What Is Smart Building Technology?

Smart building technology helps property managers run their buildings more efficiently.

To most people, smart building technology evokes a utopian world where the spaces we inhabit respond intelligently, seamlessly, and proactively to both changing human needs and a constantly evolving environment.

At the same time, for building owners and managers, corporate tenants, and property investors, it describes a predictable world where threats are managed, costs are contained, and operational efficiencies are consistently maximized.

New technologies are allowing many modern buildings to approach these idealistic visions. Let’s take a closer look at what smart building technology means today.

Bricks to Chips: Understanding Smart Building Technology

Engineers, architects, IT specialists, and others tasked with delivering the day-to-day reality of smart or intelligent building technology understand it as a hierarchy of under-the-skin technologies that add layers of additional functionality to what were once considered “dumb” systems. Starting at the bottom, these technological layers can be described as follows:

Networked Systems

The foundation of a smart building system is the wiring that ties together any of the basic functional components of a building including power, lighting, HVAC, fire suppression and other building systems. 

This also includes input units like smoke detectors, temperature sensors, timers, or switches as well as output units like alarms, lights, or variable flow heating or cooling units.

In most buildings these systems operate independently of each other.   

Automated Systems

These basic networks become automated systems when they are able to respond automatically to changes in the environment. An automated system can be as simple as a single thermostat unit or as complex as a building-wide motion-detection array. But they require both input and output devices to be connected, sometimes through a central control unit. 

Today, almost all buildings contain some sort of automated system.

Integrated Systems

We begin to talk about truly smart buildings when we start to integrate the functions of multiple automated systems. This might be tying motion-detecting cameras to a lighting system or linking air conditioning and automatic window blinds, as examples. But it requires systems to be able to communicate without human intervention. To do so there must be:

  • Information sharing between systems
  • Rules for interacting, in the form of software
  • A central control point, typically a server and user interface

At this point, the requirements of the system begin to change. While basic automated systems can be built and maintained by systems specialists, integrated systems increasingly require software engineers, cybersecurity specialists, and digital networking experts. Reliable companies providing true smart building services need to be able to supply all these services.  Some times, the specialists providing these services are called master system integrators.   

System Optimization

Once building information can be stored, processed, and shared across and between networks, it becomes possible to optimize building operations to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. This can be done through:

  • Data analytics: Storing and processing large amounts of data to identify, for example, patterns of energy usage or equipment failures can help to reduce energy spikes or improve upgrade and maintenance schedules.  Data analytics can be used to both identify maintenance issue, and predict future maintenance issues.   
  • Real-time adjustments: Building systems can be programmed to respond to conditions that change in real-time, such as staffing requirements, power shortages, security alerts, or rapidly changing weather.
  • Increased resiliency: Smart buildings will also be able to respond to threats better. Problems in one area will not cause entire systems to go down, while core systems can be prioritized in the case of a catastrophic failure or disaster. Best of all, more data makes it easier to identify potential threats or unfolding situations in real-time.

Connected Cities

While many smart buildings already allow extensive system optimization, the ultimate goal of smart technologies goes beyond the walls of the building. Already most systems allow managers to check in with secure remote access via the web to adjust systems or troubleshoot. 

Ultimately, buildings or campuses will be managed remotely and information sharing will allow entire neighborhoods to respond organically to everything from fluctuating power supplies to changing traffic patterns.

What Is a Building Automation System?

That’s the big picture, but how is smart building technology unfolding in the buildings we use and manage every day? Today, smart building technology is being delivered through increasingly sophisticated building automation systems (BASs).

A BAS is the backbone of any smart building functionality. A purpose-built BAS conforms to commonly accepted industry standards and provides a robust, fully scalable architecture that allows you to:

  • Connect multiple input and output devices across your network
  • Connect devices and systems in parallel to ensure resilience
  • Connect legacy and proprietary systems via open communication protocols
  • Gather, store, and manage system data
  • Improve energy efficiency, occupant comfort, and security

Leading-edge BAS systems use rapidly evolving technologies like IoT (Internet of Things) functionality and open communication standards like BACnet and LonMark to enable:

  • Integration of multi-vendor and legacy systems
  • Increasingly flat network architectures driven by universal IP device connectivity
  • Efficiencies through AI-driven data analytics and machine-learning algorithms
  • Security against rapidly evolving cybersecurity threats.

Smart Buildings Need Smart Systems

As a leading supplier of smart BAS solutions to multiple industries, Conexus has the experience and know-how to manage both specialized dedicated building automation systems and complex cross-network integration issues. Our services include:

Driven by an unwavering commitment to robust, open and non-proprietary solutions, Conexus delivers industry-leading building automation solutions backed by rigorous commissioning protocols following the Army Corps of Engineer procedures.  

We supply, support, and maintain products and systems from top equipment suppliers including Distech Controls, Tridium (Niagara), Honeywell, and Siemens and Johnson Controls.

Click below to find out how smart building technology can work for you.

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