Sustainable Intelligent Buildings for a Smart Environment

April 10, 2019

The built environment affects our well-being and this, in turn, influences our effectiveness in the workplace. Poor environments contribute to absenteeism and to people not working as well as they might. This is an enormous cost to the nation. High-quality environmental design is an investment, as occupants are healthier, staff-retention rates are higher, productivity is higher and sustainability ideas are more likely to be met. Workplaces reflect the culture of
companies and are places that are not just functional and convenient but give the occupant a wholesome experience in terms of body and spirit.

Buildings Affect People’s Health
Over the past 20 years, it has been empirically assessed that most building environments have a direct effect on the occupants’ physical and psychological health, well-being and performance; however, it is only through more recent studies that a clearer understanding of the occupied environment has been discovered. There is a need to: create greater public awareness of the health impacts of buildings; increase the focus on better tools and methodologies to collect data and measure healthy, impacts; and encourage building codes to place increased emphasis on healthier
building practices. If we only concentrate on energy we are in danger of neglecting the real purpose of architecture which is to provide for people’s well-being. A balance between these requirements is necessary.

Intelligent sustainable buildings for smart sustainable cities

The concept of “intelligent buildings” has been around for a number of years and has relied on the ability of individual systems within the buildings to communicate, to integrate and to perform in a manner allowing for numerous, complex, controls to generate a much-enhanced response to many kinds of stimuli. Thus, the argument of intelligence can reasonably be associated with the ability of intelligent buildings to function in an enhanced manner yielding many benefits for the occupants, the operators, the owners and reducing the overall environment impact.

Benefits and opportunities which these intercommunications, or intelligence, can provide:

  • Access control and security systems

The access control system should be integrated with the fire system, lighting system and the HVAC system. With these forms of integration, the system “intelligence” can allow a user to enter the building and the information that this user has presented in terms of his credentials will be signalled to a number of independent systems.

  • Elevators and escalators

Through suitable programming, the number of elevators being used at any one time can be optimized to address schedules, loads and potentially, emergencies;e.g., if paramedics require an elevator, it can be automatically configured to provide exclusive use for such purposes under an emergency situation.

  •  Lighting

The traditional large office buildings in which light switches are “hidden” are probably a thing of the past. The current trend to individually controlled lights, with the ability for each individual user to select their preferred lighting levels, is potentially a significant power saver and the use of more modern lighting technologies also reduces the amount of heat generated by more efficient luminaires.

  •  Signage

There have been evident changes applicable to signage technology. Signage can readily be shown on screens, and include any required graphics thereby ensuring that language and situational variations are readily addressed. Thus standard signage can carry routine messages including hours of operation or the length of line-ups or delays.

  • Building condition monitoring

Intelligent building technologies open the opportunity to facilitate the monitoring of a building’s condition. Transducers and sensors are available to measure most building related parameters and in any given situation, there may be particular needs driving their specific use. Under appropriate conditions some or all of the following may be appropriate and would then be communicated to a central monitoring facility.

Climate change adaptation

Climate Change related severe weather events are increasing in frequency and severity. These severe weather events include (but are not limited to):

  • Urban floods;
  • Extended heat waves;
  • Ice storms;
  • Extended cold spells;
  • High winds / tornadoes / hurricanes.

These weather events have both a long term and short impact on the commercial building infrastructure in cities.

During short-term events, building infrastructure is impacted by major structural damage, damage to a building’s support and utility systems, closure and loss of revenue among other items.  In order to prevent damage from flooding events, major HVAC, electrical and communication equipment should not be located below or on grade locations or if it is not possible to move equipment above grade then equipment rooms should be sealed against water intrusion.

  • Demand response capability means that the intelligent building is able to reduce the building’s electrical load for HVAC and/or lighting during periods of high system wide demand, typically at the request of, and perhaps with incentives from the utility. This is particularly needed during extended heat waves to ensure that power grids are not overly stressed.
  • Proper design of external landscaping and storm water management facilities can reduce the potential effects of severe rainstorms and urban flooding.
  • Intelligent buildings normally also have back up power systems that can automatically provide power for short or extended periods of time to allow for evacuation or maintain building operations.

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