January 2017

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The Future of Smart Buildings

is Ultimately All About the People Inside
James McHale

James McHale,
Managing Director,

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From access to lighting to heating or cooling, to parking and asset management the Internet of Things (IoT) is infiltrating our buildings, trying to make them smarter. But who should buildings really be designed for? We still don’t know if these invasive, all-powerful systems will be accepted by building occupants themselves.
“No matter what the benefits and challenges are, the future of smart buildings is ultimately all about the people inside,” states David Karpook, vice chairman of the Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE), in an article on Facility Executive. This is the view shared by much of the industry or at least the view projected by much of the industry.

“A smart building responds to the tenant’s needs in the context of her environment,” explained Sunita Shenoy, Director of Products at Intel. “The building adjusts the air conditioning, heating, and lighting, and is connected to community areas and external spaces like parking garages to help the person productively get through the day.”

A closer look at some smart buildings reveals a slightly different story… The number of building occupants is tracked at the ISS Facilities Management in Norway in order for the kitchen to know how many people to cook for. This system creates efficiency and reduces waste, but the occupants in the building are unlikely to see any difference in their lives, for example.

Equally, a light that turns off when everyone leaves the room is not there for the occupants but to save money for the building owner or metered tenants. And while smart HVAC systems can be tuned to occupant preferences their primary goal is to create energy efficiency. These primary smart building systems are designed for the buyer, like any successful product, everything else is secondary.

This does not mean that the occupants are entirely left aside, however. If a taxi company buys a fleet of cars, they buy those cars with their own customers’ preferences in mind. In the same way, a building owner will be looking to add value to their offering with an investment in any building improvement.

Building Occupants

According to the Dell and Intel Future Workforce Study, conducted by PSB, as much as 70% of the millennial workforce claimed they wanted to be in a smart office within the next five years. 42% said they would consider quitting their job for a smart workplace and 82% said workplace tech influences the jobs they take, we go into this in more detail in our article Smart Buildings will Attract Smart Employees.

Businesses hoping to attract the best young employees will see the value in renting offices in a smart building and therefore the building owners will see value in installing smart systems to attract or keep tenants.

These smart systems can, of course, be beneficial and attractive for all involved. Take building Access Control, for example, biometric access control systems make the building more secure for the occupants, the tenants’ assets and the building as a whole. So as long as access control systems do not slow down business for occupants and tenants, the question for the buyer (the building owner) is purely ROI and therefore what will attract or keep tenants. Similar could be said of parking, scheduling and many other Building Internet of Things (BIoT) systems.

These systems are becoming truly ubiquitous, touching almost every element of a building. Our recent report shows the combined global market for the BIoT will grow significantly over the next five years, rising from its $26.65Bn level in 2015 to $75.5Bn by 2021, at a CAGR of 20.7%. “Growth in data volumes generated by the IoT will drive significant investments,” the report forecasts.

“The message is loud and clear. People are looking for work environments that embrace technology to enable seamless, collaborative, healthy and comfortable working experiences. Employees aren’t the only ones with high expectations for tech-enabled, smart buildings. Customers, end users, patients, occupants, etc. are all watching and should be taken into account when evaluating any smart building concepts and plans,” says Karpook.

While it might be too far to suggest that smart buildings are being designed purely “for the people” or occupants, it certainly not wrong to suggest they should be. By designing for the people, the return on investment will filter up the ladder from occupants to tenants, to building owners, technology solution providers, and OEMs. Companies will continue to design products they think their customers will buy, and while this path may be a little convoluted to reach ‘better buildings for people,’ it does ultimately reach that goal.


Another good read is Memoori's:  How The Artificially Intelligent Building Will Guide Your Experience


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