3 smart building projects demonstrate that it’s easy being green


From a technological perspective, smart buildings make sense. From construction to building operations to the experience of its occupants, technology is impacting all phases of the building lifecycle. As a former architect, I have personally witnessed this transformation, as the Internet of Things has become a key design consideration in building construction projects.

The coolest part of adopting Internet of Things technology in the building space is that it is also having a positive impact on another building trend: green building. Here are three of the world’s most sustainable buildings and how they are using the Internet of Things to go green. Note that these are not IBM projects per se; they are simply projects that I admire as a tech enthusiast and designer, and I think you will too.

A bright future with connected lighting

The Edge, a commercial office building in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, boasts a smart LED lighting system, which has over 30,000 sensors connected to the building management system through the Internet of Things. The lighting system measures motion, light levels, infrared radiation and temperature, allowing it to automatically adjust energy use. When a floor in the building is unoccupied at night, for example, all lights are automatically switched off and heating and cooling can be set to minimum. As a result, when there is zero occupancy in the building, there is next-to-zero energy use.

During the day when the building is occupied, individual occupants can also view their sustainability data and control and personalize temperature and light settings through a smartphone app. As a result, The Edge uses about 70 percent less electricity than the average commercial office building.

These smart sensors impact more than just lighting though. Offices not in use can be skipped for cleaning, which minimizes the use of chemical cleaning products. Facilities management can use real-time and historical occupancy data, as well as information about traffic and weather patterns, to predict how many people will eat in the cafeteria at lunchtime, helping avoid wasting food. 

An intelligent façade for sheltering from extreme conditions

In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. These extreme temperatures would normally be quite taxing on a building’s energy use, but not so for the Al Bahar Towers. The towers feature a façade that is covered with an impressive mosaic of computerized, sun-responsive shades that help optimize energy use.

The lattice screen folds and unfolds in response to weather conditions, helping reduce solar gain by up to 50 percent. It typically operates in a pre-programmed pattern based on anticipated sun conditions, but sensors can open the units in the event of overcast conditions or high winds. In addition to keeping the harsh sun out, the façade also contributes to improved daylight penetration and helps reduce reliance on artificial lighting. The system reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1,750 tons annually compared to a standard building façade. 

Smart air quality management for breathing freely

In commercial buildings, parking garages can be a significant source of pollutants that affect indoor air quality. The Capital Tower in Singapore, Southeast Asia, which was one of the first smart buildings in the city, is using Internet of Things technology to help solve this problem efficiently.

Typically, commercial buildings handle this type of indoor air pollution by running an exhaust fan. But this approach in itself can be highly inefficient because peaks and troughs in the amount of pollutants in the air typically occur based on occupancy. The Capital Tower’s exhaust fans are equipped with sensors that are connected to an intelligent building management system. They are only activated in the parking garage when the carbon monoxide sensors register more than 1,000 parts/million, which results in significant energy savings while still delivering improved indoor air quality.

Technology is making it easier than ever to construct and maintain green buildings. How are you planning to use the Internet of Things in your next green building project?

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