Defining a smart building

Until now, the real estate industry has struggled to agree on how to define a smart building. Whilst most buildings now involve at least one aspect of smart technology, there exists no consensus on what makes a building smart.

We need a global standard so that the industry has a straightforward, usable blueprint for creating and measuring the smart buildings of today and tomorrow.

An inspirational experience, a workplace that attracts and delights, with flexible and personalized services.
A sustainable building through a reduced whole-life carbon footprint by using technology to operate the building more efficiently.
Cost efficiencies are created by optimizing the building’s performance to generate new user benefits.
Future-proof by design and able to adapt to new demands.
Smart must put the user first – beginning with the outcomes the user wants and needs from a building and then deploying the relevant technologies to deliver those outcomes. An outcomes-focused smart building uses the best, necessary technology to provide outstanding experiences for its tenants, operators and owners.

It’s important to clarify who is meant by the ‘user’ of a building. This is all the people who benefit from the space, primarily office workers and the tenant companies, but also visitors, building managers and operators, owners and investors, and even wider society.

A smart building is one that delivers outstanding outcomes for all users, through digital technology, to exceed their evolving expectations.

The definition of a smart building, following a user-centric and outcome-driven perspective, recognizes that a smart building is about using the best technology, processes and procedures available to deliver outstanding outcomes for all users.

Smart buildings are inspirational, sustainable, cost efficient and future-proof spaces designed to deliver exceptional levels of engagement and satisfaction to the users of today, and tomorrow.

When scoping and creating a smart building, developers face the challenge of not yet knowing who the tenant will be. It’s true of commercial real estate that tenants are often identified late in the construction phase, or once the development is complete. Therefore, the actual users of the building are unknown when critical design decisions are made.

This raises the question: how can developers make a building smart when many critical design decisions are dependent on the specific wants and needs of the building users?

To resolve this problem, a distinction must be drawn between ‘smart enabled’ and ‘smart delivered’.

Across a building, the technological foundation should be put in place – including the building network, ubiquitous connectivity, and clear and structured governance frameworks.

Then in the areas they control, landlords should deliver the functionality relevant for that area. They could, for example, ensure the building systems are connected into a single visualization layer, or deliver shared amenities that can be booked on a smartphone.

These decisions are sometimes out of the landlords’ hands in tenant spaces. In this case, landlords need to provide the functionality for tenants to adopt or ‘plug into’.

This could be an in-building app which tenants can integrate with their meeting room booking system or creating software and cloud infrastructure that allows users to control lighting, again which a tenant could plug their systems into.

To build on the definition of a smart building, chapters 5 and 6 will outline the more detailed functionalities that users want from smart buildings, and then the technological foundations that are necessary for those functionalities to exist. All of these functionalities and foundations deliver some combination of the four outcomes: inspiring, sustainable, cost efficient and future-proof.

Why do we need smart buildings?

When deployed correctly, technology enables our seamless engagement with physically outstanding, human-centric spaces.

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What does a smart building deliver?

To provide an inspirational experience, and be sustainable, cost efficient and futureproof by design, a smart building must deliver a number of functionalities for its users.

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