Be smart. Be sustainable. Be new? Not necessarily!

“The world’s most sustainable building is also the smartest”

This is the title of an article published in November 2017 on a famous International magazine. A new office building that integrates over 30.000 sensors, mainly to measure light, temperature, CO2 and relative humidity, aiming to optimize energy and space use, while improving the occupant’s comfort.

In front of such a project there is just a pronounceable word: WOW!

The concept of “Sustainable Building” was conceived in 1970 in response to the energy crisis and growing concerns of citizens about the environment. The need to save energy and tackle environmental problems has fostered a wave of innovation in bio-building that has continued to date. But only now, after nearly 50 years, this definition has become an everyday reality.

Nowadays, talking about sustainability we often refer to the quality of buildings in terms of their envelope and their systems, without considering the management of the structures as one of the most important aspects. Luckily, in the last years, architects and engineers are moving in this direction by designing integrated systems. In fact, most of the new buildings already have some level of intelligence built in, whether it is HVAC or lighting , access control, management, etc.

But do we need to develop custom projects and to design new structures to get the same result? Is that necessary?

The answer is: No! The most innovative IoT technologies allow us to turn existing buildings into smarter ones in a few days, providing them with the same intelligence that new buildings have.

Isn’t being sustainable the most interesting challenge?

The Internet of Things is in fact shifting the typical model of “facility management” by creating a link between information technology and operational technology (IT/OT) systems. The most interesting thing is that this operation can be done in full respect of the definition of “Sustainability”, because groups of sensors and actuators can be installed quickly and easily in a non-intrusive way (Wi-Fi connected, wireless and battery powered), without modifying the systems or the envelope. This translates to an improvement of occupants’ comfort and energy efficiency, but also high level of economic and environmental sustainability compared to a typical energy refurbishment, since the duration of  the implementation is significantly reduced and the daily usage of the buildings does not have to be interrupted.

Fortunately, the research is working hard in this direction, and young new companies are working to make this challenge everyday more and more concrete.