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The Evolution of Intelligent Buildings

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The Evolution of Intelligent Buildings 1Climate change is of growing global concern with connectivity to rapid urban spatial expansions and worldwide population growth. Governments and policy makers endeavor to mitigate actual climate change, as well as seeking methods of attenuating future environmental impacts emanating from the built environment. With this globally polemic issue in mind, the interchangeably used concepts of smart and intelligent cities have endorsed future development of highly responsive, integrated, resilient, and adaptive urban environments with highly efficient energy utilization. These efforts are expected to moderate environmental threats, enhance quality of life and digitalize the essence of urban systems. Proliferating such urban environments towards adapting to climate change requires being inherently bound with green infrastructures. But future built environments should go beyond the scope of more ‘green objectives’. Application of innovative technologies and design should embrace potentials to sense and actuate both the environment and people. Implementation of these new smart technologies will raise in turn issues of governance, economic infrastructures, mobility, and well-being of citizens. This performance-optimizing approach will undeniably encompass the urban resilience adaptation concepts to foster environmentally benign and climate-friendly developments as part of the future planning for smart cities.

Recent studies reveal a rapidly growing interest in the development of intelligent buildings (IBs) as a key element of ensuring sustainable urban future. IBs are anticipated to play a fundamental role in establishing the physical form and sustainability of future cities. Initial targets set for IBs have gradually gone beyond the scope of environmental sustainability. Their embedded smart technologies, as a key basis of IBs, have evolved towards a strong incorporation of human, collective, and artificial intelligence. This integration of technologies is expected to hugely improve inhabitants’ quality of life once fully established with green building design protocols.

IBs historically attempted to automate the provision of occupant daily requirements and thus enhance comfort. With the advancement of worldwide schemas to achieve sustainable urban futures, smart concerns have become even more intertwined with the philosophy of green buildings. A critical concern in defining future IBs and their widespread uptake are energy–saving smart features as well as other beneficial elements promoting environmental sustainability. This is well represented in the conceptualization of knowledge-based building management systems used in IBs. As these aspects become increasingly operationalized through design, Building Information Modeling (BIM) has gained significant popularity among diverse construction industry stakeholders. BIM’s ‘smart fundamentals’ significantly enhance the possibility of including green principles in modeling of IBs. Besides, consideration of energy performance modeling and optimization is a key research topic in contemporary sustainable developments with view to advancements of building automation.

Buildings are also responsible for a significant portion of global energy consumption and Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. In this line, continuous usage of fossil fuels has resulted in environmental threats as a result of climate change, global warming and massive pollutions. These concerns are well reflected in the development of the so-called IBs to endorse sustainable built environments.

The Evolution of Intelligent Buildings 2 copyIBs are evolving to become embedded in the natural routine of life.  They are presented initially to the market as highly automated living environments through the deployment of sophisticated technologies. However, their future direction is expected to focus beyond environmental performance. The focus of built environment professionals is now shifting towards integrated design concepts. These encompass new insights to the issue of human value, social well-being, benefits and productivity. The following model graphically demonstrates the significance of integrated design for IBs once fully established with building monitoring and measurement phases. Considering building automation and human values, the model demonstrates IBs as a promising target embracing the green building concept. It also highlights IBs as key constituents of urban resilience adaptation approaches with coherent viewpoints to the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability.

A range of challenges exist to the widespread proliferation of IBs. Costs can be perceived to be substantial prior to the in service benefits and savings anticipated by the technologies being introduced. Thus new financing mechanisms need to be considered to offset high initial costs associated with integrating emerging smart technologies and green design principles into IBs. Public awareness needs to be raised of the benefits associated with IBs. Public awareness of IB benefits in turn changes the acceptability of additional costs, as well as preparing clients for the difficult decisions that need to be made.  Therefore, if the expansion of IBs in the ‘mainstream’ of new building construction is desired, governments are recommended to provide incentive schemes to leverage more IB project initiations in future urban areas. Other interesting technical barriers to the widespread use of IBs include the probable risks associated with the integration of unverified emerging technologies, as well as insufficient technical potentials and capacity to apply and implement the intelligent technologies.

Development of IBs incorporates strategic planning and production processes. Design of IBs must be both process and outcome oriented however, sound delivery of its outcomes is challenging. IBs must be resilient, adaptive, economically productive, enterprising and livable besides fostering environmental responsibilities. This strategic process requires vision, leadership, collaborative governance and an effective monitoring technique. Thus, development of IBs must follow an approach thoroughly connecting initial intentions to final outcomes. This involves reframing and understanding the interrelationship of people, place and changes in an evolutionary method directed towards creating safer, healthier, distinctive and sustainable environments. The challenge is to reconceive the planning, designing and development process with particular attention to novel solutions for communication and coordination. This is to ensure accurate transformation of IBs’ design objectives to tangible outcomes.
Concerning the discussed aspirations, built environment professionals confront challenges on how to become more responsible for IBs and the value of their outcomes. Any search for such ‘new professionalism’ must therefore span all the built environment and design professions, as they have interconnected and collective responsibilities. Professionals, it would seem, are being asked to confront the consequences of their actions, learn from them and share results. They are being asked to construct new roles in proactive market shaping, assessing future needs, demands and risks, at all appropriate levels of scale, taking longer-term responsibilities for learning through the realization of IBs’ objectives in use.

The interdisciplinary essence of IBs is essential to its continued success.  Consequently, it is important to widen the network of key stakeholders in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry to support the development practical implementation, coherent collaboration among all AEC team members is vital to achieve these goals. Likewise, bridging the gaps between IBs theory and practice is another area of interest to moving us beyond sustainable built environments to achieve fully sustainable urban futures this requires new initiatives to link industry and academia, smart thinking for smart cities.

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