Why So Few Buildings are Smart

by Ivan Benitez
Oct 30, 2017 11:00 AM ET

As originally published on LinkedIn

Today’s take-up of smart buildings technology is slower than anticipated. The expectation about the size of the smart buildings opportunity in the marketplace is not reflecting the actual activity. Very few retrofit projects are materialising, and on new construction sites, only 30% of the C-Suite believe they got what they were promised when implementing building technology solutions. This is mostly attributable to poor planning, the wrong focus, and the wrong partners or technology solutions.

Achieving ´smart´should not be difficult

The purpose of a building is to meet the business objectives of its owners, who attempt to take into account the expectations and buying behaviour of the building’s current and future occupants. The conventional approach to new building design is not explicitly focused on the role of ´smart´ in meeting these objectives. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Owners are unable to define smart and the value it provides the business.
  • Owners and architects evolve their designs for their projects, with focus on low upfront costs, rather than ongoing costs.
  • General Contractors select subcontractors for sub-systems expertise, leading to silo solutions. Construction specifications do not consider how the buildings systems will operate as a seamlessly interoperable enterprise solution – few contractors have the domain expertise to do so.
  • The building automation system (BAS) - the brain and nervous system of a building - is treated as a commodity and is usually an afterthought. This limits the impact on the occupant experience and overlooks the opportunity to reduce operating costs.

Most of us in the industry will recognise the symptoms. The answer goes back to the starting point for smart: 

  • Focus on fit for purpose for the owner and occupants.
  • Write down what is your need to achieve ‘smart’.
  • Describe what you are trying to achieve in the first place, and start designing from there.

Remember the building blocks of a smart building

  1. A non-proprietary Building Automation System with the ability to connect disparate systems within the building using an ‘open’ platform. This will allow integration paths to industry communications protocols and ensure the ability to scale and maximise ROI over the life cycle of the building
  2. Sub-systems - such as lighting, meters, fire alarm, occupancy systems and many others – whichare easy to integrate within the master system. This will ensure information can be shared without impacting the operational performance when transferring data
  3. On-going funding for performance improvements. Buildings are live environments and change over time; only a firm commitment to provide on-going support will maximise ROI and performance.