Owners’ operating costs are significantly lowered as a result of more efficient operations and better control, enhancing a building’s asset value. By enhancing connectivity between building systems and users, smart buildings help to balance the operational objectives and economic performance of buildings with emphasis on scalability and changing priorities. In an endeavour to provide a comfortable and reliable environment, smart buildings essentially help achieve a reduction in energy consumption, use resources more efficiently, and explore renewable alternatives that enable them to be financially, as well as environmentally sustainable assets over time. Reducing operating costs enhances a building’s asset value.

Smart technologies for smart buildings

The range of smart technologies and their controls which make a building intelligent are extremely wide and limited only to the imagination & budgets of the architects/ engineers designing the building, however, below given is the list of some of the basic smart technologies/ sensors which are majorly used to make a building intelligent & in turn when clubbed with green technologies make them smarter.

The list can never be comprehensive as the technology is progressing at much faster rate now than a decade back.

The current building automation technologies can address the following three major needs of building owners and tenant:

  • Facilitate people using the building to become active agents in the utilization, creation, and evolution of spaces that support their activities;
  • Preserve and improve the investment and ROI for the building owners and managers; and
  • Reduce the impact on the environment by the building, from its initial construction stage through its life cycle. Labour costs can be reduced by 40-60% over the life of the building as it requires less labour during the initial installation and requires less labour to maintain the building. The ability to save money also extends to energy savings, as it can reduce the energy costs in a building by making it more energy efficient whereby recouping 20-60% energy savings that would otherwise have been lost by traditional electrical infrastructure.

Network Convergence: Fully networked systems collects operational information of building to optimize the building’s performance and constantly create an environment that is most conducive to the occupant’s goals. This convergence reflects an evolution of the building systems to an IP network to internet connectivity. Optimizing energy usage and costs is the financial advantages for building owners to integrate their systems. The information is further addressed in some of the cases where the goal is to manage a portfolio enterprise and lower the cost of ownership by attacking energy, cost offers deferred maintenance, operating cost, space utilization, and asset management. Once the utility bill is integrated with the building controls system, supportive diagnostic information can be presented and made easily accessible to staff. This allows them to instantaneously look at the information and adjust any issues themselves instead of waiting until end of the month thus saving time, energy, efforts and money by attacking the root cause of problem as & when it arises.

Conventional buildings suffer from the inability to communicate lease aside intelligently, the large amount of data that is generated in its operation during the building’s life cycle. A converged network solution allows a higher level of connectivity for a variety of products from multiple manufacturers. This results in benefits such as cost effectiveness, process improvements in facility automation, monitoring and management, and more efficient real estate portfolio management. Streaming building control and utility data into a shared network enables optimum management of facilities by connecting various silo systems and applications.

Integrated Building Control Systems: Programmed, computerized networks with internet connectivity of electronic devices are employed for control and monitoring of systems such as HVAC, lighting, security, fire and life safety, and elevators. Known as building automation systems (BAS) and building energy management system (BEMS), these solutions typically aim at optimizing the operational performance, start-up, and maintenance of building systems and greatly increase the interaction of mechanical subsystems in the building. This leads to improved occupant comfort due to optimization HVAC, Illumination, energy consumption, and cost-effective building operation like Security of building occupants and assets, In-building use needs: room reservations (office buildings), way finding (hospitals, hotels), asset visibility (hospitals) with Human-centric design: allowing humans control over their own micro climates. All these can be controlled and monitored remotely or from a centralized system with a minimum human-in-loop factor.

Building Automation Systems (BAS) and building energy management system (BEMS) vary in capability and functionality, but are all designed to provide centralized oversight and remote control over lighting, HVAC, security, fire and life safety, elevators, water management, and AV technologies.

Structured Cabling Infrastructure: Based on the Telecommunications and Electronic Industry Association 568 Standard, a structured cabling solution (SCS) can significantly increase the lifespan of cabling infrastructure in a building, obviating extensive changes or expensive upgrades. A SCS integrates voice, data, video and other buildings cabling systems. A SCS is an open system architecture that is standard based and can reduce construction costs for the cabling infrastructure by as much as 30% and 25%-60% for cabling related changes. Other direct/monetary benefits that can be realized are minimized upfront costs due to labour and material savings, increased lifespan and durability, and minimal maintenance costs. The ability to run data signals and power to the devices over the same cabling infrastructure can be a dramatic cost saver in high labour rate construction projects. Several additional advantages are the relative ease of expandability and adaptability for rapid and easy changes involving minimal disruption, the logical outcome is faster ROI, better utilization of installed cabling, and a lower total cost of ownership.

End-users are demanding suitably designed cabling infrastructure, balanced with desired power and cooling thresholds which are reliable, interoperable, and scalable over time. These challenges arise as buildings integrate more sophisticated voice, data, and video equipment into applications. By consolidating/ integrating cabling from multiple stand-alone systems, material and labour inputs can be reduced, thus providing savings in initial construction costs.

Communication Infrastructure: Smart buildings are typified by their innovative qualities, facilitated by the integrated design process. Building owners, developers, and managers are increasingly committed to providing better services to the tenants and occupants by way of increased voice, video, and data integration and communication, and these expanding capabilities not only offer better management of buildings and associated operational costs, but also enhance the well-being of the occupants.

A converged voice, video, and data network streamlines the asset allocation, tracking, and management process, which improves security and optimizes flexibility, and improves interaction and integration between the various individual IP-based systems. Communication services help anticipate increasing demand for complex and integrated networks. Communication allows all types of users to not only improve efficiency and reduce operating expenditures, but also create opportunities for unique interaction between buildings and their users.

Given the increasingly competitive business environment for real estate, the presence of value-adding network and communications technology may serve as a compelling differentiator in a market increasingly saturated with look-alike properties.

Water Conservation Technologies: Water is a scarce resource and its scarcity has always been an ever-present challenge, and thus this area in building operations offers tremendous potential scope for water conservation technologies and products. One such option that has been displaying growing potential is the application of integrated monitoring and control of water use. By networking various sensors & flow meters from water incoming supply, its consumption/ utilization points and then at final discharge point in conjunction with treatment & recycling of water, facilities managers can monitor the entire water utilization cycle in building.

Total realistic life cycle cost of the water system management is, for the first time, within the grasp of owners and developers however this new level of integration will help companies establish a single source of information of water utilization while increasing both the overall sustainability and conservation of a precarious natural resource.

Fiber to the Telecom Enclosure (FTTE) or Zone Cabling: With commercial industry relying heavily on solutions provided by information technology, the network infrastructure is more critical than ever. The cost to business for installation and maintenance is a large investment. Users seeking data communications architectures that support a wide range of network applications can use a Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA) standards based solution: Fiber-to-the-Telecom-Enclosure (FTTE) or Zone cabling. The FTTE architecture extends the fiber optic backbone to telecom enclosure closer to workstations throughout a building. The telecom enclosure can then distribute a flexible topology of mixed media and power to the devices using copper category cable, fiber optics, coaxial cable, and A/V cable. As a result, buildings can benefit from more useable real estate due to the removal or consolidation of the telecommunications room on each floor. Also, there is a 20-30% cost reduction on cabling due to consolidation and removal of proprietary networks, improved network performance, single contractor/integrator vs. several specialists for disparate systems, and a substantial reduction in cost and disruption to staff when making changes within work areas.

Electrical Architecture: To meet the needs of flexible and integrated infrastructures, electrical infrastructures have to be smart, flexible, adaptable, and are able to serve as the integrated center for lighting, energy, HVAC and control systems. The new programmable environment combines a new electrical infrastructure that replaces the traditional pipe and wire electrical systems with embedded lighting controls that are connected together through nodes on a network.

Integrated AV Systems: Over the past several decades, audiovisual (AV) technology has evolved from simple, piecemeal loudspeakers and projectors used as presentation tools into integrated and networkable systems capable of linking organizations and their facilities in new and dynamic ways. The convergence of AV and IT technologies has raised the bar for usability and systems integration, especially in intelligent and green buildings where user comfort, energy efficiency, and asset management are key features.

A modern intelligent conference room may include a networked projector and/or LCD displays, intelligent lighting and window shade systems, a digital audio system, and a high-definition videoconferencing system. This in few cases may be like a virtual meeting room with3D projections of images. Based on requested capabilities in the meeting invite, the AV control system would take over the task of turning on the AV components, setting them to the proper operational mode, and adjusting the room temperature to a comfortable level prior to the meeting start time. Ambient light sensors installed in the room would measure the amount of incoming natural light (which is becoming more prevalent in green building), adjust window shades as appropriate for the function, and supplement the natural light with the interior lighting system to achieve the proper environment for a presentation or videoconference. The videoconference bridge can be made to dial at preset time of meeting so all attendees have to do is enter the room.

Benefits Intelligent Buildings

Smart buildings have been getting increasing attention all across the Globe due to their potential to reduce building energy costs, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, reduce water consumption, and add value to the buildings given the savings and the positive effects on occupant safety, comfort, and satisfaction. Actions taken to reduce building energy consumption and minimize fossil fuel pollution will have lasting environmental effects given that most power-plant-generated energy is produced by fossil fuels. Processes, building and system design, and high-performance technologies are being sought to reduce energy consumption and mitigate the production of greenhouse gas emissions. This can be summarized as below:-

Drivers for Smart Building

Green Building Movement

Motivated by a desire to appear environmentally conscious, many commercial facilities have adopted “Green technologies” in order to earn “Green and Sustainable” certifications. The Green Buildings Ratings and Certification process has gained tremendous momentum over the last few years. Below is a data given (Ref CII Data), many of these building may just be Green Buildings yet that is a step nearer pf making them a Smart Building.

Post COVID-19, growth in green building market in India is expected to bring about enormous economic growth by creation of a new industrial sector. The notion of green building still being new in India, there are very few number of existing professionals in the sector. But as the market grows, there will be demand for architects, technicians, energy experts, environmentalists, consultants etc. having adequate knowledge of the sector. Some of the green building rating agency providers like IGBC or GRIHA have already started building professionals dedicated for green buildings. In next one decade or even less, the trend will enhance remarkably. As the worth of green buildings is being perceived by more sections of the society with the passage of time, the ultimate objective of sustainability i.e. economic development maintaining the environment looks easy to achieve.

Energy Performance Improvement Movement

Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has took up various policy and regulatory initiatives to enhance energy efficiency of building sector namely ECBC (Energy Conservation Building Code, a code developed for new commercial buildings on 27 Ma7 2007 and sets minimum energy standards for commercial buildings having a connected load of 100kW or contract demand of 120 KVA and above). BEE had proposed ambitious targets for the 12th plan period i.e. 75% of all new starts of commercial buildings are to be ECBC compliant by the end of the 12th plan period and 20% of the existing commercial buildings reduce their energy consumption through retrofits.

To create a market pull for energy efficient buildings, BEE developed a voluntary Star Rating Programme for commercial buildings which is based on the actual performance of a building, in terms of energy usage in the building over its area expressed in kWh/sq. m/year. This Programme rates buildings on a 1-5 star scale, with 5-Star labelled buildings being the most energy efficient. So far, about 225 buildings have been rated under various categories. This has been further categorized in following four sub-categories based on their usage:-

  1. Star Rating Scheme for Office Buildings (166 Nos.)
  1. Star Rating Scheme for BPOs (45 Nos.)

  2. Star Rating Scheme for Hospitals (12 Nos.)

  3. Star Rating Scheme for Malls (2 Nos.)

The distribution of above BEE certified buildings is given below in following categories:

  1. Buildings As Per Star Ratings

  2. Buildings As Per Their Use/ Application

  3. Buildings As Per EPI Range

EPI is the energy used per unit area measured as kWh/m2 /year or kWh/
person/year. Energy conscious buildings in India have achieved EPIs of 100-150kWh/m2/year. The national benchmark is 180kWh/m2/year. Buildings with EPI of 180kWh/m2/year are ECBC compliant.

Complementing the efforts of the Government of India, the ECBC has been integrated in other rating & compliance systems being followed in the country such as EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for large area development under MoEF(Ministry of Environment & Forest), Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) rating system of ADARSH and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system of the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

The key drivers fueling this trend are energy efficiency prerogatives and enhancement of buildings’ operational performance on the part of building owners and managers. Other factors contributing to this trend include a desire to substitute environmentally friendly alternatives, renewable resources, and integration and intelligence benefits through incorporating intelligent building solutions. While there are a few challenges concerning high capital costs, low awareness, and receding economic conditions with a sluggish construction market, green certifications are projected to grow steadily over the next five- to seven-year period.

To be continued  

Prabhat Khare holds BE (Electrical) & a Gold Medalist from IIT, Roorkee. He is an Automotive (EV) & Engineering Consultant, as well as a Technology Article Writer. He is a Certified Energy Manager (BEE) & Lead Assessor for ISO 9K, 14K, 45K & 50K. He can be reached at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/prabhatkhare2/.

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