The concept of a smart building has been around for over 40 years; indeed, the first computer dedicated to monitoring building systems was installed in the mid-1970’s. Buildings come equipped with all the necessities such as lighting, security, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and, since those early days, building owners have considered how to improve the utility, energy efficiency and technological capabilities of their buildings. From “passive” to “active”, buildings are no longer considered as just a physical asset with an associated expense but instead, with intelligence, they can reduce operational costs by actively managing energy consumption, offer greater security and even enhance the working environment for occupiers that increases their sense of comfort and wellbeing.
Initially the emphasis for smart buildings was on the measurable objective of reducing energy consumption, since this demonstrated a clear return on investment whilst showcasing commitment to conservation efforts in reducing environmental impact. This was an easy win: the industry widely agrees that between 30% and 50% of energy supplied to buildings is wasted, and this is often attributed to the inefficiencies inherent in heating or cooling unused rooms, or in supplying lighting to communal areas and offices that do not benefit from increased illumination, notably those already having sufficient natural light throughout the day.
But today the focus is changing. Humans spend more than 80% of their lives indoors and today there is widespread acknowledgement that improvements in the working (and living) environment increases welfare which, if implemented effectively, translates into measurable productivity and efficiency gains across a company’s workforce. Taking a wider perspective, governments are turning their attention towards sustainable environmental initiatives through investment in renewable energy, new forms of transportation and smart city infrastructure projects. Without smart buildings, the smart city cannot exist.
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