Smart buildings are properties that use design and technology to reduce (or, in some cases, achieve net-zero) energy consumption, predict maintenance needs, enable efficient use of the workplace, boost comfort and thus productivity, and help ensure the health and wellness of the humans inside them.
Here are five of the smartest properties on the planet—they epitomize intelligent real estate.
1. The Edge, The Netherlands
This building is so smart it knows where its occupants live, what they drive, and even how they take their coffee. Powered by a central dashboard and approximately 28,000 sensors, this genius property tracks everything from energy use to when breakroom supplies need replenishing. Workers use a smartphone app that checks their schedules, locates their colleagues, books a desk or space for focus work, and directs them to a parking spot when they arrive at the building.
Smart airflow designs, reclaimed rainwater, solar panels, charging areas for electric vehicles, and bike parking are key to The Edge’s sustainability. The on-site gym even harnesses power from workouts and sends it back to the grid. Technology and gigabits of data and insights make this building smart enough to shut down entire sections that aren’t being used—drastically reducing energy costs.
2. Bee’ah Headquarters, United Arab Emirates
Intelligence is great; artificial intelligence is even better. The Bee’ah headquarters uses AI for facial recognition, security, predictive maintenance, digital twin technology, and contactless interactions (ideal for staying safe during a global pandemic).
A smart concierge—believed to be the first of its kind in the region—helps visitors and employees locate available meeting spaces, book appointments, navigate the building, and even hail rides. The technology-packed building also optimizes temperature and humidity and ensures the optimal use of available space.
Bee’ah also provides occupants with an app that offers navigation, traffic updates, and pre-assigned parking areas—making the journey to and from this smart site efficient and eco-friendly. The headquarters is on track to achieve net-zero energy consumption.
3. Cisco Canada Headquarters, Canada
Intelligent building systems link people, processes, data, and internet of things (IoT) devices on a single network at Cisco’s headquarters in Toronto. When workers arrive at the building, a mobile app directs them to an available workstation (there are no assigned desks). The app communicates employee preferences for ambient temperature, humidity, and lighting to IoT sensors so when they arrive at their work areas, they’re immediately comfortable and ready to get to work.
To encourage collaboration, smart meeting spaces and other gathering areas are adjustable on the fly, and smart conference rooms have walls that can retract and expand to adapt to the number of occupants. This intelligent building even has elevators that reduce the number of empty rides—an employee enters their desired floor, and the system selects the closest car.
4. Capital Tower, Singapore
When it was built more than two decades ago, Capital Tower was the first in Singapore to offer wifi throughout the entire building. Since then, the property has continued to be tech-forward, prioritizing worker wellness and energy efficiency.
It features smart lighting throughout, and the HVAC system has a wheel that recovers cool air to maintain the air chiller temperature—this reduces the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling. IoT sensors evaluate air temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels to ensure occupant safety, comfort, and productivity. (Studies show that higher carbon dioxide levels impair cognition.)
In addition, the building’s garage is fitted with sensors that measure carbon monoxide (which can be lethal). When levels are too high, an exhaust fan is activated to expel the dangerous gas. The fan stops when air quality is safe. This reduces health hazards and energy waste.
5. Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates
It’s the tallest building on Earth. It also happens to be one of the smartest. The Burj Khalifa, Dubai’s most iconic structure, is defined by technology and efficiency. Smart sensors optimize air quality, lighting, and temperatures. In fact, the property piloted a solution that tracks the HVAC’s mechanical components and uses real-time data to identify anomalies.
The building’s cloud-based automation platform provides a unified view of smart building systems, delivers real-time data and insights, and uses algorithms to ensure workers perform preventative maintenance and suggest predictive maintenance measures. By moving to a reliability-centered maintenance program, facilities managers can improve building maintenance and asset reliability, reducing downtime and costs.
The Edge photo by Mr. Anonymous, used under creative commons license, Bee’ah Headquarters photo courtesy of the BEEAH Group, Cisco Canada Headquarters courtesy of HOK, Capital Tower photo by Sengkang, used under creative commons license, Burj Khalifa photo by Donaldytong, used under creative commons license