Buildings with Smarts

Your office building may soon know more about you than your colleague next door. The introduction of “smart grid” technology is enabling workspaces to identify the person at the station as an individual and set the lighting and temperature accordingly.

Buildings get smart by hooking up wireless-connected devices to their existing grids. Not only is this convenient for employees, it also offers cost-savings to owners and reduces the building’s carbon footprint.  Lights and HVAC systems -- which, when combined, form the largest portion of building expenses and wasteful energy consumption – are controlled remotely or completely autonomously. Essentially, these services turn on (or off) when a room is entered or a device used.

However, the acceptable use of technology begs the question of legal compliance.  Building code regulations and municipal bylaws could affect the implementation of building automation and new developments must yield to existing standards – for example, the City of Toronto’s green roof bylaw. These considerations will need to be addressed in advance of any project engagement.

Where such technological investment in building analytics has been implemented, managers of commercial real estate portfolios have enjoyed operating cost savings and energy efficiency.  For instance, Proctor & Gamble (“P&G”) recently invested in smart building management technology in a test group of laboratories, offices and manufacturing facilities. P&G saw a first-year average energy savings of 10% and their initial investment in the technology was returned within the first three months after launching the initiative. Microsoft has joined the movement with the launch of its “CityNext” portal – a website offering a variety of products (including the forecasting of building system data to drive efficiency and reduce operating costs) intended to “create healthier, greener and more prosperous communities.” To add fuel to the fire, research released by ON World Inc. on September 30, 2013, claims that by 2019, shipments of wireless sensor devices to non-residential buildings will reach 100 million, an increase of over 1100% from 2011.

So if your work station takes the night off while you’re on the couch enjoying your latest read, don’t be surprised, it’s learning too.

“smart grid” technology building automation building code regulations carbon footprint HVAC systems Microsoft “CityNext” portal municipal bylaws Proctor & Gamble technology wireless-connected devices


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