What are intelligent or smart buildings?

smart buildings
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Paul Wells from IM&M explains that there are a complex array of products and solutions today when it comes to intelligent or smart buildings

The problem the intelligent /smart building industry has, is that if you ask four people “what is an intelligent/smart building”, you are likely to get four different answers. This is not the fault of the people you ask; it is simply that the industry is in its infancy with hundreds of point solutions and no agreement on what the holistic approach should be. Even the name is confusing, some use intelligent buildings and others use smart buildings to mean the same thing. I try to differentiate and define these terms as:

“A smart building is one that uses sensors to create smart siloes of information, whereas an intelligent building pulls all the smart information together into one or more portals.” The reason I say one or more portals is that everyone involved in managing the building will require a different view of the information. Currently, there isn’t a product on the market that can do everything well, but there are a number starting to come through that can integrate and give visibility into this massive, complex array of products and solutions.

Why is it important to have intelligent or smart buildings?

Our government is committed to making the UK carbon neutral by 2050 but it’s not just cars, that are creating all the pollution in the world – although they are big contributors – it’s actually buildings, and more importantly, it is buildings that are currently being occupied. Irrespective of the country or the industry, we all use energy to either heat or cool, light and run the spaces that we occupy, and all of this has a carbon impact.

The ISO recently created the ISO 16745 standard for carbon monitoring, as they recognised that buildings are responsible for more than 40% of global energy used, and as much as one-third of global GHG emissions. The building sector also has the largest potential for significantly reducing GHGs compared to other major emitters. (1)

So, what’s in it for me?

Our research shows that every person involved in either the ownership, management or occupation of a building is looking for one or more of the four elements shown in the diagram below:

Creating the right environment is all about increasing visibility and control whilst also managing or reducing costs more effectively. In a recent independent study, more than 90% of business leaders say that promoting wellness can also affect employee productivity and performance. (2)

If you take the correct approach, you are helping the planet, creating a better working environment and reducing your costs. Get it wrong, and you can spend a lot of time and money on something that will likely increase costs and not deliver on any of the promises.

So, what do you need to know?

Don’t try to do everything in one go, it will incur a lot of costs and is unlikely to deliver any tangible results, we suggest the following three-step process:

Investigate: To discover what you have, where it is and how it is used.

Manage: To start to gain visibility and control.

Maximise: By creating cost and process efficiencies, providing areas where people can collaborate and work efficiently, managing your environmental, energy, devices and helping to make your building work for the organisation.

Fix the pain points and understand what you have and how it is used and then start to build out your environment as shown by the diagram above. Work with a team that brings in different specialists to maximise what you have already.

We always say that until you have visibility and control — which is core to any intelligent building — you can’t move forward. You must have the foundations in place to have any chance of success.

Where next?

The “wellbeing” of people is ever more important. A recent study published by Health and Wellbeing (3) concluded that “64% of people thought that their working environment had a negative impact on their health, with a further 45% claiming their employer did not offer the equipment needed to make them feel comfortable at their desk.”

Flexible working helps, but buildings need to be adaptable to allow people to work in different ways. From agile breakout areas to booking a desk in a quiet area, buildings need to contribute to better wellbeing and in return will deliver increased productivity.

Buildings are one of the worse carbon offenders but also offer the biggest opportunities to make a difference. We all need to take one small step to help save the planet, it makes sense and actually if done correctly it will reduce costs.

For more information on how we can help you achieve your targets contact us: www.immsuite.com/government



1 Sandrine Tranchard on 7 July 2017


2 (non-profit Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO))

3 https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/staff-spend-67-sedentary-working-days/



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