What is a Smart Building?

A Smart Building is defined in many ways depending on the internet source, vendor offering or conversation at hand. However, the intelligence of a building primarily depends on the operators’ and tenants’ perspectives and goals and the technology available to meet them.
All Smart Buildings share one common element: a communications infrastructure. This infrastructure includes internet connectivity and in‐building cellular coverage that may be wired, wireless, or both. To be considered a Smart Building, there must be a way for devices and people to communicate inside and outside the building.

Tenant Perspective

Most buildings provide tenants internet connectivity, cellular coverage and easy access to after‐hours HVAC. Among other services, Smart Buildings offer on‐demand temperature adjustment, automatic lighting activation, and even market coupons to consumers’ smart phones when they enter a retail store and more. It is important to know that not all tenants prioritize Smart Building characteristics in the same manner.
Retail tenants look for smart building technologies like Wi‐Fi, foot traffic and shopper analytics, while Retail shoppers look for Wi‐Fi, smart parking, real time coupons, wayfinding and interactive displays as examples. Residential tenants (multi‐family) look for smart thermostats and appliances, package delivery notification, parking access control, smart door locks and entry monitoring from their phone.
Commercial Office tenants seek smart technology that allows them to finish tasks sooner and more effectively than before. For example, tenants may have the ability to gain access to their workspace through the identification of their smartphone. Additionally, Smart Buildings will recognize when a tenant is occupying the space via parking gate entry or Wi‐Fi sign‐on and adjust the environment based on pre‐selected criteria such as turning on lights or unlocking doors.
Moreover, tenants of all types are more aware of sustainability and will want to live and work in spaces and properties that leave a smaller environmental foot print. Many companies are starting to require the buildings they occupy to meet a sustainability standard like GRESB. As this demand grows, becoming a certified sustainable building will soon be a conventional tenant requirement.

Building Operators’ Point of View

Building operators define a Smart Building using different and overlapping characteristics as the building tenants. Building Operators need automated controls for HVAC, lighting, parking automation, access control and more. Operators are required to consider both the needs of the building and the desires of the tenants.
Building operators competing for tenants look to provide convenience and value to tenants as well as value‐added services that can generate additional revenue. Tenants may not directly ask for real time smart metering but it is an added perk that benefits both the operator and the tenant.
Communications infrastructure is key to the building operator as well as the tenant. Building engineers need to monitor and control all aspects of the building, whether they are on or off site. Data sent from

the buildings to a cloud based or Internet of Things (IoT) system allow for monitoring and continually analyze the building’s health and tenants’ safety. Building vendors can receive alerts from their own equipment and directly access it to support and effectively manage issues. Buildings lacking a communication infrastructure may not be able to accommodate smart technologies, thus reinforcing its importance.


As a tenant or building operator, spend some time identifying what Smart features and functions meet your building’s needs today. Update this list regularly and communicate it throughout the company and to your vendors, making small changes here and there working towards defined goals. This simple task will in turn help translate the building’s intelligence to current and potential stakeholders.

This article is written by Julius Caten at RealFoundations.

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