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How many times have you discussed how hot or cold your office was over the last few months? Many office workers would agree that the biggest battle in commercial buildings is the fight over the thermostat. Not only do people have different tolerances for hot and cold, but different sections of buildings have different temperature ranges depending on sun exposure, shade, and the age and efficiency of the building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Even when the HVAC system is in tip top shape, maintaining consistent temperatures across the building remains a challenge.
Smart building technology and automation are making manual control of a building’s heating and cooling a thing of the past, and commercial real estate’s adoption of this technology is shaping the future of building management.
Smart cities call for smart buildings
Cities of the future will offer a wide array of “smart technologies” – networked technology that controls aspects of transportation, air, and water quality. According to Energy Manager Today, the number of smart cities throughout the world is expected to grow, driven in part by population trends that show more people leaving rural areas for urban ones. Europe and North America are expected to account for about half of the world’s smart cities in the next 10 years.
But transforming cities into smart cities starts with smart buildings. On average, buildings consume about 30% of the world’s energy. Improving energy management in those buildings will go a long way toward conserving energy and saving money across the planet. HVAC systems can be upgraded to detect changes in the time, temperature, and environment and then respond accordingly. But that’s just the start.
Automation built on sensing technology
A smart building uses a combination of technologies to automate building management. First, software manages the different variables of a building’s operation, including temperature and lighting. Second, sensors are used to detect changes, such as the rise and fall of temperature or motion in a room, and feed that information to the software. With sensors deployed throughout a building, a building management system can target temperature and lighting changes only to the rooms that require adjustment. The building data are tracked over time so the software can adjust its changes to fit with occupancy or seasonal changes.
Building managers can also utilize this technology to manage their lighting. Large buildings have many rooms and sections that remain empty – even during the day. An automated system can detect the vacant parts of a building and turn off lights in those rooms. Likewise, these systems can make the same adjustments for temperature so that facilities managers aren’t wasting energy heating or cooling vacant parts of their buildings.
Systems can even be programmed to account for personal lighting or temperature preferences, which should help avoid some of the office worker arguments about office temperature.
Smart building technology is here and now
Building automation technology is cutting edge but it’s not brand new. A decade ago, what passed for a smart building focused on HVAC, single buildings, and solutions that lowered operating costs. But the value now has increased, in part because of advances in sensor technology that contribute to the Internet of Things. With networked devices and powerful analytics that can be used to drive efficiencies, technology has opened the door to new opportunities for both sustainability and savings.
“Our traditional offices are changing and so too are the people working in them,” says a representative at Automated Buildings. “IoT is presenting new opportunities for creating, operating and servicing our facilities and is leading the way for new business value delivery.”