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Smart Buildings: The Ultimate Guide

What Are Smart Buildings? | The Benefits of Smart Buildings | Smart Buildings Technologies | Examples of Smart Buildings | Temboo’s Smart Building Solutions

Nowadays, more and more companies are considering smart buildings for their offices, hotels, apartment buildings and more.

In fact, according to a recent report, the global smart building market will grow from $5.73 billion in 2016 to $24.73 billion in 2021.

So what’s all the hype about? What are smart buildings and why are so many people talking about them?

Smart building solutions are a large part of the growing IoT and connected sensor ecosystem and yet many people are still unaware of the real scope of the technology.

While there are definitely benefits to designing a building with these technologies from the ground up, the real impact of smart buildings will occur when people start adding ‘brains’ to buildings that exist already.

That’s why we’ve decided to share our expertise in the subject in the hopes that more businesses and building owners will decide to implement this technology in their properties.

In this guide, we’ll answer the question “what are smart buildings?”, go over the benefits of smart buildings, explore the smart building technology that is being used today, and look at some examples of smart buildings from around the world.

What are Smart Buildings, Anyways?

We kept asking ourselves, your smartphone, your ipad has an OS, why doesn’t this 2 million square foot building have an operating system? Why is data that we collect every single day simply dumped?

-John Gilbert, Executive Vice President, COO, and CTO at the Rudin Management Company in New York City

You probably know what a building is, and have been inside one at some point in your life. But what is it that makes a building ‘smart’?

Well, smart buildings use automation to optimize all or some of the processes that occur inside a building: heating and cooling, security, lighting, ventilation, water usage, and more.

A lot of this comes from data collection. As mentioned in our interview above with John Gilbert, retrieving data from systems that are already in place can have a profound effect on the efficiency, sustainability, and effectiveness of the built environment.

By adding things like connected sensors, microcontrollers, and automation software to building’s control systems, facilities operators and engineers can gain valuable insights into the building’s functions and reap all the benefits of smart building technologies.

The Benefits of Smart Buildings

Smart Buildings Illustration

You may be asking yourself if setting up these systems is actually worth it in the long run.

Well, take it from John Gilbert who has implemented smart building solutions in multiple locations:

For us at 345 Park Avenue, first year we saved almost a million dollars, $980,000. At 560 Lexington, which is a smaller building, (300,000 sq. feet), we saved a dollar a foot.

…And that’s just the financial benefits of energy use reduction. There are countless other ways that smart buildings can benefit the environment, the building tenets, and the businesses that own the facilities.

  • Proactive maintenance of equipment: With the data collected from equipment in the building, facilities engineers can see indicators of potential problems and take corrective actions before failure occurs. This switch to conditions-based maintenance in real-time and based on historical performance reduces downtime and ensures that things stay running smoothly.
  • Reduced environmental impact: Sustainability is on everyone’s minds lately and for good reason. According to the US Energy Information Administration, commercial buildings account for nearly 20% of US energy consumption and 12% of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. By reducing waste and conserving energy, smart buildings  create benefits for not only those who profit from or occupy them, but the global community at large.
  • Productivity and comfort of occupants: Speaking of those who work or live in the building, smart building technologies can supply a whole new level of comfort, optimizing the space for comfort and productivity. Air quality, lighting levels, heating, and cooling can all be automated and optimized for maximum cognitive function, enabling those who use the building to benefit from the smart systems as well.
  • Reduced energy use and costs: As illustrated by John Gilbert’s quote above, reducing energy use in buildings can save building owners a lot! By connecting electrical and mechanical systems in buildings to the cloud, they can automatically switch on and off, reducing waste.
  • Increased safety of inhabitants: Imagine if the elevators in the building you’re in were able to detect power outages and safely get riders to the closest floor before shutting down. With smart building technologies, safety measures like those are capable of being implemented across the board.
  • Data visibility and insights: Smart buildings can do things like output data on structural integrity, merge data from disparate systems into a common platform for analytics and reporting, and offer a visual snapshot of which facilities are experiencing things like high energy usage, unusual maintenance costs, and more. This visibility into your building’s data offers actionable information that can provide cost-saving solutions and innovations.

Putting Smart Buildings Technology To Work

If you’re sold on the reasons why smart buildings are so valuable, you’re not the only one. But what are the actual methods of gaining the benefits offered from smart building solutions?

Smart building technology can be used in different ways in different types of buildings. For example, smart office buildings might focus on increasing the productivity of workers while a hotel or residential buildings might try to mimic circadian rhythms to achieve optimal comfort for those inside.

There are many different methodologies of implementing smart building technologies:

  • Water Supply Systems can be automated to detect leaks, monitor quality, and automate heating and cooling.
  • Chiller plants can be optimized to incorporate outside weather data to reduce energy use while cooling the building.
  • Air conditioning and heating systems can be set up to turn on and off based on the occupancy of a room.
  • A building’s electrical loads can be categorized and grouped by priority to better understand how critical and non-essential loads are working.
  • Connected weather stations can be added to the outside of buildings to optimize internal systems like temperature and air quality.
  • Sensors can be used to check for room occupancy and match patterns to energy use throughout the day.
  • Infrastructure can be added to the cloud for storage and data management.
  • Multiple internal systems like lighting, air conditioning, water, and ventilation can be connected to see how they affect each other throughout the day and optimize for efficiency.
  • Structural integrity can be monitored by tracking how the building responds to ambient vibrations.
  • Data collection can be used to maintain optimal comfort settings for residents in the building while also reducing waste.
  • Remote control over systems can shorten the response times for building managers and allow them to address issues in the building from a distance.

Examples of Smart Buildings from Around The World

As you can imagine, more and more businesses are adding smart building technologies to their properties in many different ways. Below are some of our favorite examples of smart buildings throughout the world.

The Mirage, Las Vegas

The Mirage in Las Vegas uses smart building technology to lower their energy costs through load-shedding. They have weather stations that monitor wind, temperature, humidity and more which can do things like chill water in advance of demand on extremely hot days, reducing operation during peak times.

UNIQA Tower, Vienna

Image Source

UNIQA Tower is equipped with a heating and cooling system that is automated and based on the temperature of the outside environment. This has reduced their annual CO2 emissions by 84 tons and has made the operation of the building more cost-effective.

MIT Green Building, Cambridge

Unsurprisingly, MIT is on the cutting edge of developing and testing new smart building technologies. In 2010, they added sensors to the campus’ Green Building to allow it to sense its own internal damage over time. Lead author of the paper on the study, Hao Sun, told MIT News, “I would envision that, in the future, such a monitoring system will be instrumented on all our buildings, city-wide. Outfitted with sensors and central processing algorithms, those buildings will become intelligent, and will feel their own health in real time and possibly be resilient to extreme events.”

Deloitte’s The Edge, Amsterdam

Back in 2015, Bloomberg called The Edge ‘The Smartest Building in the World’. If you learn anything about the building, it’s easy to see why. Not only did The Edge get the highest sustainability score ever awarded by BREEAM, it’s also optimized for the prime conditions of the humans who work there every day. The building even has a smartphone app that knows each worker’s preferences for light and temperature and adjusts the rooms to those settings as they move throughout the building.

Siemens’ The Crystal, London

The Crystal is considered to be one of the most efficient buildings in the world. It produces about 70% less CO2 than comparable office buildings in the UK and incorporates rainwater harvesting, black water treatment, solar heating and automated building management systems.

Temboo’s Smart Building IoT Solutions

Over the years, Temboo has created IoT applications and solutions that can be used to enhance buildings in many different ways. Below are some of our easy-to-implement smart building IoT solutions:

Water Usage Management

Can your faucet tell you when you’re wasting water? In this video, we show you how to build a simple prototype to monitor water waste. A more scaled up version of this project could easily be used in larger buildings and structures to reduce waste.

Smart Building Management with Amazon AWS

Using Temboo and Amazon Web Services, we built a multi-functional smart building application to help building managers ensure that their buildings are safe for living and working.

Gas Leak Monitor

Gas leaks in buildings can present a serious threat to public safety, and even in less dangerous situations they can be costly and damaging to the environment. We’ve created an Internet of Things application that monitors gas pipes for leaks, and allows a building manager to remotely shut off a pipe if a leak is detected. This video will show you how to build it.

Control Water Systems at Any Scale

We’ve built a system that senses the water levels in a tank, calls you when water levels are too low, and allows you to remotely refill from a reserve. If the water volume in a tank falls below a specified level, the application will check the weather forecast in order to determine whether rain is expected in the area; if no rain is expected, a call is placed to the tank superintendent to allow him or her to remotely refill the tank from a reserve water source.

These solutions are just the start. Temboo’s IoT platform can be used for many different smart building solutions from remote control, to data visualization, to alerts and monitoring.

If you are interested in hearing more, head to for an in-depth interview with our CEO, Trisala Chandaria, about building automation, IoT, and our new Kosmos System.

Contact us today to learn more about what Temboo’s Kosmos platform can do for your building. And make sure to follow our blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channel for news, tutorials, the latest IoT solutions, and more.