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What is a Smart Building?

From technology and architecture to real-world solutions, this definitive guide highlights the many benefits of smart buildings.


From facilities management to healthcare to retail and beyond, smart buildings are changing the way their occupants live and work. Smart buildings utilize advanced technology to assist owners and building managers with day-to-day functions while also unifying those processes in an easy-to-manage central system. It sounds simple on paper, but in execution, the many facets of designing, building, and executing smart buildings are highly complex.

To that end, we’ve created this guide as a comprehensive resource for anyone who wants to learn more about smart buildings. Read on to find out how smart buildings work, how they benefit employees, and how this technology is revolutionizing commercial spaces.

Jump to a section

What are some examples of smart building technology?

How are IoT and AR revolutionizing commercial spaces?

Internet of Things

Augmented reality

What is smart building architecture?

How do smart office buildings help modern knowledge workers succeed?

How smart buildings reduce operating expenses and unlock revenue opportunities

What are some examples of smart building technology?

“Smart building” is a broad term that can encompass anything from basic internet-connected devices to spaces designed from the ground up to be more intelligent. Before understanding how smart building works, you first need to grasp the technological building blocks that bring them to life:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT): Think of the IoT as an umbrella term for just about anything that connects to the internet. By working together, IoT devices can be used to remotely monitor and control the many devices that work side-by-side in a smart building.
  • Sensors: Technically part of the IoT ecosystem, sensors can tell administrators a lot about a building. It’s a good way to keep track of occupancy, maintenance needs, climate controls, and so much more. (Unlike other smart building platforms, Vera by Resonai does not require external sensors or hardware. Request a demo to learn more!)
  • Indoor navigation & digital mapping:  Smart buildings can make use of digital mapping, a 1:1 digital duplicate of a physical building space. This enables indoor navigation features such as helping new hires to find their workspaces and directing guests to meeting rooms.
  • Digital twins: Digital twins are 3D digital renderings of physical buildings that allow managers to visualize and plan remotely. Digital twin technology and features vary by company, but the most effective digital twins are highly accurate live simulations that are always “learning” and updating to give a real-time picture of the building in its current state.
  • Augmented reality: The IoT goes hand-in-hand with augmented reality when it comes to smart building concepts. Typically accompanying a smartphone app, AR has a number of practical uses; guiding occupants to desks or meeting rooms, training new hires, or highlighting special deals in a retail environment are just a few.
  • Control center: Having internet-connected sensors throughout your building isn’t helpful if you can’t easily keep track of the data they collect. An efficient smart building can be run from a single platform in which incoming data is viewed and managed from a universal app.

To learn more, check out Smart Building Technology: The Definitive Guide.

How are IoT and AR revolutionizing commercial spaces?

While it’s important to note that smart buildings offer plenty of quality-of-life improvements for occupants and workers, there are more reasons to create one than just simple conveniences. When designed properly, smart commercial spaces can actually save time and money by helping managers and owners reduce inefficiencies and optimize energy usage.

Internet of Things

The backbone of any smart building is the Internet of Things, which connects all of the individual smart devices used to control a building’s functions (think sensors, lighting systems, and A/V equipment). You’re likely aware of how IoT devices function in a home setting — if you’ve used a voice-activated speaker, internet-connected appliance, or app-controlled security camera, then you already have an idea of how this works. Smart commercial spaces expand upon this concept, allowing building managers to control lighting, energy usage, fire systems, alarms, more.

Augmented Reality

One of the most popular uses for commercial smart building AR is wayfinding. This provides GPS-like directions that help maintenance teams, visitors, and employees navigate these often overwhelmingly large spaces.

Here are just a few practical uses for AR wayfinding:

  • Maintenance: Wayfinding helps maintenance crews find the right equipment and make repairs faster, limiting downtime.
  • Scheduling: Not only can augmented reality guide tenants to meeting rooms, but it can be integrated with scheduling systems to find available rooms and workspaces, the latter of which is particularly important in the post-pandemic era of hotdesking.
  • Guided tours: Museums and similar buildings can direct guests on the path that lets them get the most out of their visits.

The examples of IoT and AR usage in smart buildings are just the tip of the iceberg. Technology is constantly evolving, and the full scope of how this technology will revolutionize industries hasn’t even been uncovered yet.

Want to know more about all things IoT and AR? Check out Smart Buildings 101: How IoT and AR are Revolutionizing Commercial Space.

What is smart building architecture?

If you work in, manage, or own an older building, it’s entirely possible to retrofit the structure with modern technology and turn it into a technological marvel. Going forward, however, more building planners and architects are creating smart buildings from the ground up and investing in property technology right from the start.

The planning for and facilitating of complex tech systems that make up a smart building is known as smart building architecture. This term usually refers to the design stage of a structure, with architects conceptualizing smart features before a single brick is laid. By incorporating the Internet of Things, analytics software, and an intuitive user interface at the conception stage, owners, managers, and smart building vendors can scale smart features and add more easily.

Here are some of the things architects consider to maximize the benefits of smart buildings:

  • Energy usage: Cutting down on energy costs and consumption is a key feature of most smart buildings, so architects plan to keep lights, computers, and appliances running in the most energy-efficient way.
  • Health and safety: Air quality sensors, emergency notification systems, AI threat detection — these are just a few ways modern architects are considering occupants’ well-being when designing a smart building.
  • Cybersecurity: With so many internet-connected devices keeping things running, cybersecurity is more important than ever. Smart building architects need ways to keep data safe.
  • Connectivity: Absolutely none of this works without high-speed, reliable internet connectivity, so that needs to be core to a smart building’s architectural design.

Commercial real estate developers, take note: The future of smart buildings is already here. By incorporating smart building architecture into your commercial building designs, you’ll be able to lower operational expenses in the long run, all while keeping employees and occupants safe and happy.

For more information about smart building architecture, read the full article: What is Smart Building Architecture?

How do smart office buildings help modern knowledge workers succeed?

Speaking of architects, they join engineers, accountants, lawyers, editors, and more in a category of professionals known as “knowledge workers.” For knowledge workers, their main capital is — you guessed it — knowledge, and these types of employees highly value autonomy and innovation. Because of this, knowledge workers thrive in smart building environments, since these values are part of the architecture by definition.

So how do smart office buildings provide much-needed autonomy for knowledge workers? These buildings encourage self-guidance and intuitive assistance that allows employees to thrive without constant check-ins and micromanagement from superiors. Basically, this kind of autonomy lets knowledge workers manage their own schedules, priorities, and even seating arrangements and meetings. This also minimizes day-to-day distractions that interrupt the workflow; just imagine never having to schedule meetings manually again!

Smart building solutions also prioritize employee health and wellness, providing knowledge workers with a safe environment and the peace of mind to get the job done. These features aren’t just nice to have; they can actually improve productivity by 37%. With knowledge workers being one of the driving forces behind The Great Resignation, managers can’t afford to continue to treat employee wellness as an afterthought.

Want to learn more? Read the full post: How Smart Office Buildings Help Modern Knowledge Workers Succeed.

These smart building concepts might sound straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie, but the truth is, they’re already working. There are plenty of smart building use cases from which to draw inspiration, like Amsterdam’s The Edge, also known as “the smartest building in the world.” If you’re not already considering smart building solutions, you may be falling behind.

Not sure where to start? No problem! Resonai provides new Digital Infrastructure via our smart building platform Vera — without external hardware or sensors. Get in touch to learn more and set up a free demo!

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