A debate is a brewing in green-building circles as architects, engineers and designers consider what it means to incorporate intelligent-building elements into sustainable, “green” structures.
Since taking off in the early 2000s, the green building movement has made great progress. By 2013, LEED-registered projects are forecastedto make up 20 to 25 percent of all new building projects in the United States. And momentum is also building in existing facilities, where green retrofits are expected to comprise 30 percent of all commercial projects by 2014.
But these projects can and should be greener. What we need is better integration between the “green” (aka sustainable) and “intelligent” schools of thought to move sustainable buildings to the next level.
Today, sustainable buildings and intelligent buildings are not synonymous.
Green buildings – with their focus on environmental responsibility, sustainable planning and resource efficiency – may have elements like indigenous landscaping, recycled carpeting materials, and zero-flush toilets. But they can lack automated HVAC and lighting processes that could provide greater energy savings.
By contrast, an intelligent building may combine its security systems with its voice and data systems, but it still may emit more than its fair share of CO2.
A cohesive strategy can benefit both sides, resulting in skylines speckled with what the Continental Automated Buildings Association calls bright green buildings. These structures blend intelligence, sustainability and profitability together to help businesses meet their financial and environmental goals.
This means businesses have better ways to control their cost consumption with smart metering and wireless monitoring devices that track energy and water usage. Workplace safety and productivity are enhanced with a simple swipe of a keycard that welcomes an employee into the building and then powers up the lights and computer while he or she comes up in the elevator. And building upkeep is easier – and cheaper – to maintain when more sustainable supplies, such as CFL light bulbs, can last longer than traditional maintenance supplies.
This all starts with convergence. Not just green-intelligent convergence, but technologic convergence. Consider how much more visibility, energy savings and operational improvements a business can realize by consolidating its entire communication, security, energy management, and climate and lighting systems onto one single IP network.
The potential benefits of sustainable design are clear: reduced waste, fewer emissions, improved efficiency, and lower costs. When integrated with smart technologies, sustainable buildings should also see streamlined IT communication systems and simplified HVAC, security and lighting processes.
Today’s smart technologies hold the key for building tomorrow’s greener buildings. It’s time for the commercial building industry – from architects and engineers to builders and technology designers – to take a unified step towards next-generation sustainable building.