Smart buildings are buildings that are technologically enhanced with specific hardware and software to reduce operating costs, maintain the highest levels of comfort and increase overall physical security. The "smart building" is the scenario they are part of, a sector that is constantly evolving, driven by the increasing focus on sustainability applied to the world of facility management.
Smart buildings: what they are and what they do
Smart buildings are living or production facilities that have been improved by the installation of a series of technologies that are subordinate to infrastructures designed to achieve three macro-objectives:
Reducing total operating costs, as smart buildings generally have the potential to significantly reduce emissions while becoming cheaper to run in terms of energy expenditure.
Maintaining the highest levels of comfort at all times, for example by linking room temperature control to seasonality, or by managing lighting according to occupancy and ambient light levels.
Increase the level of overall physical security by ensuring interoperability between systems such as access control, intrusion, and fire detection.
It should be emphasised that “smart” class buildings require increasing investment in the design and installation of cabling to connect all the devices required to achieve these objectives. Devices can be connected in wired mode (e.g. Ethernet or serial) or wireless mode (e.g. Wi-Fi or Bluetooth), taking into account the power supply factor (directly from the building's electrical network or from a local battery that must be periodically replaced), in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications.
How to build with a smart building perspective
The implementation of a smart building must be agreed with the client at the design stage. The objectives of the upgrade and the impact on the facility in terms of resources should be defined, preferably choosing equipment already fitted with sensors capable of signalling faults and transmitting events to external systems, thus simplifying maintenance and life-cycle management. There are undoubtedly many advantages to upgrading a building's technology, but there is still a lot of resistance in the property world because it involves a higher-than-average investment: more sophisticated equipment, software, specialised technicians and specific management methods are required.
Data orchestration is key to building management systems
Devices alone cannot “manage” the technological infrastructure of a smart building. For this very reason, the data collected by the field devices must always be interpreted and orchestrated by a dedicated computer system, commonly referred to by the acronym BMS (Building Management System).
The role of the BMS is to analyse the reports generated by the devices in real time and to transmit them in a harmonised way to the operators in the control room, so that any corrective action can be taken (e.g. the intervention of maintenance staff or the activation of an emergency procedure). A modern and complete BMS is capable of managing building automation and energy management systems. These are all elements that give the BMS a distinct technological independence, i.e. the ability to “talk” to any type of equipment that forms part of a building's intelligent infrastructure, rather than being tied to a single hardware manufacturer.
How to maximise the use of a BMS in a smart building: strategies for success
But what are typically the main technological infrastructures that characterise an intelligent building? And how do they integrate with the BMS? Here are 4 successful examples:
Improved HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). HVACs are large infrastructures used to condition the atmosphere in buildings using the principles of fluid mechanics, thermodynamics and heat transfer. By connecting the BMS directly to the HVAC control unit or to a series of sensors strategically placed on components such as boilers, ducts, fans and filters, it is possible, for example, to manage the energy performance of the system in relation to the temperature differential with the outside environment in order to rationalise consumption, or to control energy recovery through heat exchangers. In addition, the link with the BMS makes it possible to monitor the correct functioning of each component of the installation and to promptly signal the onset of anomalies or, in the best cases, to predict them using machine learning models specifically developed and integrated into the BMS itself.
Lighting. By installing appropriate sensors, it is possible to maximise energy efficiency by ensuring that lighting is only switched on when necessary, or by adjusting its intensity according to factors inside or outside the building (e.g. sun protection). In particularly sensitive working environments, where operators' alertness and mood become critical factors in the provision of services, the BMS system has the task of monitoring the lighting infrastructures in order to guarantee performance and visual comfort at all times, in accordance with the dictates of HCL (Human Centric Light, an acronym that defines, in the design and creation of lighting environments, all the effects that light has on the human being). In this case too, the BMS can assist the building's maintenance staff by signalling any deterioration of the luminaires and the need to replace them in the short term.
Uninterruptible power supply monitoring. Staying about energy, the BMS also plays an important role in the monitoring of static and dynamic uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) or generator sets, especially in critical buildings such as hospitals, airports and industrial sites where power outages cannot be tolerated. It can assist maintenance personnel in the application of periodic functional verification procedures, routine maintenance and the detection of failures of static and dynamic components of equipment.
Vertical movement of goods and people. Increasingly, the BMS of a smart building is connected to lifts and elevators. In particular, the integrated BMS of a lift is the key element that needs to be constantly and promptly monitored in accordance with the “Lift Regulations”.
A state-of-the-art building management system should therefore provide for the possibility of integrating advanced correlation functionalities between all the above systems and any other system involved in the physical security of a building that can be classified as intelligent (fire detection, extinguishing, evacuation, intrusion detection, access control or video surveillance system).
Control 1st: how to ensure incident management in smart buildings
Designing a building for technological enhancement means subjecting it to a true digitalisation process. This means the massive deployment of IoT sensors and the expansion of the supporting telecommunications networks.
Beta 80 Group's Control 1st solution is designed to manage the most complex, even geographically dispersed buildings. It features a holistic design approach (essential if you want to make the centre independent of the peripheral infrastructures), multi-server, multi-tenant (fundamental in terms of data separation) and is independent of any equipment manufacturer. It has a distributed and stateless SOA (Service Oriented Architecture), Industrial IoT, full web architecture and can be installed in a physical, cloud or private data centre environment. Everything you need to ensure incident management in a smart building context.