Smart buildings are sometimes referred to as 'automated buildings', 'intelligent buildings' or buildings that incorporate smart technology. However, it is a fairly ambiguous term that at its most basic level has been used to describe buildings that include technologies such as:
- Automated systems.
- Intelligent building management systems.
- Energy efficiency measures.
- Wireless technologies.
- Digital infrastructure.
- Adaptive energy systems.
- Networked appliances.
- Data gathering devices.
- Information and communications networks.
- Assistive technologies.
- Remote monitoring.
It centres on the use of interconnected technologies to make buildings more intelligent and responsive, ultimately improving their performance.
At present, many building systems operate independently, and many are inherently inefficient as they lack the monitoring capability that would enable them to adapt effectively to different conditions or modes of operation.
Smart technologies can facilitate better decision making and automation of responses. Jones Lang Lasalle suggest that 'To be considered an intelligent system, automation should be able to: monitor performance; detect inefficiencies; diagnose possible causes; make automatic adjustments; alert facilities management staff to issues that can be automatically corrected; and suggest possible tools and parts that may help staff members get the job done quickly.” (ref JLL, Smart Building Technology: Driving the Future of High Performance Real Estate)
There are some concerns regarding the roll-out of smart technologies. It has been suggested that poorly implemented technologies can disempower occupants, taking away their control of the environment, and that a lack of suitable instructions or education may lead to the incorrect use of technology and so the inefficient operation of buildings. In addition, rapidly changing technologies can have a life-cycle of just 2-5 years. This raises environmental issues regarding the continual retrofitting of technologies, and suggests that building systems should be 'disaggregated' from the building fabric so they can be upgraded without the need for changes to the building itself.
To a certain extent, this smart buildings agenda is driven by suppliers with a vested interest in selling technology, and it can sometimes seem that the word 'smart' can be used to describe almost any new technology or system. In addition, the focus on active systems suggests by implication that low-tech or passive buildings are not intelligent.
Less product-driven definitions encompass the wider, fundamental outputs of the built environment, such as; wellbeing and productivity, as well as consideration of long-term future-proofing and whole-life costs, suggesting that truly 'smart' buildings are those that deliver better environmental, social and economic conditions.
In this context, 'Smart' design includes a broader understanding of property portfolios, local areas, regions and cities.
The term 'Smart cities' is defined in PAS 180: 2014 Smart Cities. Vocabulary as '...the effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens.' Engineering practice Buro Happold suggest that this about more than just harnessing technology; requiring consideration of governance and growth, urban development and infrastructure, the environment and natural resources, society and community. (Ref Buro Happold: Defining and benchmarking SMART cities)
Redstone suggest that “…the true power comes in taking a holistic approach – combining what were once disparate systems into an integrated platform that offers better economic, social and environmental performance for buildings and their occupants.”
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Advanced construction technology.
- Big data.
- Building energy management systems.
- Building management systems.
- Engineering Smart Cities.
- European connected and smart home market.
- Internet of things.
- Open data.
- Open data - how can it aid the development of the construction industry?
- PAS 180:2014 Smart cities – Vocabulary.
- PAS 181:2014 Smart city Framework.
- PAS 182 Smart city data concept model.
- Smart airports.
- Smart city.
- Smart cities design timeframe.
- Smart construction.
- Smart glass.
- Smart homes in Germany.
- Smart kitchen appliances.
- Smart meter.
- Smart technology.
- The smart buildings market.
 External references
- T4C, Honda home produces more energy than it uses. 28 March 2014.
- Royal Academy of Engineering, Smart buildings, people and performance. 2013
- IBM, Smarter Buildings.
- Green Bang, 8 definitions of smart buildings.
- JLL, Smart Building Technology: Driving the Future of High Performance Real Estate.
- Siemens, Smart buildings - the future of building technology. 2010
Featured articles and news
A great example of mimetic architecture with the Fish Building of India.
Could e-bikes be a solution to congested and polluted urban centres?
Government publishes details of £500bn investment pipeline in infrastructure, described as the 'most comprehensive ever'.
Top of new skyscraper trimmed down by 30m to avoid interfering with City Airport flights.
A new concept unveiled to tackle the lack of sports facilities in inner cities.
'Open hand' designs revealed for a new entertainment complex in China.
Modernist architecture and its many international variations explained.
BRE support Europe-wide strategic heating plans for local and national authorities.
Work set to begin on 'one of America's greatest parks', which will be 10 times bigger than Central Park.
One of our most popular articles - RSHP's Mike Davies writes about the concept design process.
As Cuba mourn the death of Castro, major renovation of this symbolic landmark may be a reflection of the country's fresh start.