Why smarter buildings are becoming an economic necessity

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Buildings are not just passive sub-units of our cities—mere places to dwell in or seek protection from the elements. They are spaces where we live, work, produce, and transact; they are living parts of the larger universe. Hence, when we talk about smart infrastructure, transport, healthcare, education or governance, smart buildings cannot be far behind. Yet, the building sector has remained largely unaffected by the advances in technology that have transformed nearly every aspect of our lives.

Smart buildings are structures that intelligently integrate different technologies to optimize energy efficiency and security for inhabitants. In recent years, building owners are paying attention but buildings are still associated with 'premium' real estate projects.

However, far from being a luxury for a privileged few, smart buildings can be an obvious and natural solution to the challenges faced by our crowded cities, where rampant construction is putting a strain on power and water delivery systems, and giving rise to environmental and public safety concerns.

As per CLSA India Pvt. Ltd., India will add 60 million new homes between 2018 and 2024. Commercial real estate projects are also expected to grow robustly soon. While this speaks volumes about India's economic growth, there is a flip side as well. Buildings are ravenous consumers of resources. Globally, buildings consume an estimated 42% of all generated electricity, with the lion's share going to residential buildings. In India, the relevant figure is around 30%, but this is rapidly rising, says a report by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The report adds that the Indian buildings sector consumes roughly 12% of all fresh water, and generates wastewater of around 22,900 million liters per day.

Buildings are also responsible for environmental damage. In the US, for example, residential and commercial buildings account for 39% of CO2 emissions in that country. These emissions are primarily due to the fossil fuels used to generate electricity used in homes and offices. As a fast-developing economy, chances are India isn't too far behind.

As commercial and residential buildings, multiply rapidly in Indian cities, they create additional pressure on power and water supply systems, driving up tariffs for end consumers and increasing carbon footprint. Challenges like these make the case for smart buildings even more compelling. So, let's look at some of the ways in which smart buildings can help cities defray some of the above costs.

Energy consumption

Lighting, air-conditioning, and appliances are the main power guzzlers in buildings today. Monitoring them manually is next to impossible, but technology provides some answers.

Smart buildings use sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to gather data on how and where power is being used, and take automatic decisions to optimize those functions: for e.g., by dimming or turning off lights when a room is empty, adjusting the AC's temperature per the weather outside, or switching to alternate power (e.g. a microgrid or solar grid) to reduce reliance on the main grid.

Smart building technology can also be configured to alert residents or management to wastage of electricity or water (for e.g. a TV or water sprinkler) and enable them to turn off the equipment remotely. Aggregated over months and years, these savings can translate into significant benefits for residents and building owners.

Efficiency

Smart buildings have single-point tools and controls that allow facilities managers to gauge the performance of equipment in the building, and take immediate action to address malfunctions or concerns. This reduces downtime and enhances the efficiency and lifespan of the equipment. Smart buildings can also be equipped with efficiency features like smart parking, which provides real-time data on available parking, eliminating wastage of fuel; and in-house water recycling, which drives down the cost of water usage within the premises.

Health & Environment

Every Diwali, the plunging quality of air in India's metros leads to widespread public health concerns. Similarly, water-borne illnesses in the monsoon are a regular phenomenon. Seasonal health hazards like these cause significant medical expenditure and result in workplace absenteeism, which can hit productivity and economic activity. However, sensors installed in smart buildings can constantly monitor air or water quality, and send alerts to residents whenever quality is seen to deteriorate, enabling the latter to take preventive action.

Smart buildings are also more environmentally-friendly than regular buildings. Since they regulate and optimize devices like air-conditioners, smart buildings typically cause lower emissions of ozone-depleting greenhouse gases.

Security and safety

One of the biggest advantages of smart buildings is that they are far more secure than conventional buildings, with features like intruder detection, access control, and video surveillance, which make it very difficult for outsiders to infiltrate the premises. Breaches are promptly captured by the system and relayed to the authorities. The smart building's security software also integrates with the residents' personal devices, allowing them to remotely monitor their homes on their smartphones, minimizing chances of loss due to theft or robbery.

Even as the government emphasizes the need for technological interventions in everything from transportation to payments, the shift towards smart buildings is inevitable. With all their advantages, smart buildings will play a huge role in helping our towns and cities become sustainable, safer, and future-ready.

Honeywell is helping create smarter, greener, safer, and more efficient buildings across India with its range of products, software, and technologies that are found in over 150 million homes and 10 million buildings worldwide . To know more please visit Honeywell India .

(Disclaimer: This piece is
Sponsored by Honeywell)

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