Such structures as the Bullitt Center, under construction in Seattle, maximize the use of energy efficiency and “smart” technologies, blazing a trail for the wired, responsive, sustainable structures of the future. Wikimedia Commons/Joe Mabel
The future of smart buildings can be seen by studying the current trailblazers, which can be found all over the world.
February 19, 2013—The future of “smart buildings” can be seen clearly in a group of trailblazing projects scattered around the globe in places as disparate as Helsingborg, Sweden; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and Lagos, Nigeria. These trailblazing projects all embrace technology and energy efficiency throughout the lifespan of the building, according to Ray Crowley, an industry analyst with Verdantix, a London-based independent analyst firm that focuses on energy, environmental, and sustainability issues.
“A smart building today is one [that] enables owners, occupiers, and facility managers to use relevant data to conserve and add value by continually improving internal air and light quality while optimizing management and maintenance regimes,” Crowley said in his February 14 webinar The Future of Smart Buildings.
“The smart building today has a building management system, leverages real time data, it communicates to users via real time displays, and there is an emphasis on continuous commissioning,” Crowley said.
The best examples of smart buildings provide useable real time data that allows owners and building managers to adjust lighting, heating, and cooling systems on the basis of precise requirements, optimizing efficiency. This, coupled with embracing passive strategies to ventilate and light a building, can result in impressive energy savings.
The webinar presented 10 trailblazing projects that represent the cutting edge of smart building technologies and the future of the market. The projects display leadership in many or all of the nine sustainability initiatives identified by Verdantix as creating value—energy efficiency, on-site renewables, water efficiency, sustainable materials, sustainable transportation, waste management, biodiversity, optimized management, and indoor environment quality.
“We looked for buildings in different climate zones. We have looked for buildings that are inland and adjacent to the sea. We have looked for buildings in markets that are in different stages of their economic, business, and real estate maturity cycles. And so each individual building is a trailblazer in its own right,” said Crowley.
The Väla Gård office building in Helsingborg, Sweden, was identified as one of the trailblazers. Passive design strategies and on-site power generation make the structure net zero, generating more energy than it consumes. The building conserves energy by maximizing natural lighting and employs an efficient LED system that utilizes sensors of motion and daylight to adjust artificial light.
Also on the list is the Bullitt Center under construction in Seattle. The 50,000 sq ft building will be net zero by virtue of a solar photovoltaic array. The structure will also capture Seattle’s abundant rainfall for use in the building. And all occupants will have access to fresh air and daylight.
The center will also avoid any items on the International Living Building Institute’s Red List of building materials that includes mercury, lead, chlorofluorocarbons, and polyvinyl chloride.
“So it’s a very rigorous approach to procurement during the construction and fit-out stages,” Crowley said. “And this is really to improve and continually maximize the air quality of the indoor environment.”
The Heritage Place, under construction in Lagos, Nigeria, is also on the list. The building will use 30 to 40 percent less energy than a comparable building in the region, aided by a mixed-mode ventilation system and high-efficiency lighting.
“Innovation can be found in all markets,” Crowley said. “And certainly the approach taken in each of these projects is indicative of the integrated design approach, [looking] to optimize passive and active efficiencies, which is really embedded in lifecycle—whole life—thinking.”
The future of smart buildings is founded on a six-step process for project development that begins with integrating all of the stakeholders early—in the conceptual design process--Crowley said. This not only includes engineers and architects, but also stakeholders usually not involved at this stage, such as building managers.
The next step is to maximize passive technologies that harness natural light and heating and cooling to optimize investment in mechanical and electrical equipment. “We see this as a key,” Crowley says.
The third step is to establish targets that emphasize operational performance. Fourth is to leverage the data available to ensure optimal design, construction, fit-out, and management. Earlier smart building projects can provide data here for new buildings.
The fifth step is to explore innovative financial options to hedge cost premiums for the added technology in the buildings, such as incentives. And finally, aim to meet the Living Building Challenge standards as a goal.