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Smarter Buildings

Given their environmental impact, it's time
we designed from the earth up

We can–and should–make green buildings even smarter

If you're sitting in an office right now, take a moment to consider your surroundings. It's more than a place to plug in your computer. Your building is a massive system of systems. And chances are that even if it's a "green" building, it's one of the largest expenses on your company's income statement.

The National Science and Technology Council in the United States estimates that commercial and residential buildings consume a third of the world's energy. In North America, for example, this translates to 72 percent of the electricity generation, 12 percent of the water use, and 60 percent of non-industrial waste.

space and energy optimization in a smarter infraestructure. Watch the video.

Consider another fact. If worldwide energy-use trends continue, buildings will become the largest consumer of global energy by 2025―more than the transportation and industrial sectors combined. And waste as much as half of the electricity and water that they use.

What is your building trying to say?
Although green buildings are constructed using sustainable materials, smarter buildings are designed to run more efficiently and—more important—to communicate with and about their various systems.

With the unprecedented proliferation of smart sensors and control systems over the past decade, many conventional and green buildings have the ability to measure, sense and see the exact condition of practically everything in them. But these systems operate independently, through a mix of vendors, and with different protocols and transport mechanisms. They also advance and mature at different rates.

Smarter buildings that emerge from a holistic point of view involve collaboration between facilities and IT organizations at new levels and require new transformational skills in organizations or businesses.

The social side of Smarter Buildings


Graphic: What makes a smarter building? Systems that talk to systems.


Smarter buildings at IBM Rochester, Minnesota

In our own backyard: a smarter building at IBM

The ability to collect, analyze and sort building data quickly is critical to the real-time energy and performance optimization of a smarter building. Consider one of IBM's own projects: a manufacturing site in Rochester, Minnesota, that covers 3.3 million square feet.

The facility had more than 250,000 sensor points with the potential to report information. But only about 1/3 of these sensors, approximately 80,000 data points, changed often enough to be deemed necessary to look at on a routine basis.

The team quickly realized that only 12 percent changed status often enough to be sampled for performance and energy optimization. Even so, 12 percent equaled 2,150,000 points of information that had to be collected and resolved monthly. To help sort out what to do with this data, the team turned to IBM TRIRIGA solutions. Along with building enhancements that had been implemented over the past seven years, such as improving insulation and roof material, this helped the team achieve an incremental 8 percent energy savings on the monitored equipment.


Which of the following energy and environment management activities is your company currently investing in to support green innitiatives? Source: Crossing the Sustainability Chasm: Strategies and Tactics to Achieve Sustainability Goals.


Four walls to support sustainability goals

Smarter buildings can reduce energy consumption by as much as 40 percent and sometimes more. Lower maintenance costs from efficient use could be reduced an additional 10 percent to 30 percent. But how do increased energy conservation programs help improve overall sustainability?

According to a joint survey between Gartner and TRIRIGA, an IBM Company , 91 percent of organizations that successfully achieved their environmental and energy management goals invested in facility energy efficiency. Most of the organizations that achieved their goals used three high-level tactics to reduce energy in facilities:


Only a third say their buldings are environmentally responsible; 27% of office workers say buildings adjust environment automatically based on occupancy; 14% say their buldings use renewable energy sources; 65% would help redesign workplace to make ir more environmentally responsible; Cumulative time spent stuck in an elevator or waiting for one in past 12 months: 125 years.

No building is an island

A smarter building doesn’t stop at the four walls that surround it. It’s important to consider how a building can interact with and be affected by its surroundings—its externalities.

ex-ter-nal-i-ty [ek-ster-nal-i-tee]noum. plural -ties; 1. The state or quality of being external; 2. Any action that has cause or effect on the operation of a building.

Externalities are variables such as current weather predictions, emergency-system notifications (for example, AMBER and SILVER alerts), demand management from utilities or transportation, and traffic events. Plus, buildings are seen as full-potential locations for co-generation power plants, water reservoirs, and even rooftop farms. So smarter buildings are not just data sources; they also have to communicate intelligently with the externalities around them.

With an estimated one million people around the world moving into cities each week, new urban growth is driving demand for buildings and energy use. This means many more opportunities for buildings to play a bigger part in a smarter planet—a system of systems that tells us what we can do better, both inside the building and out.

Smarter buildings index: IBM has compiled the results of the survey into a Smarter Buildings Index that ranks efficiency in each city on a scale from one to 10, with 10 being the best.