The Evolution of Smart Buildings

Building managers have more on their plates than ever. Aside from ensuring that plumbing, electrical and ventilation systems are working properly, they must also sieve through a vast amount of data generated by modern buildings for signs of impending system failures or problems.

Successfully navigating these systems entail the use of sophisticated new tools and applications to identify areas where urgent attention is required. A recent blog by Ram Venkat of Schneider Electric takes a look at some of the challenges inherent to older facilities, as well as the promises of modern smart buildings.

Upgrading Older Facilities

Businessman giving presentation to colleagues seen through glass doors at creative office

It is worth noting that older buildings are often constructed at a time where IT networks do not yet exist or are still relatively new. Inadvertently, they can make it challenging to deploy the wired digital networks that form the backbone of smart buildings. This is typically due to a combination of insufficient duct space, a desire not to mar the interior design of the building, and concerns over disruptions to operations that the installing of a wired network will entail.

Wireless networks can sidestep many of the problems associated with wired networks, though its suitability is constrained by considerations including the layout and structure of the building. In addition, the need to backhaul wireless access points or base stations means that the installation of wires cannot be fully eliminated.

Thankfully, modern BMS (Building Management System) typically offer support for both wired and wireless networks. Moreover, IoT sensors are available for a variety of wireless networks such as Zigbee, LoRa and even Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This opens the door to more deployment options than ever, depending on the size of the facility and the level of investment that building owners are willing to put in.

Moving Into The Future

Office building over reflection of cityscape

Of course, a new building offers far greater flexibility to install advanced smart building functionality from the get-go. And because a new facility doesn’t have the legacy constraints of an older building, chances are higher that the latest smart building capabilities can be supported without extensive retrofitting.

  • Connectivity: Support for faster, always-connected networks that will work with a new generation of IoT devices that uses the cloud for storage and processing. This includes the availability of additional network ports and the incorporation of PoE (Power over Ethernet) technologies to more easily power networked devices.
  • Advanced sensors: The installation of environmental and occupancy sensors as a basic, integral part of the smart building can offer far-ranging benefits for efficient operations. For instance, being able to correctly predict building occupancy can be combined with weather reports to turn down chillers – reducing energy use.
  • Sustainability: Rising energy consumption and sustainability are key topics for the future. The implementation of energy efficient LED bulbs and other energy saving systems can make a substantial difference to the energy footprint of a modern smart building.

Though it will take time for investments in smart buildings to make itself felt, there is no question that they are an important aspect of an energy-efficient economy. Crucially, a smart building offers a clear return on investment (ROI) over its lifespan and holds the promise of a better tomorrow for all.

Schneider Electric’s regional headquarters in Singapore is a good example of the successful integration of both legacy and modern assets: what started out as an aged 25-year-old commercial building on Kallang Avenue was retrofitted with the company’s EcoStruxure building management technology, transforming it into the modern smart workplace that it is today.