Smart buildings – A boon or a bane for FMs?

Photo: Smart city and communication network concept. 5G. IoT (Internet of Things). Telecommunication.

Smart solutions providing a 360-degree view of a building’s operation aid predictive maintenance, enhance occupant experience, and improve sustainability. But with all these promising benefits, the question arises—are smart buildings a boon or a bane for facilities management?

The transformation from traditional structures to smart buildings is fundamentally reshaping the domain of facilities management According to Facilities Executive, with a projection of over 150% increase in the number of smart buildings worldwide, climbing from 45 million to 115 million in just five years, the impact of this shift is bound to be significant.

What is a Smart Building?

A smart building is a structure that integrates various building-wide systems into a single IT-managed network infrastructure. It collects actionable data from user devices, sensors, systems, and services on the premises. Applying that data using artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) makes the building both programmable and responsive to the needs of the users and the building manager. Power over Ethernet (PoE) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies can power sensors, lighting, HVAC systems, elevators, and fire alarms, as well as USB-C laptops, TV and computer monitors, shades, refrigerators, and room air conditioners in a smart building.

The transition from reactive to proactive

The role of a facilities manager is often characterized as reactive, dealing with issues as they arise rather than proactively preventing them. The advent of smart building technology provides a potential transition, turning the facilities manager’s role into a proactive one allowing them to make informed decisions and focus their efforts on future planning-– Charlie Green, Senior Research Analyst at Comparesoft, points out for Facility Executive.

Predictive planning offers several advantages:

  • By identifying potential issues before they escalate into major problems, smart buildings can significantly reduce the time and resources spent on maintenance.
  • Proactive maintenance, facilitated by data-driven insights, can extend the life of building elements, resulting in cost savings and less environmental waste.
  • A well-maintained environment, free from frequent breakdowns and disruptions, can significantly boost productivity and enhance occupant satisfaction.

Environmental impact & sustainability

Through the use of integrated systems and IoT devices, smart buildings can collect real-time data on energy usage. This data is then analysed and used to optimize the building’s energy consumption. Additionally, predictive maintenance enabled by smart buildings can identify equipment inefficiencies before they become significant energy drains. 

According to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, smart building technologies can reduce a building’s energy use by an average of 18% and can reduce energy costs by 8-15%. With their ability to reduce energy consumption, smart buildings also play a significant role in lowering carbon emissions. This is crucial in our global effort to combat climate change and achieve net-zero carbon emissions targets.

The security aspect

Security is a significant concern for both facilities and property managers. Ensuring that the interoperability of devices—a key element for the success of a smart building—is secure, is crucial to rely on these systems for decision-making. A major hurdle in this context is the fact that smart technologies are driven by a multitude of IoT devices and sensors, which are potentially susceptible to cyber threats.

Experts emphasize the need to prioritize and evaluate cybersecurity across the entire supply chain. This is to safeguard data, uphold privacy, and mitigate cyber risks. By opting for a platform that incorporates the ‘security by design’ principle, and by choosing a master system integrator with a profound understanding of security challenges, many of these worries can be lessened.

In conclusion…

While the journey towards widespread adoption of smart buildings is still in progress, it is clear that they represent a significant leap forward in facilities management. By proactively addressing the challenges and leveraging the numerous benefits, facilities managers can harness the potential of smart buildings to create a more efficient, sustainable, and user-friendly environment.


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