Are “Smart Buildings” the Future of the European Union?

As global society is becoming increasingly interested in maintaining the health and sustainability of our world, applications across a wide variety of industries have followed this trend by becoming more environmentally conscious in how they operate. Environmentally friendly products are used to describe any type of product that does not harm the environment through its production, use or disposal. These goods can range in size, from as small as a water bottle, to as large as a building.

Modern technology has enabled the advent of smart buildings to be possible, in which the traditional comfort, light and safety aspects of a building are fully integrated in a combined ability of the building to connect to various different systems in a dynamic, yet minimally expensive way.

By using information technology that has been directly implemented into the original design of the building, smart buildings are independently operated systems that are able to connect and share information, ensuring the complete optimization of the building’s performance. Building services such as air quality, physical security, sanitation, thermal comfort, illumination and many more aspects are fully enabled by the technology implemented in smart buildings, allowing this infrastructure to be fully connected and responsive to the smart power grid on which they operate1.  

The energy efficient potential of smart buildings is vast, as these structures are capable of tracking and reducing the level of greenhouse gases in which they are emitting. Through translational software, otherwise known as “middleware,” smart building facilities are able to track their high-energy usage, abnormal maintenance costs and other important markers that can affect the sustainability and carbon footprint of their design1.

By quickly recognizing and accessing these types of energy measurements, smart buildings and their managers are able to make better and faster decisions that have an immediate impact on the maintenance of the building. The essence of the success behind a smart building relies on its machine-to-machine communication, in which every operating system within the building, ranging from lighting, air conditioning, or security, must be able to fully cooperate with each other in order to ensure the highest possible efficiency of the system to be achieved1.  

In a recent report conducted by the Buildings Performance Institute of Europe (BPIE), current building designs present in different countries around Europe were analyzed for their present adeptness, and the future of whether these countries are predicted to be able to successfully transition to higher efficiency smart buildings was determined2. Several countries in Europe, such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, have taken the preliminary steps towards building a smarter environment for their citizens.

These initiatives are part of the European approach in promoting the implementation of smart systems that move away from the previously fossil fuel based and highly energy-consuming systems towards one that is much more efficient.

In planning the structure of these potential plans, EU Member States defined the following as essential characteristics of a smart environment:

  • The ability to adequately warm and/or cool a building.
  • Maintain a healthy living and working environment.
  • Ability to connect rapidly and maintain interoperability between buildings and systems.
  • Use of photovoltaic solar energy in order to incentivize self-consumable and renewable energy.
  • Ability of users to understand and control the output of their energy systems.3

While the current explosion of smarter technologies has enabled the ability of energy systems to become more efficient than ever before, the transition between the previous energy state and a future based on these characteristics of a smarter environment will inevitably require a complete renovation of the current system in place today.

While the BPIE deemed the member states of the European Union as unprepared to make this transition into a smarter environment, the European Commission has proposed a smartness indicator to be developed within the next several years in order to rate the readiness and performance of buildings to connect with their systems.

The BPIE concludes their report by stating, “A smart building revolution is not just about upgrading our building stock, mitigating emissions or balancing energy flows, it is about delivering direct benefits for EU citizens…3”  

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References

  1. "What Is a Smart Building?" Building Efficiency Initiative. 5th April 2011. Web. http://www.buildingefficiencyinitiative.org/articles/what-smart-building.
  1. Hill, Joshua S. "No European Country Stands Ready For Smart Buildings Transition." CleanTechnica. N.p., 16th Feb 2017. Web. https://cleantechnica.com/2017/02/16/no-european-country-stands-ready-smart-buildings-transition/.
  1. Ramdaspalli, Sneharaj, Manisa Pipattanasomporn, Murat Kuzlu, and Saifur Rahman. "Transactive Control for Efficient Operation of Commercial Buildings." 2016 IEEE PES Innovative Smart Grid Technologies Conference Europe (ISGT-Europe) (2016). http://bpie.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/STATUS-REPORT-Is-Europe-ready_FINAL_LR.pdf Web.

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine, which are two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are currently used in anticancer therapy.

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