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Building a Digital Ecosystem: How smart buildings improve energy efficiency

How smart buildings improve energy efficiency

Buildings are moving beyond just structures that provide shelter. “Smart” gives a new dimension to the seemingly inanimate thing and the credit goes to the fast growing Internet of Things (IoT). For example, your smart building can chivalrously open doors for you, play your favorite music, set your room temperature to your comfort, switch on your TV with voice commands, monitor, recycle and control water consumption (given the water scarcity in the recent times, this would be a true blessing) and so much more!

A smart building is a structure that has processes to automate the building’s operations like heating, air conditioning, ventilation, electricity management , security systems etc. In other words, a building which can manage its assets and evaluate its health. The infrastructure helps owners and operators to take effective solutions for any issues, and improve reliability.

The significant part of making a building smart is that we can reduce overheads and rectify an issue so that it doesn’t occur again. It becomes tedious to tend to problems that are repetitive and this can save human labour and also, guesswork can be avoided. The exact issue can be identified and corrected immediately. Smart buildings make people productive and secure and the environment healthy.

The essential part is linking the core systems together – power, water and security systems. Sensors are essential to monitor each system and collect data. This data when analyzed, helps us to decide the allocation of resources. The loads connected to each monitoring device have to be prioritized, from highest to lowest. Data security and privacy is vital, irrespective of the building type – home or commercial space. There are two ways by which we can implement “smartness” in a building:,

  1. Monitoring the systems, collecting and analyzing data and manually correcting/improving the system.
  2. Monitoring the system, collecting and analyzing data and enabling automatic control.

How can smart buildings save energy?

Different aspects of a building – HVAC, fire safety, water, security and surveillance and lighting all feed data to a central cloud-based network and work together using IoT technology (Building management System – BMS). The massive amount of data collected can be utilised to recognise patterns and build a predictive model that enhances performance and efficiency. Also, if all the buildings are connected to a smart grid, then buildings can adjust their energy consumption when the city’s powergrid sends an alert that it is near it’s full capacity (a futuristic view).

building energy efficiency

Source : Institute for business efficiency

Real-time Example

Remote Monitoring at Bank of America Remote monitoring turned out to be Bank of America’s best method to successfully manage energy consumption in its smaller facilities. The organization had previously implemented sophisticated energy control systems in larger buildings, yet struggled to effectively monitor energy consumption and diagnose equipment issues in its smaller branch buildings. Implementing the Intelligent Command & Control Center (iC3) system allowed Bank of America to network more than half of its branches throughout the country, and remotely monitor both lighting and HVAC. Technicians in the iC3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, can now instantly adjust HVAC temperature set points or shut off exterior lighting in, say, a Phoenix, Arizona branch. In total, the remote-monitoring upgrade is estimated to save 2 million kWh in the 98 locations in Duke Energy’s service area alone. When energy savings are extrapolated to Bank of America’s more than 3,000 branches, it results in tens of millions of kWh savings (Realcomm 2009).

(Source: Smart Buildings: Using Smart Technology to Save Energy in Existing Buildings)

Technology is fragile. It’s only as safe as the people who control it.

Smart buildings essentially mean interconnected systems with a lot of dependence on electronics, networking and constant communication. There will be many points of vulnerability in the system, and will require an excellent security system so that at no circumstance it can be compromised. For all the wonders that a smart building can do, one must keep in mind that they will remain as wonders as long as they are in the right hands.


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