What is a “smart building”?
Tahar Messadi, assistant professor of architecture in the School of Architecture, replies:
Smart buildings accomplish tasks for us, improve energy efficiency and enhance comfort and security. Thanks to the computing revolution and the reduced cost of microchips, we can now delegate tasks to a third party incorporated into the building — a smart system consisting of ubiquitous wireless sensors that communicate with a central management and control system.
For example, growing concern for occupant comfort and lower energy costs has led to a new curtain wall design. Dynamic, double-skin walls that induce air movement between the layers of glass are replacing static, sealed envelopes. These intelligent envelopes are designed to react to outside conditions, regulating solar heat, light, ventilation and humidity to achieve maximum comfort for the building’s occupants at the lowest energy cost. Indoors, sensors, which include those for occupant detection or daylight measurement, help to lower or turn off electric lights and monitor heating or air conditioning. Intelligent buildings may someday save lives in catastrophic situations. For instance, a tornado sensor or signal from the National Weather Service could be connected with the intelligent system for such facilities. In the event of a tornado, the building could shut off gas lines and other hazardous amenities, shut down computers and notify and direct occupants to safe shelter.
As opposed to the normative building, being inert and lifeless, intelligence is viewed as the hallmark of the future structures, a regulating nerve center put to the service of human needs. Although intelligent buildings have yet to reach their zenith, they clearly signal the fading of an era, that of “dumb buildings.”