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Smart buildings key to saving energy

Next generation of buildings will offer occupants a frictionless experience, extra protection systems and more

Imagine arriving at your office building where the door access control agent recognises you and lets you enter without you showing your badge or signing in.

The next generation of buildings are not only getting smarter; they offer a frictionless experience and are equipped with connected capabilities.

The building knows your intent and helps you resolve things much faster, effortlessly. The buildings of the future are "self-conscious".

Singapore's digital economy provides some of the most fertile grounds for Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to develop.

For instance, there are plans to deploy a Smart Nation Sensor Platform, which will leverage connected sensors and IoT devices to improve security and urban living.

The network uses artificial intelligence technologies to analyse and monitor noise, water and sewage levels for better management of housing estates.

However, reimagining how to better utilise buildings and improve occupant experience presents a variety of challenges.

These include issues such as interoperability between systems and devices, network design and communication architecture, and semantic interpretation of data.

More organisations are gravitating towards system integration as they grow more interested in energy savings and efficiency.

Globally, the top three drivers for energy investment decisions are energy cost savings, greenhouse gas footprint reduction and increasing energy security.

Systems integration can improve building owners' visibility into the building performance. Indicators of ambient environment such as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), chiller systems and electrical systems, can be monitored in real-time and optimised in a timely fashion.

For instance, technology such as the intelligent building management system (BMS) "listens" to what a building is saying about its condition - by collecting and analysing data - and provides insights on how to improve energy efficiency.

Other technology such as a building automation system connects commercial HVAC and lighting and offers extra security and protection systems for occupant safety.

Evolving cyber security risks can put smart buildings at risks.

About 75 per cent of businesses in Asia Pacific might be victims of undetected breaches and cyberthreats may have also caused local organisations to incur losses to the tune of US$17.7 billion (S$24 billion).

In addition, complex threats can compromise smart city initiatives.

The lack of qualified talent in cyber security and energy efficiency projects are obstacles.

Furthermore, cyber security is not a core competency for many organisations, and it can be costly and inefficient to set up dedicated teams.

Johnson Controls' surveys also showed that the lack of technical expertise to evaluate or execute projects is one of the top barriers to pursuing energy efficiency initiatives.

Hence, it is important that building owners consider these issues when developing next-generation smart buildings.

The writer is general manager and managing director of Building Technologies & Solutions Singapore at Johnson Controls, a provider of integrated smart green building systems, services and solutions.

Technology