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Beyond Energy Savings, Smart Buildings Are a Triple Threat

Words by 3p Contributor
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By Darlene Pope

Investments in green-building design and smart-building technologies are not the same. But they do increasingly go hand-in-hand as corporations work to achieve ambitious energy- (and cost-) savings targets. While energy efficiency may be the primary goal, many additional benefits accompany green or smart investments, according to experts presenting at the recent 2016 Building Energy Summit. Energy savings are just the tip of the iceberg.

Building technology is evolving more rapidly today than at any other point in history. That’s one reason that this year’s Building Energy Summit covered not just energy efficiency strategies in commercial buildings, but also all of the other ways new building technologies can contribute to better companies and communities.

There’s a new technology revolution underway, in the form of “smart” building operating systems and features that are transforming how commercial buildings are operated and how we work, live and play within them. New technologies are changing our buildings and communities — and it’s all about smart buildings.

What is a smart building?


In a smart building, a central network integrates building systems such as HVAC, lighting, access control, and even elevators, so they can communicate with each other, share data, and operate more efficiently—like the nervous system of the human body. Once the network is in place, the options for smart applications are endless.

Smart building technologies initially were adopted for the energy savings that can be achieved when all building systems are working together as efficiently as possible. Connected building systems, combined with a smart building management platform, constantly self-adjust in response to real time occupancy, air temperature, humidity, personal preferences, and other environmental factors.

Smart office solutions: “Just right”


Advanced systems can now offer continuous “commissioning,” a process that not only keeps the building operating smoothly, but also helps keep the temperature, humidity and ventilation just right for employee comfort. Intelligent lighting systems respond to the availability of natural light and actual space usage rather than operating by preset energy-wasting time schedules. Mobile apps are now available that can be used to open doors, adjust lighting, assign workspace, locate the best available parking spot and even connect to the closest whiteboard for collaboration.

A well-designed smart building can provide significant value for corporate employers and their employees:


  • Sustainability benefits in the form of improved energy efficiency and water conservation;

  • Better workplace services and amenities that make the office more comfortable and productive;

  • Heating, air conditioning and ventilation that respond to real-time conditions and individual occupant needs; and

  • A safer, healthier and more productive built environment.

Additionally, all the data generated by smart building systems can be captured, analyzed, and transformed into business intelligence and insights. Workplace strategists can then practically apply this information to design the workplace more effectively, providing more of the right kinds of workspaces and repurposing under-utilized areas.

The business case for smart buildings


When you consider that companies spend 10 times their energy costs on real estate and 100 times their energy costs on their workforce, it only makes sense to consider how technology impacts the bigger picture. When a company improves worker productivity and delivers a better use of space along with the energy savings, the return on investment in smart building systems is exponential. Furthermore, smart buildings have lower operating costs and longer equipment life cycles than those with legacy systems, allowing companies to invest capital elsewhere.

Whether motivated by corporate social responsibility, the need to attract top talent, or a desire for cost efficiency, companies today are realizing smart building benefits well beyond their initial vision. Making buildings more responsive to the needs of the occupants is a goal for everyone—from corporate tenants and their employees to building managers, owners and investors—and it’s just smart business.

Image credit: Pixabay

Darlene Pope is Senior Vice President, Energy and Sustainability Services, at JLL. She has 25 years of experience in commercial real estate, technology and smart building solutions, along with a passion for making a positive impact on building operations and management. She founded and heads the annual Building Energy Summit® and is a nationally recognized author and speaker on intelligent buildings, energy management, green buildings, sustainability, in-building wireless solutions and other real estate technologies.

3p Contributor

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