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 able to incorporate more and more cutting-edge technology into their communications, security, and operations systems than ever before, and to unify 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,” says Jerry Kestenbaum, the president of BuildingLink, a Long Island City, N.Y.-based company that puts co-op and condo buildings online and gives residents access to all kinds of information, “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.”
Behind the Curve
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—in fact, “way behind,” says Allan Samuels, a principal at Energy Squared, LLC, an engineering consultant in North Brunswick. Multi-family buildings, co-ops and condos are “lagging behind terribly,” he says, although the technologies involved have the capacity to save money, save energy, and even avert maintenance headaches.