Smart Buildings: Our Connected, Integrated Future

Technology continues to redefine the world around us.  And one of the ways technology is revolutionising our daily life is the way it is used in smart buildings to transform the landscape of building management.

But what exactly is a smart building?

A smart building delivers useful, integrated and smart services that make occupants productive at the lowest cost and with the least environmental impact over the building’s life cycle. Fundamentally, smart buildings utilise technology to enable the convergence of siloed systems and processes into an integrated workplace management and operations framework.    


Smart buildings are buildings that: 

  • Are equipped with smart networked sensors, meters, materials and devices
  • Use automated processes to control, monitor and manage building assets and services
  • Are linked with an energy and sustainability management programme
  • Are connected to a network of intelligent systems, infrastructure and technology platforms

This new breed of buildings leverages information technology for real-time data exchange and system interoperability, empowering occupants with visibility and actionable insights through unified information generated by a platform of Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and analytics technologies. In short, smart buildings ramp up efficiency and enable exciting new possibilities.

Smart buildings bring together a wide spectrum of technology and business processes partners to deliver next generation, end-to-end solutions that leverage respective core capabilities across the value chain. One of the significant trends is the growing partnership between IoT, business improvement and energy and facilities management domain experts through a scalable and open architecture as well as a redefined structure of processes. An example of this is the Cushman & Wakefield’s Experience Per Square Feet programme.

Driving the Uptake 

Building owners are always striving for stronger bottom lines. Facility managers constantly seek to increase efficiency of operations. Occupants want control of their work environment and greater comfort. By harnessing integrated workplace management solutions, smart buildings deliver benefits for all three parties, including productivity gains, increased staff performance, optimised space utilisation, and occupant satisfaction.  

These compelling benefits is driving the increasing adoption of smart buildings. 

Navigant Research estimates that the smart building market will generate global revenue of US$8.5 billion in 2020, up from US$4.7 billion in 2016.  

Specifically, smart buildings deliver five core benefits: 

  • Integrated workplace and well-being management solutions that drive productivity, performance and longevity 
  • Energy and sustainability solutions for eco-friendly carbon footprint impact and compliance 
  • Increased efficiency via automation for workstream optimisation and cost saving
  • Predictive maintenance capability for effective operations and better asset management
  • Best practice and agile processes for converting reactive activities into smart services

Automation and Integration 

Today’s building capabilities include a certain level of process automation and system integration. Building Management Systems (BMS) and Building Automation Systems (BAS) are traditionally the underlying foundations for monitoring, controlling and managing the overall core building functionalities and services such as lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning.  

Now, however, with Internet of Things (IoT), buildings can leverage open protocol standards to exchange and consolidate information between IoT technology and Industrial Control System (ICS) platforms. Through this they can derive AI-generated value-added insights to assist in decision making. 

Facilities managers have been diving into predictive maintenance capabilities to anticipate failures, take corrective actions, make replacements, or plan ahead of scheduled maintenance. For example, predictive maintenance employs machine learning modelling to achieve greater accuracy. This leads to cost savings and optimising of scheduled maintenance.

Smart Building Technology Fundamentals 

From a technological perspective, a smart building platform consists of three fundamental elements:  

  • Application of infrastructure and technology capabilities 
  • Transformation of monitoring, control and maintenance processes 
  • Adoption of security assessment and enablement 

Every space, floor, and workplace of a smart building must be strategically planned, designed, and integrated to meet the core needs of operational efficiency and cost saving. 

Deployment and Operation 

The processes for operating the smart building requires transformed procedures as well as best practices to be adopted by every building resource. This ensures effective execution of workflows.  

Well-deployed technology and a connected platform results in an integrated solution for the delivery of optimised resources through automatic alerts, self-recovery, auto-resource-assignment, reduction of waste and downtime, eco-sustainability, streamlined maintenance, and ultimately improved productivity.

A Centralised or Remote Operations Centre (ROC) is one of the outcomes of processes improvement. Through the ROC, traditional processes are transformed and redefined to optimise the operations of buildings and maintenance, providing monitoring, control and mitigates risks across various geographical sites through a connected platform as well as swift response from a mix of stationed and mobile dispatch team.  

AI technology based within the ROC, for instance AI-based chatbots, have transformed the conventional way that facilities maintenance teams work with call centre staff, by increasing the productivity of call-handling (machine vs. man) and the automation of schedule management. Further benefits of ROC include real-time fault reporting, incident prevention, efficient operations, effective-cost in resources and predictive alerts.   

Managing and Securing the Site 

In smart buildings, facilities engineers can make use of tools such as digital twin technology or Building Information Management (BIM) viewer applications to efficiently manage the assets and facility operations. This includes simulation analysis prior to inspection, plan-ahead of trips, and ease of documentation access during field works. Integrated with Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS), a BIM viewer application conveniently enables field service staff to handle the work order management.        

Security components of smart buildings fall into the categories of physical, hardware, and cyber security measures. These include mobile and stationed security forces, intelligent surveillance cameras, closed-circuit television (CCTV) and alarms, biometric systems such as facial recognition technology, detection sensors, advanced locking systems, and back-end AI-based platforms that can flag threats.  

These tools can provide alerts or alarm trigger, plus protection and shields within a well-defined security response procedure. By further certifying and complying with information security standards like ISO27000/27001, intelligent buildings can measure up to stakeholders’ security expectation. No matter how well equipped the buildings are, smart buildings must always still incorporate an “always be prepared for the unexpected” contingency action plan as part of the organisation’s business continuity plan.  


 Cushman & Wakefield is a leading global real estate services firm with 400 offices in 70 countries.