A smart building is simply this: a building which uses advanced technology (such as artificial intelligence and machine learning) to monitor, control, optimise and manage energy usage, safety and comfort. That’s it. Simple, right?

Here’s the thing, that definition doesn’t really explain what actually makes a building ‘smart’ or how ‘smart building technology’ differs to normal building management systems.

Let’s delve deeper.

Most buildings (using the word most loosely) have a building management system which allows the owner, occupier or building manager to program things like the HVAC System (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system) to turn on and off at specified times based on some predefined temperature level. Whilst this is a pretty great feature, it isn’t enough to make a building ‘smart’ because it still relies on human monitoring.

For a building to qualify as ‘smart’, it needs to have advanced technology in place which is capable of measuring, feeding back, and ultimately controlling things like the HVAC System itself, without human interference.  

To put things in perspective, if we consider the effect of smart building technology on a HVAC System (for example), you’ll see there is quite a difference to the standard abilities provided by a building management system as set out above. Smart building technology can direct a current building management system to turn the HVAC System on and off throughout the day by measuring CO2 levels in the building in real time such that, if CO2 levels were in line with building guidelines, the system would automatically reduce the outside air intake and, if CO2 levels were approaching the limit, it would bring in additional outside air.

This same technology can be applied to lighting, security, energy consumption and various other features. Smart building technology can even include sensors which can detect water leaks in buildings (for example).

How does a building do this? 

Smart Buildings generally use the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect various technologies and devices, which then all work together to optimise the building’s environment and operations.

IoT? - Yep, we threw that buzzword in there just to keep you on your toes.

IoT is a network of devices that can communicate and exchange data over the internet. An everyday example of this would be using your internet at home to control your television from your mobile phone. Simply put, connecting, and using multiple devices over an internet connection means using the IoT.

However, Smart Buildings use the IoT on a much larger scale to connect sensors, building management systems, energy management systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning and more. Once connected, these devices are monitored and advanced analytics are used to adjust the building's functions in real time by controlling the HVAC systems, lighting, security, energy consumption, and a multitude of other things, to optimise the performance of the building.

Final Thoughts 

That’s pretty much it, on a very basic level. A Smart Building is essentially a highly technological building which can ultimately be programmed and controlled without (much) human interference. It collects, collates and analyses data in real time and then adjusts the building’s outputs to meet energy requirements, decrease running costs and improve occupiers’ comfort and wellbeing.