The latest in control technology, sustainable natural resources and alternative energy methods, combine to deliver a smart building, which makes for a comfortable environment for the occupants while saving our over-taxed energy grid.

Smart Buildings Shape the Future

Len Calderone for | AltEnergyMag


A smart building provides basic comfort needs, such as quality air, illumination, sanitation, security, and a comfortable temperature, and provides these necessities at a low cost with the less amount of environmental impact. 

Technology is important to achieve "smart" status.  All operations of a smart building, which normally operate independently, must interrelate with each other in order to get the most out of a building's performance. If industry trends continue, the smart buildings market is expected to grow quickly in the near future.

Buildings are responsible for more carbon and CO2 emissions than either the transportation or industrial industries. China, which is experiencing a building boom, has more CO2 emissions than the United States, which is followed by Russia.  

We need to track the performance of smart buildings. Therefore, in the design phase, we need to review the energy utilization intensity (EUI) index. The index is measured in kilo-BTUs per square foot; and a low EUI number is desirable. The national average for office buildings is 94 kilo-BTUs per square foot. A score of 75 or better indicates top performance.

Using location information for management to automatically control air conditioning and lighting can help eliminate energy waste while ensuring building security. Smart buildings make building management more efficient and curb energy consumption from the overall building down to the individual level.

Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) play a vital role in Smart Buildings.
It is difficult to significantly reduce CO2 emissions by simply monitoring energy consumption. Energy waste must also be monitored as well as inconsistencies in energy supply within a building. Then, the building needs to be updated to highly efficient equipment and devices as necessary, or applying individual equipment solutions to PCs, lighting and air conditioning.

A building's automation system needs to be linked so that it performs integrated equipment surveillance to monitor energy usage while providing location data on individuals. The system should automatically control equipment like air conditioning and lighting, eliminating wasteful energy usage. A large amount of electric power needs to be stored inside the building to optimize the balance between power supply and demand. To accomplish this, a building must employ energy storage systems with a long lifespan that also conserves space.

To ensure the comfort and productivity of employees, modern buildings contain complex machinery and sophisticated control systems. Because the machine communication protocols are proprietary, information only flows along certain paths, but in a smart building it will require connectivity between all the equipment and systems to turn off lights and reduce cooling when occupants are not present.

Data from the devices are reported to a central location where it is converted to digital information, providing demographic comparisons between the target building and other similar buildings. This data is obtained from a number of sensors noting the user's location and activity. The demographic data provides a generic description of behavioral conditions or average values. This helps to make decisions that can be applied to the real-time data for taking action in response to user events.

One company that has created a platform that enables companies to monitor a smart building is Crestron. Their Fusion® enterprise management platform controls lighting, climate, energy consumption, building management systems, room scheduling and AV equipment from a single platform.

The platform can track device and room usage, while scheduling maintenance and technical support. It even provides instant alert notifications should the system need to address a problem. It also provides sufficient data so that management can make intelligent purchasing and scheduling decisions.

Fusion manages and monitors renewable and sustainable energy sources in real time. It also keeps track of historical data. In order to implement energy savings, the system controls lighting, window shades and the climate, depending on room usage at any time.

A nice feature of Fusion is that there is no need for additional servers. Fusion is in the cloud, meaning that it is on a private server with security protocols and it is always on. The system can be accessed at any time from any place. If you need to know how the facilities are being used and how energy is being consumed, Fusion produces reports at whenever they are needed. Fusion integrates with any existing building management system and alternative energy sources so that work areas become smarter and cost effective.

Although buildings constructed in the United States today are smarter and more energy efficient than in the past, their energy requirements can be further reduced by utilizing sunlight, landscaping, and natural breezes. Passive solar design can save up to 50% or more of the building's energy by utilizing sunlight and heat storage. A new building can be oriented with its long facade facing within 30° of true south. This would create energy savings without any change in design.

The total area of south-facing windows should represent about 7% of the building's total floor space, allowing more use of the sun's energy by absorbing it into the materials of the building. This design can save up to 25% of the building's conventional heating. The south-facing glass will let in the sunshine to heat the space.

Air can be circulated through a building to pull hot air to other locations in the building. Warm air is often brought to a low point in the building to create an assisted convective loop, helping to circulate air throughout the building. These systems may also be combined with thermal storage to further increase energy savings and comfort.

Roofs can also support solar water heaters. The payback period for the heaters depends on the system, on the climatic conditions, and on local utility incentives. Possible future use of the roof for photovoltaics and solar water heaters represents an additional rationale for orienting roofs to the south.

With the increasing availability of onsite power generation, generated by excess heat, wind or solar power, some buildings are integrating renewable energy technology into a project can complement efficiency measures, often leading to greater peak demand reductions. On a hot, sunny day, energy efficiency and demand response can reduce power demand, as can renewable energy such as solar and wind power that operate at peak times to increase supply.

The latest in control technology, sustainable natural resources and alternative energy methods, combine to deliver a smart building, which makes for a comfortable environment for the occupants while saving our over-taxed energy grid.

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Len Calderone - Contributing Editor

Len contributes to this publication on a regular basis. Past articles can be found in the Article Library and his profile on our Associates Page

He also writes short stores that always have a surprise ending. These can be found at

Len Calderone
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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