We spend 90% of our time in buildings. Buildings form a major part of the urban environment and therefore are an essential building block of our cities. Let’s take a look at their evolution and how smart buildings contribute to making cities smarter and more sustainable.
Building as a platform: The evolution of Smart Buildings
Buildings have been traditionally seen as physical structures with on-premise solutions focusing on the building operations. However, due to technology advancements and the emergence of IoT, buildings have transformed into interfaces between the users of the building and the wider community around the building. From an operational point of view, buildings are moving towards becoming self-adaptive or autonomous, with prescriptive maintenance mechanisms enabled by machine learning.
At the core of such development is the digital twin of a building, which integrates different data sources (e.g. structural, electrical, mechanical, IoT etc.) to enable efficient and advanced value creation over the entire lifecycle of a building. The evolution we have seen with phones transforming into smart phones is exactly what we are undergoing currently in the built environment. Buildings become platforms that enable new value creation as the way we occupy, experience and operate buildings evolves.
Building as an experience: Rethinking the role of buildings
Every building is built for a purpose that is defined by the operations within. A hospital is built for efficient healing of patients, an office is to foster business results, a school is for enabling the learning of the new generation, and so on. Each building needs to be equipped with the right technologies that are fit for this purpose and in addition, buildings need to start actively contributing to the success of this purpose. For example, workplace solutions enabled by IoT create agility in the workplace, reducing friction and dissatisfaction and increasing personalization of the workplace experience. Similarly, in a hospital environment, IoT enables staff to find medical assets quicker, freeing up significantly more time for the healing of patients. Maximizing the end user experience created by these digital solutions also requires an intelligent building infrastructure that allows flexibility, personalization of the environment and integrated operations.
Next level efficiency: Buildings as contributors to grid resilience
As the energy market is decarbonizing rapidly with the integration of renewable energy sources, grid resilience is under significant pressure. Smart buildings support this transition by becoming prosumers of energy: they can flexibly consume and produce power loads based on the needs of the grid. By deploying a smart stack of digital technologies, in certain markets buildings can also sell these power loads to the energy market, offering a new income stream for building owners and better yet, reduce the need for back-up power plants for the grid, which are traditionally carbon heavy. With such microgrid solutions enabling grid connectivity, smart buildings start contributing in the sustainability of smart cities also outside of only the physical building.
The journey towards smart cities is only beginning, but with focusing on creating a better user experience in buildings, optimizing efficiency both within and outside of the building and adopting an integrated and secure platform approach cities can create tangible short-term benefits and futureproof the urban environment for value creation also going forward.