How smart buildings can help the environment

Most of us can’t hope to change the world in terms of the damage the species has done to the planet. This, however, shouldn’t stop us trying various methods to do better. Whether it’s implementing public policy, such as recycling bins, rewarding businesses who make efforts to be more eco-friendly and so on.

One key way has been to reconsider how we create buildings. We’ve already noted the importance of green buildings. But now we need to consider the idea of green buildings alongside smart ones.

What is a smart building?

Smart building, as the name suggests, is about using modern technology relationships to facilitate the goals all buildings aim for. As the Building Efficiency Initiative defines it, smart buildings are the inevitable future of building design.

“At the most fundamental level, smart buildings deliver useful building services that make occupants productive (e.g. illumination, thermal comfort, air quality, physical security, sanitation, and many more) at the lowest cost and environmental impact over the building lifecycle.”

Note, it is about aiming for the lowest environmental impact, among other factors. The goals are only achievable if this is plugged in right from the beginning of a design phase. This means everything from the walls, plumbing, turnstiles and so on, are all made with the idea of efficiency in mind. But, what matters is how these all interact.

Smart buildings utilise an array of information technology during operation to connect various subsystems. What usually makes something “smart”, in modern tech standards, is connecting systems which typically operate independently. These are connected so the systems share information. In the case of a smart building, the aim is to optimize total building performance.

One of the main aims is to provide building operators and the occupants with new levels of visibility and information they can act on.

Smart and eco-friendly

This means smart isn’t just using the latest technology. It’s about how technology is used. For example, in 2013, a German firm built a house with a 200m² wall of integrated photo-bioreactors. As Arup explained: “this innovative passive-energy house generates microalgae biomass and heat as renewable energy resources.”

The whole system also focuses on dynamic shading, thermal insulation and noise abatement, showing the versatility of this technology.

There’s even a building in Mexico that “eats” the city’s smog, thanks to a new type of tile that converts harmful chemicals into less harmful material. Further, the tile itself adds to the building’s aesthetic.

Smart buildings are the future and it’s encouraging to see they’re also about making our future greener.