In the past, commercial buildings were tasked with a few performance criteria: power, water and sewage. Demand for Information Communication Automation Technology (ICAT)—often aptly termed the “fourth utility”—is a relatively recent development. Effectively meeting that demand is now a market imperative.
Today, tech infrastructure must be accounted for from the very outset. A well thought-out ICAT foundation is necessary for a modern building’s success; gone are the days when these design considerations could be tacked on as an afterthought once the base building is complete. In fact, it’s an emerging best practice to include information technology professionals at the very beginning of the planning process.
A SMART building is a high-performance building. It has a central nervous system to make real-time data sharing and analysis available to systems and human operators—the “brain.” The systems can automatically make decisions or pass alerts and information to individuals who monitor and control each building function from a single converged network, so energy usage, security, HVAC, communications, lighting, elevators, fire safety and more are now an interactive one-stop shop. The user is now fully aware of how the space is utilized and can make interventions based on data.
In an office building this might translate to energy-saving measures: such as automatically turning off lights in unused spaces; enhanced user comfort, like cranking up the air conditioning in a crowded meeting room; and even enterprise savings on capital expenses such as real estate, since we now know exactly how often each area is occupied.
Those savings can have significant impact when operational costs per employee, per day run an average of $3 for energy, $30 for real estate, and $300 for people. These systems can also allow for preventative maintenance. Based on real-time and historical data, the building systems can diagnose issues the moment they arise avoiding costly shutdown time and emergency service requests.
SMART buildings can also provide business ROI well beyond the basics of lower energy costs and occupant comfort. For one thing, sustainability metrics and LEED certification have become a competitive market differentiator and reputational asset. Premium commercial tenants demand it, and employees line up for it. Research from Deloitte on a landmark SMART office building in Amsterdam found that sick time declined drastically while job applicants increased, suggesting an enhancement to employer brand, talent attraction and wellness. There’s also data to suggest SMART buildings increase employee productivity, boost collaboration and innovation, and increase talent retention.