You hear about smart buildings everywhere and you ask yourself "what exactly is a smart building? "The answer is in this article.

Definition of Smart Buildings

The term Smart Building  or Intelligent Building defines the capacity of a building to transmit data to an application so that it can monitor, control, and modify the behavior of the building in real-time. The control and monitoring of the building can be automated and performed by a manager. Smart buildings are responsible for optimizing resources, reducing pollution, and improving the security and quality of life of occupants.

The transformation of a building into a digital asset is the result of the installation of connected sensors and actuators. Data from these objects is relayed in real-time via communication networks, generally the Internet, even if other types of networks can be used. The data is monitored and controlled via an interface, most often a web application.

Why make your building smart?

The purpose of implementing such systems is to optimize the comfort, energy efficiency, and security of a building. The Internet of Things and the evolution of computer algorithms provide managers with the tools and the data to analyze the performance of a building.

Precise actions and plans can be carried out or programmed to optimize the operation of electricity, heating, security systems, etc. This IT contribution makes Smart Buildings part of a revolution for Building Management Systems (BMS). The democratization of artificial intelligence offers the opportunity for asset managers to have more than ever control over all the components of a building.

The Internet of Things opens the way to high-performance devices to manage in buildings the lighting, heating, air conditioning, and many other features. For example, the comfort temperature of a room can be controlled and monitored not only thanks to temperature sensors but also by using sensors on the windows to check when they are open and closed. This data can be used as well for security issues.

Data is used in real time and an alarm can be activated if a window is opened during the closing hours of an office or restaurant.

Another example is that if the carbon monoxide level increases abnormally, a notification is sent to the building's management team. A connected light sensor can be used by an intelligent system to notify a bank of the failure of the lighting device in its 24-hour ATM. There are even some systems that manage the distribution of fire extinguishers or defibrillators and deliver notifications when batteries need to be replaced.

If the solutions chosen to improve the efficiency of a building must meet the needs of the manager and users, in the case of energy optimization, buildings must meet the requirements of the European standard NF-EN-15232.

This standard specifies the objectives of a building management system: supervision, monitoring, and analysis.

  • Supervision means that a building must be monitored and piloted according to previously defined needs.
  • Monitoring refers in particular to alarms.
  • The analysis must make it possible to determine the real needs and costs of the structure.

The acquisition of consumption data is essential to measure performance and check whether the objectives defined by the client have been achieved.

The NF-EN-15232 standard, therefore, makes it possible to obtain all of the building's functions and to implement regulation systems optimizing energy performance but also to estimate, with a method provided, the impact of the installations. "Smart Building" is also an approach to meet the requirements of the Energy Transition Law, which requires active energy management.

Transform a building into a "smart building"

Buildings already constructed have measurement systems that are disconnected from each other and for which data collection in a centralized application is impossible. With Smart Buildings, the challenge is to add to these systems connected objects capable of transmitting data in real-time.

The multiplicity of technologies makes it necessary to design a structure that plays the role of an interface, that is to say, to capture the data from the different types of equipment and present it to the connected network in an intelligible form but also to play the role of actuators. Thus, the building manager finds all the building's data in the interface. This platform must also offer data collection, data analysis, projections, and piloting actions in real-time or programmable.

The interface can not only concern digital objects but also disconnected networks that are unable to communicate with each other, such as the electrical network and the heating network.

Smart building, to meet the needs of each type of building

The function of a building is at the heart of the "Smart Building" concept. Offices, gymnasiums, or schools do not have the same needs as a residential building or a factory building.

For schools, nurseries, offices, or gymnasiums, the system deployed must allow the operation and maintenance of buildings taking into account their intermittences. A general shutdown option must be available. Monitoring these types of structures generally refers to comfort temperatures, indoor air quality (CO2), technical faults linked to production (continuity of service), and motion monitors. Supervision is focused on lighting (interior: indicate non-presence; exterior: clock, seasons calendar, and twilight sensor), heating, ventilation, and domestic hot water (only in catering areas and additional cleaning). The analysis focuses on the implementation of a metering plan with the sub-metering of fluids (energy, water, air volumes, ...) by zone, function, and use.

For a residential building, surveillance will be focused on common areas, lighting, elevator ventilation, water needs (watering/cleaning), access control, comfort temperature of the accommodation. The supervision will concern lighting (movement sensors, switches on timers, or twilight.) or production systems of

centralized heating and Domestic Hot Water (DHW). The analysis will have to differentiate the common spaces of the dwellings, take into account the temperature, apply a metering plan with sub-metering of the fluids (energy, water, air volumes.

A smart building is human

If the human is at the center of buildings, it is also for Smart Building. The installation of sensors, actuators, networking of systems, data analysis, interfacing aims to improve user comfort.

If the data collected is first used by a manager to adapt or modify the operation of the building, it must also be used to communicate with users. This communication must lead to measures to be taken or habits to change to optimize energy efficiency or improve safety. In a school, counting water by zone makes it possible to alert students to overconsumption to provide them with training on good practices finally. A display of consumption-related data is recommended to improve behavior. For maximum efficiency, it is recommended to adopt playful and real-time display forms, which will encourage the user to become an eco-responsible user. Another example of the benefit that Smart Building can bring is the improvement of the working conditions of the employees of a company. Presence sensors can indeed be used to analyze and find with algorithm optimizations in the use of workspaces or everyday living.

To conclude, what is a smart building?

Smart Buildings - by bringing electronic, computer, and human intelligence to buildings - are an essential step in the creation of smart cities.

In smart cities, the connection of different networks and actors will allow optimization of costs, energy expenditure, and also an improvement in the well-being of the inhabitants.

These connected networks are essential elements for even more significant achievement: the intelligent electrical network, the Smart Grid, which must make it possible to integrate renewable sources of energy into the existing system and optimize consumption and production. This smart approach has become essential with climate change and rising energy costs.