Buildings

4 BIG ways the IoT is impacting design and construction

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This is the first post in a four-part series on how the IoT is impacting buildings.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming every facet of the building – how we inhabit them, how we manage them, and even how we build them. There is a vast ecosystem around today’s buildings, and no part of the ecosystem is untouched.

In this blog series, I plan to examine the trends being driven by IoT across the buildings ecosystem. Since the lifecycle of building begins with design and construction, let’s start there. Here are four ways that the IoT is radically transforming building design and construction.

Building information modeling

Building information modeling (BIM) is a process that provides an intelligent, 3D model of a building. Typically, BIM is used to model a building’s structure and systems during design and construction, so that changes to one set of plans can be updated simultaneously in all other impacted plans. Taken a step further, however, BIM can also become a catalyst for smart buildings projects.


Want to learn more about how IoT is transforming the way we
build, manage and experience buildings?

Visit our Watson IoT Cognitive Buildings site


Once a building is up and running, data from IoT sensors can be pulled into the BIM. You can use that data to model things like energy usage patterns, temperature trends or people movement throughout a building. The output from these models can then be analyzed to improve future buildings projects. Beyond its impact on design and construction, BIM also has important implications for the management of building operations.

Green building

The construction industry is a huge driver of landfill waste – up to 40% of all solid waste in the US comes from the buildings projects. This unfortunate fact has ignited a wave of interest in sustainable architecture and construction. But the green building movement has become about much more than keeping building materials out of landfills. It is influencing the design and engineering of building systems themselves, allowing buildings to reduce their impact on the environment through energy management.

Today’s green buildings are being engineered to do things like shut down unnecessary systems automatically when the building is unoccupied, or open and close louvers automatically to let in optimal levels of natural light. In a previous post, I talk about 3 examples of the IoT in green buildings, but these are just some of the cool ways that the construction industry is learning to be more sustainable with help from the IoT.

Intelligent prefab

Using prefabricated building components can be faster and more cost effective than traditional building methods, and it has an added benefit of creating less construction waste. However, using prefab for large commercial buildings projects can be very complex to coordinate. The IoT is helping to solve this problem.

Using RFID sensors, individual prefab parts can be tracked throughout the supply chain. A recent example is the construction of the Leadenhall Building in London. Since the building occupies a relatively small footprint but required large prefabricated components, it was a logistically complex task to coordinate the installation. RFID data was used to help mitigate the effects of any downstream delays in construction. In addition, the data was the fed into the BIM once parts were installed, allowing for real time rendering of the building in progress, as well as establishment of project controls and KPIs.

Construction management

Time is money, so any delays on a construction project can be costly. So how do you prevent your critical heavy equipment from going down and backing up all the other trades on site? With the IoT!

Heavy construction equipment is being outfitted with sensors, which can be remotely monitored for key indicators of potential maintenance issues like temperature fluctuations, excessive vibrations, etc. When abnormal patterns are detected, alerts can trigger maintenance workers to intervene early, before critical equipment fails. Performing predictive maintenance in this way can save time and money, as well as prevent unnecessary delays in construction projects.

Thinking of using the IoT in your next design or construction project?

Want to learn more about how IoT is transforming the way we build, manage and experience buildings? Visit our Watson IoT cognitive buildings site for videos, case studies and white papers, or download this slideshow presentation to see 10 opportunities the Internet of Things can bring to smart buildings.

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