Smart and Green Buildings: They Bring Out the Best in Each other

Green buildings? Sustainable buildings? Smart buildings? Intelligent buildings? Are these terms all talking about the same thing?

Mostly, but there is a difference in emphasis. To oversimplify a bit, smart/intelligent is about how and green/sustainable is about why.

Smart/intelligent is about how to gather, manage, analyze, visualize, and optimize data. Some of the data-related things largely outside the scope of green/sustainability issues are telecommunications, office data networks, access control, video surveillance, and A/V systems.

Part of a building’s immense data collecting, however, from total energy consumed to room temperature trends, are very much about green/sustainable issues. Why have all that data unless you are going to do something useful with it? For human and environmental benefits, a Building Automation System (BAS) uses data to optimize energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

Energy efficiency and the health and comfort of occupants are big components of green and sustainable initiatives. The green movement is also, however, interested in more global issues as well, such as the total impact (from cradle to grave) of a building on the environment. Such concerns include recycling and reuse of materials, water usage and treatment, emissions of pollutants, sustainable sites, redeveloping brownfields, and nearness to mass transportation. These issues tend to fall outside the scope of what is considered smart/intelligent in a building.

But the commonalities outweigh the differences. The bottom line is a building can’t be truly green without also being smart, and a smart building is a greener building. The greenest possible building would also be a “genius” building.