the building operations. The BMS can include functions such as lighting, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, electrical power, security systems and communication networks control.
By integrating these functions, a BMS improves energy efficiency, reduces operating costs and ensures a comfortable and safe environment for occupants.

Currently, thanks to a platform to control IoT devices it is possible to manage all the sensors and building automation systems, directly from the digital twin of the building. In practice, the 3D model will represent the digital twin of the real building and will behave as a dynamic system that reacts to IoT device outputs and events in real time.

The data recorded by the sensors are sent in real time to the application that acquires them, analyzes them and shows them directly on the 3D BIM model.

In this way, the BIM model is configured as a dynamic model that is updated by changing its characteristics based on the data transmitted by each sensor.

Real-time changes make it easy to control and monitor even large and complex buildings.

smart buildings and IoT

Managing a real model through its digital twin with usBIM.IoT

What are the benefits of Smart buildings?

Smart buildings offer numerous benefits over traditional buildings, including:

  • increased energy efficiency: thanks to the use of sensors, IoT devices and advanced control systems, smart buildings can significantly reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions;
  • occupants’ comfort and well-being: a well-controlled environment can improve air quality, temperature and lighting, contributing to the physical and psychological well-being of users;
  • reduced costs: Automation and optimization of building management functions can reduce maintenance, energy and human resource costs;
  • safety and security: integrated and automated safety systems can improve the protection of occupants and property;
  • environmental sustainability: the use of environmentally friendly materials and technologies can help reducing environmental impact and promote long-term sustainability.

Smart building and BMS: a practical use case

An example of a smart building implementation is the integration between  EcoStruxure by Schneider Electric building management system (BMS) and ACCA software’s usBIM platform. This solution allows operators to monitor and control the operation of the building in real time, optimizing the use of resources and improving the comfort of the occupants. In addition, thanks to the user-friendly interface of usBIM, you can access all the information related to the building in a simple and intuitive manner.

The integration between the usBIM platform and the Schneider Electric BMS creates a true digital twin of the building enabling management of its typical technological systems (climate control, electrical distribution, switchboards, lighting, etc.). All systems are integrated into a common platform that maximizes the comfort and efficiency of the building, making it into a real smart building.

Furthermore, the integration between the two platforms gives managers, owners and facility occupants all the tools they need to monitor and manage the building. In fact, thanks to a visual interface it is possible to easily control all technological systems. For example, the various building rooms of the 3D model are getting coloured so as to communicate if the temperature of the environment is too hot or cold or if the levels of brightness are suitable. Interacting with the system is very simple and just a common smartphone or tablet is suffciient to adjust the desired values and check environmental comfort.

The interaction with the building can also include the possibility of booking a meeting room present in the facility for a certain date and having complete control of the parameters that regulate the comfort of that particular environment.

The Future of Smart Building

The future of smart buildings is extremely promising. As technologies evolve and the awareness of the importance of sustainability and energy efficiency increases, we are likely to see significant growth in the number of smart buildings. In addition, the integration of artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain could lead to new levels of automation, customization and
security for the buildings in the future.

Some emerging trends in the smart building industry include:

  • near-zero environmental impact buildings (nZEB): facilities designed to minimise energy consumption and CO2 emissions, using renewable energy sources and sustainable building techniques;
  • adaptive and resilient buildings: buildings designed to adapt to changing climatic, social and economic conditions, while ensuring the safety and well-being of occupants;
  • integration between smart buildings and smart cities: the connection and interaction between smart buildings and urban infrastructures could allow a more efficient management of resources and a better quality of life for citizens.

In summary, smart buildings represent an innovative and sustainable solution to address the energy, environmental and social challenges of our time. Through the use of advanced technologies, automation systems and integrated management platforms, smart buildings can offer a wide range of benefits, including energy efficiency, occupant comfort, reduced operating costs and long-term sustainability.