10 smart building myths debunked

10 smart building myths debunked

Digital building via Shutterstock

Smart buildings have been proven to save energy, streamline facilities management and prevent expensive equipment failures. Yet to many property owners and investors, the value of smart buildings remains a mystery.

The reality is that in most buildings, one can demonstrate a strong business case for strategic investments in smart building systems and management technologies. Not everyone, however, is aware that the tremendous advantages of today's affordable smart building management technologies easily justify the cost.

Below are 10 smart building myths that deserve to be put to rest.

10. Smart building technologies are expensive

Smart building technology investments typically pay for themselves within one or two years by delivering energy savings and other operational efficiencies. Some smart building management programs have generated a positive return on investment within several months.

9. Smart buildings are only about energy

A smart building management system often can detect when a piece of equipment is close to failure and alert facilities personnel. Knowing the right time to repair or replace equipment extends machinery life and reduces facility staff, operations and replacement costs. More dramatically, smart building management systems can prevent full-scale building system failures, which potentially could embarrass a Super Bowl stadium host or prove life-threatening in a hospital or laboratory.

8. Smart buildings and green buildings are the same thing

Smart buildings maximize energy efficiency from building systems and ensure air quality, while a complete green sustainability program includes strategies beyond building automation systems. So, while smart and green features may overlap, they are not identical concepts. The Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) delves deeper into the difference in the report "Bright Green Buildings: Convergence of Green and Intelligent Buildings" (PDF).

7. Industrial facilities or laboratories can't become smart buildings

All building types, including residential and commercial, can be built or retrofitted to become highly automated and smart. As illustrated in this infographic (PDF), even highly specialized facilities such as laboratories can be outfitted with smart building technologies.

6. Smart buildings can only be new buildings

Some of the smartest buildings in the world are not new at all, but have demonstrated the return on investment in smart technologies. The Empire State Building, for example, has exceeded projected energy savings for the second consecutive year following an extensive phased retrofit begun in 2009.

5. Smart building technologies are not interoperable

In the past, building automation equipment and controls were designed as proprietary systems. However, affordable new technologies, such as wireless sensors, now make it possible to gather data from disparate systems produced by any manufacturer.

4.  Smart systems don't make a building more attractive to tenants

Anything that improves energy efficiency, reduces occupancy cost and improves productivity is valuable to tenants, as numerous studies and surveys attest. Tenants and their advisors increasingly expect smart building features such as zoned HVAC, sophisticated equipment maintenance alert systems and advanced security systems.

3. Without a municipal smart grid, a building can't really be smart

It's true that smart buildings gain functionality when supported by advanced electrical grids installed by municipalities and their utility company partners. But even without a smart grid, owners and investors can draw a wide range of benefits from smart buildings and a smart building management system that can monitor entire property portfolios.   

2. Smart buildings are complicated to operate

Combined with a smart building management system, a smart building is often easier to operate and maintain than a building that lacks automated systems. A smart building management system can integrate work-order management applications; pull equipment repair and maintenance data into performance analytics; and pinpoint equipment issues to a degree not humanly possible. On one client site, for example, a smart building management system diagnosed a programming problem that had been undetected for 15 years, enabling facility managers to resolve a recurring equipment malfunction.

1. Smart buildings are a no-brainer

This myth isn't a myth at all -- it's actually true. As affordable new technologies are adopted, tenants are beginning to expect smart building features, and owners and investors are beginning to realize the return on investment in smart systems.

Editor's note: To learn more about smart buildings and the convergence of sustainability and technology, be sure to check out VERGE SF Oct. 14-17.

Digital building image by Leszek Glasner via Shutterstock