Constructing Connected Buildings: Past, Present and Future

The concept of the connected city is beginning to take off—and it could change how contractors build projects in the future.

As the demand for more new buildings and renovations increases and public leaders rallying around smart technologies, contractors will have to know about the systems. Each connected project has a unique set of needs that must be addressed, and it all starts with understanding the technology.

Defining Connectivity for Construction

What exactly is a connected building or connected city? Defining it is the first step to understanding how it will impact construction projects in the future.

Anirudh Bhaskaran, industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan, says, “Connected building is a technology leap … where different building systems such as HVAC, lighting, fire and safety, and security are connected and controlled through a single network, which empowers the building or portfolio managers to control and monitor a building from anywhere.”

A lot of building owners are turning to this method because it makes building management easier for them and provides them with insight into how a structure is operating. When applied across an entire portfolio, it can become a potent combination.

Jesse Berst, chairman, Smart Cities Council, agrees, saying, “It starts … with the sensors and building management system for all of your systems: HVAC, utilities, lighting, air quality, occupancy, employee tracking, etc. Then, you connect it to other buildings that you own. You can manage multiple buildings from one location. Buildings are sharing information to become smart buildings and reduce energy waste and help the city be a smart city.”

As far as technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, and the cloud are the founding pillars of connected buildings. Current buildings are equipped with traditional building automation, building energy management systems, fire and safety, and security systems that are controlled via different networks. The technology that is in a connected building is not that different from the traditional systems, but it is all connected, communicating information seamlessly.

Berst adds, “The tech being used includes: sensors, thermostats, occupancy sensors, security doors, advanced HVAC systems, video feeds, smart water meters, light sensors, just to name a few. Buildings are moving to a digital ceiling, where the entire infrastructure is together in one spot, no overlapping of systems. They are moving to a converged network, all systems are together and that makes the data sharing possible.”

Advantages of Connected Buildings

By making the building systems connected and in turn connecting multiple buildings, owners see many different advantages that were not there before. For instance, better energy management, improved cost, greater operational efficiency, better comfort and convenience for occupants, and improved safety and security are some of the key benefits, according to Bhaskaran.

Bhaskaran says, “Apart from those generic advantages, it gives building managers remote control of building systems and informed decision making based on real-time building data.” By using smart technologies and having a connected building, owners can ultimately improve the bottom line of operations.

Berst adds, “As these smart buildings start to help occupants be smarter and more comfortable, tenants will seek them out to rent the smart space. Owners can save so much money with the connected buildings. The buildings will cost less to manage, but owners can charge more for rent since the building has a lot of technical advantages. Owners can spend less money and make the tenants happier.”

Besides the economical and energy savings advantages, connected buildings can provide safety benefits as well—specifically disaster planning.

Berst says this includes, “knowing which buildings might flood, which ones make good shelters, and the evacuation plans for buildings side by side in already crowded cities.”

Building on the safety element, the technology in a connected building can track the people coming in and out. With people tracking, a company can see what their expansion or remodeling needs are.

Another advantage is leveraging data to make decisions about utilities such as predicting how much power is needed in a building. In the long run, companies can save money by participating in efficiency programs.

This is just the beginning of connected buildings—the opportunities are endless and the advances happening today will change how structures are built in the future.

“We are moving to the day when the building recognizes you when you walk in and follows you around all day. The building will adjust itself to you, the HVAC levels you like, the lighting you like, etc. There will also be much better maps of indoor spaces where a lot of people congregate. Think malls and theaters,” explains Berst.

As the demand for connected buildings goes up, contractors will have to know how to accommodate the requests. The push for smart, more sustainable buildings is only starting. Smart cities are the future and being able to construct them is essential.

Related Articles