January 30, 2023

4 Ways To Wise Up to Smart Buildings

Nowadays everything is “smart,” from phones to watches to appliances to, well, buildings. In a smart building, major systems — such as HVAC, lighting and security — are integrated under a single managed network infrastructure that’s connected to the Internet.

Increasingly, more structures are being built or retrofitted to include this technology to boost efficiencies, improve occupant health and well-being, and enhance the tenant experience. But maybe you knew all of this. The question is: How can contractors prepare for smart buildings from a construction perspective? Here are four ways to wise up:

1. Expect connectivity. Smart buildings require a robust network to connect users with the building systems themselves as well as with the equipment and devices they use in their work and/or daily lives. Where wiring is installed and smart objects, such as sensors, are embedded can affect performance. Many smart objects will be mapped out. Plan for Ethernet cable and AC power outlet placement near doors, windows, appliances and other access points. You may have to install or otherwise deal with 5G small cells throughout the property.

2. Select or recommend green materials and design elements. Sustainability and energy efficiency lie at the core of smart buildings. Green elements include low-carbon concrete and green roof soil systems. It’s a good idea to stay on top of building material innovations, as new materials are being engineered to be smarter, stronger and more eco-friendly. Also, many smart buildings are designed to meet the criteria for green building certification, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

3. Buy in to building information modeling (BIM). As you’re no doubt aware by now, BIM uses specialized software to design a 3D model that displays both the functional and physical characteristics of a structure — including underground assets. BIM centralizes all project data, allowing for an integrated approach across disciplines to avoid conflicts, reduce construction waste and keep everybody on the same page.

Widely used for the planning and design of smart buildings, the BIM model also can be used during the construction phase and then turned over to the building owner as a “handbook” for operation and maintenance. The model will contain data on all building elements and their locations, which can include smart objects and network cables. Many experts believe BIM technologies allow the best use of smart-building data.

4. Consult specialists. A contractor is often tasked with installing many of a smart building’s devices. These can include smart locks, badge readers, keypads, smart thermostats, parking lot cameras, video intercoms and technology-powered package rooms. In some cases, you may need to consult with a smart- or green-building technology specialist about how to identify and optimally install these devices.

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