Smart Buildings

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Smart Buildings

by James G. Barr

Docid: 00021052

Publication Date: 2202

Report Type: TUTORIAL


A “smart building” is any structure that utilizes automated procedures to
regulate building operations and improve sustainability. These operations
can include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting,
access control and security, elevators, fire safety, air and water
quality, digital signage, and energy management. With millions of
commercial buildings in the US, the opportunity to replace or retrofit
non-smart facilities is enormous, especially as the effects of climate
climate render an overall reduction in energy usage essential.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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A “smart building” is any structure that utilizes automated procedures to
regulate building operations and improve building sustainability.

Smart Machines Tutorial
Smart Grid Technology Tutorial

These operations can include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
(HVAC), lighting, access control and security, elevators, fire safety, air
and water quality, digital signage, and energy management.

A smart building exists primarily to:

  1. Lower building maintenance and/or sustainability costs
  2. Decrease energy consumption and CO

  3. Guarantee continuous functioning of critical equipment
  4. Ensure healthy indoor air and reduce the risk of disease transmission
    – a COVID-19 priority
  5. Enable lifetime inspection regimens, helping maintain voluntary or
    mandatory certifications (as applicable)
  6. Function as a critical building block in furtherance of “smart city”

With millions of commercial buildings in the US, the opportunity to
replace or retrofit non-smart facilities is enormous, especially as the
effects of climate climate render an overall reduction in energy usage
essential. “Buildings account for up to 70 percent of energy consumption
in major cities – and 30 percent of greenhouse emissions globally.”2

Honeywell estimates that residential and commercial buildings consume:

  • 40 percent of global resources
  • 60 percent of global energy
  • 25 percent of global water

Forbes reports that “smart buildings not only save money but are
also worth more than comparable non-connected buildings because they run

Impeding the creation of smart buildings are concerns over:

  1. Capital costs
  2. Realization of return on investment
  3. Cybersecurity, where enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), whole
    building facilities could become potentially hackable

Smart Building Design

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A smart building – also referred to as an “automated building” or “green
building” (for its energy-saving characteristics) – represents the
integration of computer and human intelligence with mechanical systems.

A smart building is typically “run” by a “building automation system or
solution” (BAS)” – also known as an “automated building system” (ABS) or
“building management system” (BMS).

Designing a smart building automation solution, which can consist of
multiple elements, is similar to designing a software application.

Step One for building engineers is to identify client
requirements. Analyst Glenn Wintrich explains the concept using a hotel as
an example. “Is it a higher priority to reduce energy costs or create a
five-star customer experience in terms of water pressure, ambient noise,
and air temperature control? Energy cost reduction and customer experience
may not be fully compatible unless the right strategy is in place.”4
The combination of upfront costs and projected savings usually determines
which features are vital and which features are nice-to-have.

Step Two is to formulate a series of projects which when
completed will produce an effective and efficient building automation
solution, integrating some or all of the components shown on the left side
of Figure 1.5

Figure 1. Prospective Smart Building Components Including IT

Figure 1. Prospective Smart Building Components Including IT

Source: Pinterest

The right side illustrates the present – but ever-expanding – range of IT
devices, systems, and services that may be invoked to enable
communications with (and among) such disparate entities as HVAC units,
elevators, and fire detection and suppression equipment. Ideally, the
building automation solution will manage all components individually and
collectively through the analysis of shared data.

Step Three is to adopt a “reference architecture” which
addresses the interests of building stakeholders, operational processes,
maintenance, technology, and sustainability. The reference architecture
allows for the introduction of new or enhanced technology or processes
with minimal disruption and expense.6

Smart building design and development usually involves the selection and
integration of multiple hardware and software systems and platforms from
multiple sources. As such, building officials should seek the services of
a seasoned systems integrator to coordinate the overall effort,
particularly, functional, performance, and capacity testing.

Leveraging the Internet of Things

The principal enabling technology of smart buildings is the Internet of
Things (IoT), which consists of sensors, software, and online connectivity
capabilities. A smart building’s IoT elements enable:

  • Granular data monitoring
  • Advanced analytics

According to analyst Marc Sanchez, “Analytics tools usually involve
statistical algorithms, and, more recently, machine-learning capabilities.
These sophisticated technologies can drill into the details of your
building’s characteristics and energy use, and even integrate various data
streams (from both inside and outside your building, like [weather and
utility information]) to formulate the best approach to achieving your

Scoring a Smart Building Design

As a measure of building intelligence, the Honeywell Smart Building Score
provides “a universal framework for quick, comprehensive, and easy
assessment of any building.” The Score rates 15 technological assets, as
itemized in Table 1.

Table 1. Honeywell Smart Building Assets
Green Safe Productive
Energy Sources Security – People, Vehicle, Material Indoor Air & Water Quality
Utility Sources Fire Safety Circulation – People, Vehicle, Material
Temperature Control Gas Safety Personalization
Electricity Control Worker Safety Connectivity
Utility Control Disaster Response Energy Quality

Source: Honeywell

Examples of Smart Building Design

Perhaps the best method of assimilating smart building design concepts is
to study existing smart buildings. To that end, the Continental Automated
Buildings Association (CABA) has identified several “key examples,”

Oakland City Center
, which “is notable for its advanced variable
air volume (VAV) system … [that] collects temperature and humidity data
and learns how the system responds to changes in demand.”

Frasers Tower

in Singapore, with “[its] 179 Bluetooth Beacons and
900 lighting, air quality, and temperature sensors [that] gather data in
real-time, enabling operators to optimize building spaces for maximum
efficiency and productivity.”

Fulton East

in Chicago (see Figure 2), “the first commercial
building to be designed and constructed for a post-COVID-19 environment.”
Features include “an airPHX purification system that eliminates bacteria,
viruses, and other harmful organisms found on surfaces and in the air;
microbicidal interior latex paint on washroom walls to kill pathogens; and
contactless features like the Toe-To-Go elevator call button and
touch-free thermal scanning in the lobby.”8

Figure 2. Fulton East Smart Building

Figure 2. Fulton East Smart Building


Smart Building Market

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Market Projections

MarketsandMarkets projects that the Smart Building market will grow from
$66.3 billion in 2020 to $108.9 billion by 2025, a compound annual growth
rate (CAGR) of 10.5 percent over the forecast period.

The major market drivers are:

  • Increased adoption of IoT-enabled building management systems
  • Rising awareness of the importance of space utilization
  • New and improved industry standards and regulations
  • Heightened demand for energy-efficient structures
  • COVID-19-related health and wellness considerations9

Market Players

As determined by MarketsandMarkets, “major” players in the global smart
building space include:

  • ABB (Switzerland)
  • BuildingIQ (US)
  • Cisco (US)
  • Hitachi (Japan)
  • Honeywell (US)
  • Huawei (China)
  • IBM (US)
  • Intel (US)
  • Legrand (France)
  • Johnson Controls (Ireland)
  • Schneider Electric (Germany)
  • Siemens (Germany)
  • Telit (UK)10

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Predictive Maintenance

Next generation smart buildings will leverage the Internet of Things to
help anticipate and resolve potential problems before they occur. As
analyst Chris Woods reports, “from plant-sized chiller systems to
elevators, IoT-connected devices will allow a shift from prevention and
repair to conditions-based maintenance in real-time, and based on
historical performance data from the equipment in question and similar
equipment elsewhere in the world.”

Yasser Mahmud, vice president for industry strategy and business
development at Oracle, observes, “The opportunity to reduce downtime and
related costs is tremendous.”11

Wireless Retrofits

As with security, it’s easier – and cheaper – to
build in

building functionality than to
add it on

later. To avoid ripping
and replacing miles of wire in existing buildings, engineers will
increasingly turn to Wi-Fi for communications, even though performance and
reliability may be issues.

“We are looking more and more into wireless technologies and putting
infrastructure into the cloud as much as possible for storage and data
management,” says Anil Ahuja, president of CCJM, Engineering
Infrastructure and Facilities Solutions for Smart Cities. “Wireless
technologies are also the key to making the built environment of ‘dumb
buildings’ more smart [because] we don’t have to open up the floors and
the walls [to update infrastructure].”12

Smart Awareness

Some smart building proponents believe that making buildings smart will
help make their human occupants smart – or at least aware of the virtues
of smart energy use. As Anil Ahuja remarks, “Turning off lights, recycling
and tracking energy usage via apps will all lead to the behavior change
that’s a critically important part of smart buildings.”13

Health & Wellness

Navigant Research predicts that smart building hardware and software
analytics will help improve the overall health of building occupants, as
temperature, humidity, lighting, and air quality conditions are modulated
to produce maximum comfort and safety and, from an enterprise perspective,
maximum productivity.14

Managed Services

Paralleling developments in other enterprise sectors like security, one
can expect a burgeoning market in smart building managed services,
particularly cloud-based, in which building operations are monitored and
managed 24/7 by a highly-skilled team.

IoT-Enabled Capabilities

According to SenseWare, Internet of Things (IoT) technology will help
make smart buildings even smarter:

  • Thermal imaging – IoT devices can detect equipment
    functioning outside its prescribed temperature range, a sign that
    maintenance is needed.
  • Prefabricated components – IoT allows the use of
    prefabricated building components, lowering construction costs.
  • Construction management – IoT
    improves construction management by providing equipment monitoring and
    inspection, inventory management, and materials tracking.
  • Asset optimization – IoT helps manage asset data
    along the value chain, tracking resources, scheduling maintenance, and
    recommending equipment replacement.15

On a more practical level, at least to employees and guests, analyst
Hugues Meyrath foresees the deployment of more “smart restrooms,”
revealing that “the quality and cleanliness of washrooms (or lack thereof)
typically generates the most complaints from occupants and will easily
drive customers away. IoT sensors resolve issues even before they happen:
smart soap and paper towel dispensers, for instance, digitally alert
cleaning crews when levels are running low, or even self-restock as
needed. Intelligent occupancy trackers determine when a restroom is full
and, via a mobile app, allow visitors to find out its approximate wait
time. On the back end, this kind of sensor also schedules cleaning crews
after a set number of visitors have passed through.”16

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence – more specifically, machine learning – will
allow building management systems to “get a feel” for how a specific smart
building actually operates, including any eccentricities or abnormalities.
This will enable a BMS to detect or anticipate problems and proactively
schedule repairs and maintenance. It will also permit a BMS to log
building design concerns, which will inform smart building designers and
influence next-generation smart building models.17

Aerial Drones

Discretely deployed and carefully controlled aerial drones will provide
smart buildings with a measure of smart labor. As envisioned by analyst
Hugues Meyrath, “They can … be used inside a building or retail space to
provide intelligent support, taking over many routine or time-consuming
tasks and freeing up employees to focus on more important things. From
scanning shelves for expired produce to inspecting hard-to-reach equipment
such as rooftop machinery to detecting intruders at an office building,
they serve as an additional set of easily-maneuverable ‘eyes’ that detect
minute details and function at all hours of the day.”18

Smart Certifications

How do you know if a particular building is smart? Increasingly, owners,
operators, and potential investors are insisting on some form of
recognizable – and, of course, reputable – certification. The past two
decades have produced an impressive assortment of standards and
certifications, perhaps too many. As analyst Betsy Conroy explains: “There
is the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes rating and certification
program, the WELL Building Standard administered by the International WELL
Building Institute, the Fitwel rating system operated by the Center for
Active Design, and the International Living Future Institute’s Living
Building Challenge – just to name a few. [In September 2020], UL and the
Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) launched its SPIRE smart
building assessment and rating program.”19

Not surprisingly, the International Organization for Standardization is
getting involved. Still under development, the ISO is currently crafting
“ISO/AWI 37173: Smart Community Infrastructures: Development Guidelines
for Information-based Systems of Smart Buildings.”

Hopefully, within the next few years, smart building stakeholders can
reach a consensus on which certification (or certifications) to adopt.

Federal Investment

The Biden White House is actively supporting smart building development.
In October 2021, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the
allocation of $61 million for 10 pilot projects that will deploy new
technology to transform thousands of homes and workplaces into
state-of-the-art, energy-efficient buildings. These Connected Communities
can interact with the electrical grid to optimize their energy consumption
which will substantially decrease their carbon emissions and cut energy

“From our homes to workplaces, this groundbreaking, grid-connected
building technology will help reduce our impact while cutting energy
bills, maximizing convenience, and propelling our efforts to reach a
carbon-neutral, clean energy economy by 2050,” said US Secretary of
Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “These projects will help universalize
technology that can maximize the efficiency and
sustainability of America’s nearly 130 million
buildings and make significant headway in the fight against climate

Smart Cities

Smart buildings are, of course, the indispensable “building blocks” of
“smart cities,” a concept that combines smart physical facilities with
smart infrastructure, smart services, and, of course, smart citizens, as
shown in Figure 3.

In addition to smart buildings, the Biden White House is actively
supporting smart city initiatives as part of the Infrastructure Investment
and Jobs Act, which became law on November 15, 2021.

Figure 3. Smart City Concept

Figure 3. Smart City Concept

Source: Frost & Sullivan


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Prepare for COVID-19 Consequences

The long-term effects of COVID-19 – normalizing and, in many cases,
accelerating telework initiatives – offers a potential counterbalance to
United Nations forecasting that as much as 68 percent of the world’s
population will live in cities by 2050.”21 Indeed, urban
populations may diminish, especially as knowledge workers are given the
full-time freedom to work from suburban or rural areas. For facility
planners, this may mean:

  • Fewer or smaller smart buildings, to accommodate fewer central staff
  • More smart buildings, to accommodate a more distributed staff
  • More smart buildings, to serve principally as remote work hubs
  • More mobile or temporary smart buildings, as businesses expand and
    contract geographically

Planners should be prepared for any and all eventualities, with special
emphasis on smart building connectivity, permitting multiple smart
buildings to be monitored and managed from a central smart building
location or smart building cloud.

Although the smart building revolution holds great promise – financial,
technological, and environmental – some public and private sectors
officials are worried that insufficient security may undermine any smart
benefits. As a result, smart building stakeholders should:

Research Cyber Threats

Just as new threats like hacking disrupted the then nascent e-commerce
market of the 1990s, IoT-oriented cyber attacks may expose smart buildings
to operational failures. Regarding cybersecurity in smart buildings, Frost
& Sullivan advises that:

  1. “Investigating the issue of cyber threats in smart buildings is timely
    and pertinent.
  2. “While avoidance may not be an option, the ability to minimize the
    impact of cyber threats needs exploring.
  3. “Thought leaders and technology experts must collaborate to address
    various aspects of cybersecurity.
  4. “Evaluating the efficacy of technology solutions pioneered by leading
    companies at an industry level is important.
  5. “A well-rounded strategic initiative is necessary to deal with this
    disruptive trend.
  6. “Cyber threats demand the utmost recognition and intervention of
    administrators and regulators to implement industry-wide changes.”22

Develop a “Dumb” Backup Plan

Since smart buildings are subject to cyber attacks, David Fisk, professor
of Systems Engineering at Imperial College London, recommends a business
continuity strategy that would permit a cyber-compromised facility to
conduct essential services – basically, a dumb backup plan. “All
cybersecurity defenses are potentially breachable; therefore, one has to
plan for the worst.”

The Fisk formula, as summarized by Frost & Sullivan, includes “the
development of a backup plan that involves identifying a building’s
minimal level of functionality and then adding hardwired, back-up
equipment with hands-on controls to provide basic service. He asserts that
such a strategy may be enough of a deterrent to ward off potential
aggressors before an attack is even launched.”23


1 Marc Sanchez. “What Is A Smart Building? (The Ultimate
Guide).” Iota Communications, Inc. October 6, 2020.

2 “Smart Buildings: Forming The Foundation of Smart Cities.” Forbes.
October 24, 2018.

3 Ibid.

4 Glenn Wintrich. “Smart Buildings Automation: The First Steps
Are the Most Important.” Dell. June 2014.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Marc Sanchez. “What Is A Smart Building? (The Ultimate
Guide).” Iota Communications, Inc. October 6, 2020.

8 “7 Key Examples of Smart Buildings.” CABA. July 8, 2021.

9 “Smart Buildings Market by Component (Solution (Safety and
Security Management, Energy Management, Building Infrastructure
Management, Network Management, IWMS), Services), Building Type
(Residential, Commercial, Industrial), Region – Global Forecast to 2025.”
MarketsandMarkets. January 6, 2021.

10 Ibid.

11 Chris Wood. “Five Technologies That Are Making Smart
Buildings Smarter.” Industry Dive. November 2, 2016.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 “Smart Building’s 2016 Trends.” envVisual. January 7, 2016.

15 “10 Smart Building IoT Trends for 2018.” Sustainable
Community Media. January 16, 2018.

16 Hugues Meyrath. “Seven Smart Building Technologies Needed
to Bring Facilities into the Future.” ServiceChannel. June 18, 2019.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Betsy Conroy. “Smart Building Certifications: Too Many
Choices?” Smart Buildings Technology | Endeavor Business Media, LLC. June
9, 2021.

20 “DOE Invests $61 Million for Smart Buildings that
Accelerate Renewable Energy Adoption and Grid Resilience.” US Department
of Energy. October 13, 2021.

21 Julia Fichte and Manuel Hollfelder. “The Smart Building
Evolution.” Questex LLC. October 6, 2020.

22 “Cybersecurity in Smart Buildings: Inaction Is Not an
Option Anymore.” Frost & Sullivan. September 2015:3-4.

23 Ibid. p.21.

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About the Author

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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst
and business writer with more than 30 years’ IT experience. A member of
“Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and
deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He
is the author of several books, including How to Succeed in Business
BY Really Trying
, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory Panel, and a
senior editor for Faulkner’s Security Management Practices.
Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at

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