intelligent buildingThe smart building, intelligent architecture, the Internet of Things — these buzzwords are common in the architecture, design, civil engineering and construction industries today. But they’re more than impressive words to throw around at conferences. Intelligent buildings provide real payoffs to building developers and owners.

What’s more, intelligent building practices and technologies provide both challenges and benefits for civil engineering teams and others involved in the architecture and construction process. They can make civil engineering easier, faster and more profitable.

Smart building

The definition of smart building is integrating building automation technology into the architecture and construction of new buildings, right from the conception of the design.

It’s far more than turning off lights automatically, or adjusting the HVAC to the outside conditions. Intelligent building integrates architecture, civil engineering, structural engineering, building management and maintenance to make structures that are more livable, efficient and durable.

Intelligent building integrates sensors, wireless networks, power-over-Ethernet, building automation and monitoring software into a seamless network. It’s a perspective built into the architecture, civil engineering and construction processes.

Intelligent building empowers the building manager to:

  • automate lighting and HVAC
  • monitor and control secure access throughout the building
  • automate access with cards or other security technology
  • receive alerts about breaches and damage
  • monitor and schedule maintenance
  • control all aspects of the building from a central point or through a mobile device

ROI for the building owner:

Intelligent building has a number of obvious payoffs for the owner as well as the occupants of the building, and some that are not quite so obvious.

Reduced energy costs: Automating lighting so they turn off when no one is in the room saves thousands in energy costs over a year’s time.. The larger the building, the greater the savings. The same applies to automating heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. Intelligent design and controls can automatically adapt HVAC to occupancy, use, and outdoor weather conditions to provide a comfortable indoor environment.

IP-based lighting — powered by Power-over-Ethernet wiring — reduces the amount of wiring needed in a building, and enables centralized, intelligent lighting control that reacts to actual needs.

In addition, automated lighting control, where lighting in any space is dictated by the need of people actually in it, reduces the number of light switches and cabling — a significant savings in building costs.

Secure access control: Building automation allows setting security barriers that can only be accessed with smart cards or other devices that can be updated.

Constant monitoring: Integrating intelligent sensing, communications and control technology into building automation throughout the building allows managers to monitor access, environment, maintenance and damage in real time. It also allows use of mobile technology, giving managers real-time information wherever they are.

Security: More intelligent control of access to the space improves the real-world security of building occupants at a lower cost.

Flexibility: Intelligent design allows builders to implement responsive spaces that better fit users’ and occupants’ needs for space. It allows the building to adapt more easily to changing conditions and uses of the space.

Benefits for civil engineering

Intelligent building is another layer of challenge for the engineers, including the civil engineering team. Even though some intelligence can be retrofitted into an existing structure, the optimal results of smart building are best realized when it’s built into the basic design of the building.

For example, the engineers can look to installing solar or wind power generation, potentially making the building energy self-sufficient.

Civil engineering will also be making greater use of Building Management Systems (BMS) with enough detection points through the structure. Integrating BMS into a full-fledged intelligent building system prompts civil engineering teams in conjunction with tenants and occupants to find new opportunities to save costs and leverage value.

Like smart phones, smart buildings will reveal new benefits and functionality that the smartest haven’t anticipated.