Intelligent buildings: On the verge of further revolution?

Intelligent buildings

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Philip Ingram MBE looks at the transformation from smart to intelligent buildings.

The evolution from traditional buildings to intelligent buildings marks a leap in architectural history, driven by advancements in technologies such as building management systems and computerisation.

Intelligent buildings integrate automated lighting, HVAC and data analytics with AI, showcasing a shift towards creating environments that adapt to occupants’ needs and advancements in information and computer technology.

This transformation is propelled by demand for spaces that are not only efficient, but responsive to the nature of modern living and working.

Intelligent buildings

Intelligent buildings leverage cybersecurity, connected devices and intelligent building management systems to offer unprecedented levels of control and optimisation.

The transition from smart to intelligent is delineated by the ability of intelligent infrastructure to minimise energy consumption, improve equipment efficiency and enhance the quality of indoor environments through sensors and automation.

These buildings stand at the forefront of the “green building” movement, conserving energy and utilising resources while providing safe and information-oriented environments.

Intelligent buildings began to evolve with the invention of the transistor in the late 1940s, a pivotal moment that paved the way for the development of computers and, subsequently, the digital revolution.

This era of advancement introduced ARPANET in the mid-1960s, a foundational network that would evolve into the internet we know today. 

The transformation towards intelligent buildings has been driven by digitalised management, the adoption of advanced maintenance solutions and the emergence of new business models, marking a shift from isolated building management systems to holistic experiences.

This evolution underscores the journey of building operations technology, from humble beginnings to sophisticated, connected and intelligent systems that define the modern landscape of intelligent buildings.

Intelligent buildings integrate advanced features that distinguish them from predecessors, leveraging technology to enhance efficiency, security and, of course, the comfort and convenience of those who use and occupy them.

These features include: Energy and environmental management; security and surveillance; operational efficiency and occupant experience.

This underscores the transformation, focusing on adaptability, sustainability and a sense of security and personalisation for occupants.

Intelligence in action

  • Intelligent buildings such as The Edge, Amsterdam and The Crystal, London, achieve major reductions in energy consumption, respectively, compared to traditional buildings
  • Real time energy management solutions can reduce costs by 15%, with energy consumption in buildings potentially being reduced by 30-80% through the use of smart technology
  • Despite the initial cost of AI and IoT integration, savings through energy consumption, optimised maintenance needs and increased productivity can offset investment
  • Intelligent buildings enhance safety and security through features like smart access control systems and AI-enabled surveillance, ensuring a secure environment for occupants
  • They play a pivotal role in creating sustainable futures by leveraging IoT for traffic flow and indoor air quality monitoring, leading to safer, more sustainable spaces
  • The implementation of smart building technology not only represents a massive long term saving for businesses but also contributes to a more attractive proposition for tenants and investors, thereby increasing asset value

These benefits are being further enhanced with the advent of AI.

In the realm of intelligent buildings, the synergy between AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) is pivotal in transforming the operational efficiency and user experience. These enhancements include:

  • Data management and strategy by enabling a clear data strategy, governance framework and quality assurance process ensures that the vast amounts of data generated by connected devices are actionable and secure
  • System integration and cybersecurity by ensuring the compatibility and interoperability of systems for a seamless operation and ability to properly monitor and protect this ever-expanding attack surface. Robust cybersecurity is critical to the protection of intelligent buildings and managers must know that they are only as secure as their weakest point

It is the coming together of these elements that elevates buildings from smart to intelligent, ensuring they are not only more efficient and secure but also more responsive and adaptable to the needs of occupants.

Looking to the future of intelligent buildings, several key trends and strategies emerge.

These will shape the trajectory of what is being increasingly referred to as sustainable urbanisation and environmental management.

The first is industry standards and best practices; the establishment of industry standards is expected to drive quality and mitigate risk across the intelligent buildings sector.

Increasingly, we are seeing use case playbooks, modelling the financial case and benchmarking building capabilities against market peers recommending strategies for leveraging smart building technologies.

Secondly, intelligent buildings are increasingly aligning with ESG principles as they make it easier to map against carbon offsets and environmental goals.

Active control of building systems, as encouraged by global climate change regulations, drives efficiency and supports ambitious sustainability ambitions.

With that the integration of renewable energy sources and automation technologies, these facilitate greater energy efficiency.

The significance of integrating advanced technologies within building infrastructures, aimed at optimising energy consumption, enhancing security and elevating the occupant experience, denotes a pivotal shift towards sustainable urban living.

The interrelationship between innovation and practicality pushes intelligent buildings as a cornerstone in the future of architectural development.

As ever with technology, we are on the verge of further revolution. Future endeavours in this field promise not only the advancement of building technologies but also the potential to profoundly impact environmental sustainability, operational efficiency and quality of life.

Intelligent buildings continue to redefine our interaction with the spaces we inhabit, today and tomorrow as well as the security environment we operate in.

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