If phones can be “smart,” why not buildings? With the ever-expanding array of consumer technology available today, it should come as no surprise that residential buildings are incorporating more and more cutting-edge technology into their communications, security, and operations systems than ever before, and unifying building operating systems so they can be monitored and run from a central location by a building staff member, or by residents themselves with smartphones and iPads. Many of these innovative systems are being installed from square one in new construction, but also in the form of upgrades and retrofits in older buildings. Let’s take a look at the state of the industry.
When considering smart buildings, the key word is integration. But what does that mean exactly?
“Integration in general is a very broad term, which can be used to describe systems that are (a) just minimally aware of each other—and even systems that are aware of each other only as a result of manual effort, or are (b) fully aware and communicating bi-directionally and in a way that enhances each system’s ability to behave better and smarter. In any building at all, system integration makes the mechanical, electrical and energy operations of a building flow more smoothly and efficiently,” says Jerry Kestenbaum, the president of BuildingLink, a New York-based company that puts condo buildings online and gives association residents from Boston to San Francisco access to all kinds of information.
Generally speaking, commercial buildings are more likely to be state-of-the-art with respect to systems integration, while residential buildings tend to be behind the curve. This is changing, however, as more and more boards are finding wisdom in investing in the new technology. At first blush, it would seem that the needs of both kinds of buildings are the same, but residential buildings have different needs.
“The range of services provided to its occupants tends to be broader,” Kestenbaum says, “and its occupants make use of its services 24/7. Therefore, the more integrated a system is the better it will enable staff to accomplish its mission.”