Insights 14th June 2021 building automation

How to build back smarter with building technology

What are the top five smart building considerations when planning refurbishment?

Intelligent technology in buildings is going to become standard. As such, it should be considered at any refurbishment or redevelopment stage of an asset’s life. What’s more, smart building technology platforms need to be considered at the outset of any project brief and design process, rather than as an afterthought.

In order to reap maximum benefits, consideration of M&E strategy and building tech in tandem, from the start of the design process, is essential.

These are the five imperatives to successfully tech-enable a building during refurbishment:

1. Interrogate the smart building brief – what does the client want?

Early interrogation of the project brief will throw out client objectives, from ESG targets with regard to fund commitments, to maximising tenant engagement. The technology can then be aligned to the client’s driving factors within the project brief. For these reasons, building tech should be considered at the earliest stage possible. In the past, building technology has been used to add value to the occupier experience rather than fulfilling its full potential as a key tool in driving ESG and zero carbon goals. Due to more stringent environmental compliance goals, the emphasis will change for building technology to focus more in this area.

2. Evaluate the M&E strategy – what systems are already in place?

Building technology can cover a large array of services from air quality and access control to localised heating and cooling for occupier comfort. How far and wide the building owner wants this to go is best identified at the start of the project. It is clear that a certain level of M&E systems and controls are required for near-seamless building tech integration. This can lead to a small uplift in initial investment, but allows a level of future-proofing and flexibility.

3. Assess the digital connectivity of the site – can everything be IoT connected?

As well as ensuring that wi-fi is available in the common areas, and assessing the infrastructure of the wi-fi, the metering strategy for utilities must be analysed. Digital metering systems are fundamental to gather the data being pulled out of buildings to be utilised by the smart technology. Therefore, analogue meters must be switched to digital, in order that they can interface with the building operating system.

4. Correct selection of building systems – how to select and build the most appropriate tool?

More sophisticated building operated systems, such as Workman’s IBOS, rely less on traditional BMS interfaces and can be installed providing remote and live analytics to optimise and automate the building, reducing its carbon footprint. Ideally, as part of the project briefing stage, there would be prior knowledge of the expected end user of the building, so that the technology could be aligned to their requirements. In this way, the smart app would meet the needs of the occupier, and also the landlord. Where the likely end user of the building is unknown, communication with the client, agents, and the property manager would ensure enough flexibility designed in the app to cover a broad spectrum of occupier needs.

5. Co-ordination of integration – how to ensure correct ongoing use of a smart building?

Once installed, the building operating system should work smoothly to meet pre-agreed targets and parameters. This requires collaboration between property managers and occupiers of the building to ensure the technology works to its maximum potential for reporting of data such as ESG information, for example. A fully coordinated approach is key, with briefings involving stakeholders such as property managers, facilities managers, maintenance contractors, and occupiers, so that everyone is on board with the capabilities and benefits the building technology can deliver.

By James Hallworth, Senior Associate, Building Technology, Workman

Click here to read more about Workman’s IBOS, the key to delivering smart buildings.

Click here to read more about Workman’s IBOS, as reported by EG.