Living well, in this age, means living smart. Building automation is already improving the efficiency of offices, commercial buildings and community spaces around the world. Now, the rapid growth of smart home technologies suggests that the future of residential buildings, too, could be both green and luxurious. Could building automation technology prove that making environmentally friendly choices doesn't entail living with less?
Building automation is when networked electronic devices – often connected via a WiFi network – are used to monitor and control a building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and lighting. Building automation can even be used for such advanced functions as security and fire safety.
There’s a chance that many of us will have encountered some kind of smart home automation in action already – whether that’s remotely controlled heating and lighting, smart meters to help us monitor and moderate our energy usage, or remotely accessible cameras on doors. Smart home automation has been taken a stage further in commercial projects, monitoring energy usage across campuses or using occupancy sensors to recognise times and areas of low occupancy and to efficiently program lighting and air conditioning in hotels, for example.
As far as residential property is concerned, it’s appealing to potential buyers to know their house will come with smart home automation – the features of the future – ready for them, and that they won’t need to upgrade immediately.
As for commercial property, large buildings with multiple tenants – whether offices or flats – will appreciate the energy savings that can be achieved with smart metering and monitoring. Many wireless smart energy solutions allow building owners to have sub-meters on the network too, providing not only an overall reading for energy use in the building, but also a breakdown for each tenant. This allows tenants themselves to actively monitor and improve their own energy usage. A recent study showed that tenants who feel responsible for their energy consumption consume less energy overall, possibly because they feel they have more control over it.
Expect to see building automation becoming increasingly commonplace over the next few years, as companies strive to be greener and more efficient.
There are already many fantastic examples up and running, however, including The Edge, Deloitte’s building in Amsterdam, which has been dubbed the smartest building in the world. Its features include number-plate recognition to allocate parking spaces efficiently, and, once employees have arrived, to assign them a workspace based on their schedule and tasks – all this while also sporting the highest-ever BREEAM sustainability score of 98.36%.
In Singapore, Capital Tower features low emissivity glass windows and variable air volume boxes for optimal indoor air quality. Over in Los Angeles, Glumac’s offices have a heat-recovery retrofit, which recycles and redistributes the existing air in the building, and chilled sails for efficient climate control.
Building automation seems to hold the key to unlocking more efficient buildings for the future, as regulations and demands on construction companies become stricter and more environmentally demanding. Developing smart buildings should lead to more smart campuses or collections of buildings, which should nurture entirely smart communities.