AI of Things (IX): Integrated smart building management as a driver for greater operational efficiency

Antonio Moreno    12 September, 2022

We spend more than 90% of our lives indoors, and for this reason alone we should be very concerned about the comfort and healthiness of our buildings, which are also real energy predators. At least until now.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the real estate sector is key to the energy transition, the one that should lead us to a low-carbon economy. In this regard, three fundamental aspects that buildings must assume as necessary can be defined as follows:

  • Decarbonisation. By controlling energy demand, reducing consumption and using renewables together with electromobility.
  • Decentralisation. Understood as on-site electricity generation and energy storage.
  • Digitalisation. This should enable control and automation. Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are increasingly present here, with economies of scale that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

These goals are not only a challenge for new construction, but the existing building stock must also be updated to mitigate climate change and, this is often ignored, to adapt to climate change itself. We are moving from a traditionally static environment to a dynamic one where buildings must be integrated into their surroundings.

We are no longer talking about tenants, but about clients who demand a certain level of comfort and quality

It is even becoming more and more common in the real estate sector to move from the concept of property to the concept of service, no longer talking about tenants, but about clients who demand a certain level of comfort and quality in the space they inhabit. We can define a series of main axes in this regard.

People:

  • Increase the satisfaction of users, visitors and workers.
  • Achieve more comfortable and healthier buildings.
  • Encourage interaction between the users and the building.

Efficiency:

  • Achieve savings and positive environmental impact, improving occupant comfort and reducing management times.
  • Correct dimensioning of spaces.

Sustainability:

  • Minimise water, gas and electricity consumption.
  • Incorporate renewable energy sources.
  • Achieve the full decarbonisation of buildings, set as a target for 2050.

Security:

  • Protect people and building infrastructures
  • Optimise and simplify processes.

Not to mention transversal platforms that, thanks to AI, allow centralised management of all systems, integrated analytics to optimise the use of infrastructures and predict patterns of behaviour and use of the building.

Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NREB)

All these principles apply to both residential and tertiary buildings, and many of the new corporate headquarters include from their initial design the necessary requirements to be considered Nearly Zero Energy Buildings, or NREB as they are often referred to by their acronym.

Telefónica District’s intelligent buildings

On a technical level this means not exceeding certain thresholds in cooling and heating demand, as well as in primary energy consumption and building airtightness. And how can these strict requirements be achieved?

There are several basic principles to be met: increasingly better insulation, absence of thermal bridges, airtightness, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, high-performance windows and the use of new technologies.

This last point is fundamental to ensure that the EECN are not only on paper, but that in their daily use they meet or improve the required criteria by measuring in real time all the parameters of consumption and comfort.

Buildings that even produce their own power

Why don’t we just talk about ZEB (Zero Energy Buildings)? Or even PEDs (Positive Energy Districts). There are already real projects testing a new challenge that is approaching our cities, given the great room for improvement in the energy management of buildings.

Buildings that not only absorb from the electricity grid, but also inject their surplus energy into it, exchanging energy in the cities, and all of this at an optimum cost. This is undoubtedly a technical challenge and, above all, one of new relationship and business models: we are moving from a consumer to a pro-consumer scheme.

Electric vehicles can be recharged with surplus power from Positive Energy Districts (PED).

There will always be buildings that need extra energy, but in the total sum there are many surpluses, such as all the solar energy that can be produced in residential environments at midday, just when their inhabitants are out of their homes, often in offices or tertiary buildings. This surplus can be used to recharge electric vehicles or be exchanged between properties.

Certainly, this dialogue between energies will be essential, without forgetting of course that, as in ICT, the tenant, sorry, the customer, is at the centre and will demand the best possible service.

🔵 Feel free to read more content on IoT and Artificial Intelligence in our other articles in our series, starting with the first article here:

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