The idea of smart buildings has been talked about in the IT industry as a great idea for a long time. One of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is the realization that we need to make buildings healthier. We believe that this will also be the catalyst to make buildings smarter.
We spend 90% of our time indoors, making indoor air quality and overall indoor environment critical to our wellbeing. A recent article from the Harvard Business Review showed that indoor air quality impacts our productivity. On average:
- 10% of productivity loss can be attributed to health issues related to poor indoor air quality.
- 35% of absenteeism is attributed to insufficient fresh air.
- Productivity can be improved by 29% with adequate ventilation.
These statistics show the importance of healthy buildings and how they help contribute to healthy and productive people.
How do we know if a building is healthy? In order to evaluate the health of a building, the first step is to have the technology, such as IoT (Internet of Things) sensors, to make the facility self-aware. IoT sensors are devices that provide various environmental data points from within the building which are fed to a software application to be stored, visualized, and analyzed. This platform may also connect to the Building Management Systems (BMS) and provide buildings with the sensory receptors they need. If any of the building HVAC systems are under-optimized, the building can automatically implement self-measures. If something is not operating as expected (normal range), the building management team or specified personnel are notified. The notification shows the identified issue(s) and provides a specific solution(s), based on all gathered data and the ability for the building to self-evaluate the issue(s) and cross-reference searches through all of its systems' manuals and available information on the web and/or database. The building can even schedule maintenance all on its own.
Types of IoT sensors include:
- Daylight sensors that can adjust light levels based on the amount of natural light entering the building
- IAQ sensors to evaluate the interior air to detect CO2 levels, VOC, moisture, temperature, dust, and other particles.
- Air monitoring stations to measure airflow.
- Advanced space utilization sensors to optimize where/when building resources are required.
- Security cameras that can provide space utilization data and take temperature readings.
- Meters for electricity and water usage.
Healthy Buildings lead to Smart Buildings
While individually these devices provide analytics related to healthy buildings, together, they are the foundation for a smart building. A smart building will take all building sensors – that for most buildings currently operate independently – and integrate them into one system.
Smart buildings have a sophisticated control system encompassing all the building operations, including power, lighting, water, HVAC, sub-systems data, and computer power. This control system then provides analytics that give a better understanding of current building performance and where there are opportunities to improve efficiency and occupant health and comfort.
The critical path to having a smart building control system is twofold. The first is that a building needs a network infrastructure (WAN, LAN, WLAN or DAS) to support the smart devices. The second is it needs a software platform to aggregate and actively analyze the various data points from the sensors and all the various MEP systems.
As smart/healthy building initiatives are more widely deployed and implemented, the smart building market will take the next step to connect all of the smart buildings to create a network of smart and autonomous facilities to make smart cities.