Smart Buildings

What are they & how do they work?

According to recent reports by Grand View Research, the global smart building market size is expected to reach $570.02 Billion by 2030, registering a compound annual growth rate of 26.8% between 2023 and 2030. This represents a seismic shift in demand for smart commercial buildings that’s generally driven by urbanisation, technological advancements, government initiatives and growing awareness of the plethora of benefits like energy savings, operational efficiency, and enhanced occupant productivity.

The UK’s Smart Buildings Show reported a 40% increase in attendees year-on-year last year which, as Events Director Ian Garmeson says “reflects the exceptionally high levels of interest in the industry”.

Earlier this year, Shared Access became proud members Smart Building Collective to help drive best in class seamless mobile connectivity, enabling people to stay connected in some of the world’s smartest buildings.

The definition of smart buildings

The term “smart buildings” primarily refers to the connected technologies and systems that are integrated within a commercial structure, rather than the physical structure itself. These technologies enable the building to intelligently manage various processes, such as mobile connectivity and Wi-Fi systems, to the lighting, heating and security protocols.

While the building’s structure provides the framework, it’s the advanced technology and automation systems that define a building as “smart” per se. They transform a traditionally one dimensional commercial structure into a living and breathing network of technologies.

 

Reasons why businesses invest in smart buildings

Here at Shared Access, we typically see three main reasons why UK commercial businesses invest in smart building technology – cost savings, occupant productivity and building management and maintenance efficiency. 

Reasons why businesses invest in smart buildings

Here at Shared Access, we typically see three main reasons why UK commercial businesses invest in smart building technology – cost savings, occupant productivity and building management and maintenance efficiency. 

Historical development of smart buildings in the UK

The evolution of smart buildings in the UK has been a journey of technological integration and innovative design. It began with the incorporation of basic automation systems in the mid-to-late 20th century, primarily for managing heating and lighting. And as technology continued to advance, these systems became more sophisticated, integrating sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities.

Here’s a timeline of key developments:

Swipe right to view our milestones →

1960’s

The first Building Management Systems (BMS) were developed in the UK, allowing for centralised control of building functions such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).

1980’s

The use of BMS in commercial buildings begins to grow rapidly, as businesses recognize the potential for energy savings and improved operational efficiency.

1990’s

The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) begins to revolutionise the smart building market, enabling new and innovative applications such as real-time data monitoring and remote control of building systems.

2000’s

The UK government launches a number of initiatives to promote the development and adoption of smart buildings, such as the Smart Cities Challenge and the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

2010’s

Smart building technology becomes more affordable and accessible, leading to widespread adoption in both commercial and residential buildings. The UK Government Property Strategy outlined their plan to reduce direct emissions from public sector buildings by at least 50% by 2032.

2020’s

Smart buildings are now becoming increasingly sophisticated, with the integration of new technologies such as mobile connectivity on the London Underground, artificial intelligence and big data analytics.

Examples of smart buildings in the UK

A significant milestone was the development of The Edge in London, one of the world’s most sustainable buildings, showcasing advanced energy efficiency and occupant-focused technologies.

Another major step in improving the capital’s mobile connectivity was made with the work on 4G and 5G-ready mobile connectivity across the London Underground with all stations and tunnels across the Tube network due to have high-quality and uninterrupted mobile coverage by the end of 2024.

Retrofitting the iconic BT Tower with smart technology dubbed “the world’s highest Internet of Things base station” also set a precedent for transforming existing structures into intelligent buildings. These developments reflect the UK’s commitment to sustainable, efficient and technologically advanced infrastructure, positioning it as a leader in the global smart building sector.

Core technologies powering smart buildings

Together, the following technologies transform buildings into dynamic entities that become interactive, adapting to the occupants’ preferences and continuously evolve to improve efficiency and comfort. The integration of mobile connectivity, in particular, has been a pivotal foundation in advancing the smart capabilities of modern buildings, making them more accessible and user-friendly.

Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS)

DAS systems work by receiving signals from a nearby mobile tower and then amplifying and distributing them throughout the building. This allows users to have strong and reliable 4G / 5G service even in areas where the signal would otherwise be weak or nonexistent.

Mobile connectivity

The advent of mobile connectivity has been a game-changer in making buildings smart. It enables seamless communication between various building systems and users’ mobile devices. Through this connectivity, occupants can remotely control aspects like lighting, temperature, and security systems, enhancing convenience and operational efficiency.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT technology connects a myriad of devices and systems within a building, from HVAC units to security cameras. This interconnected network facilitates real-time data exchange and control, allowing for more responsive and adaptable building management.

Sensors & data collection

Sensors are crucial in gathering data about a building’s environment and occupancy. They track variables such as movement, temperature, and air quality. This continuous stream of data is vital for optimising building operations and enhancing occupant comfort.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI’s role is to interpret the vast amounts of data collected by sensors and IoT devices. It uses this information to make predictive adjustments in building systems, optimising energy use and operational efficiency. AI algorithms can learn patterns and preferences, further personalising the building’s response to its occupants’ needs.

How smart building technologies work in harmony

Now we know the isolated core technologies that are involved in smart buildings, how do they work together to form an operational system that’s smart enough to drive the benefits?

How smart building technologies work in harmony

Now we know the isolated core technologies that are involved in smart buildings, how do they work together to form an operational system that’s smart enough to drive the benefits?

Future smart building trends (2024)

The following developments will significantly impact urban development and lifestyle in the UK. Cities will become more connected making them efficient, sustainable and responsive to the needs of their occupants, driving a new era of urban living that is more attuned to both environmental and personal wellbeing within the hybrid-workplace.

Future smart building trends (2024)

The following developments will significantly impact urban development and lifestyle in the UK. Cities will become more connected making them efficient, sustainable and responsive to the needs of their occupants, driving a new era of urban living that is more attuned to both environmental and personal wellbeing within the hybrid-workplace.

Conclusion

In this comprehensive guide to smart buildings, we hope you’ve learned all about the UK’s evolving smart building sector, which is set to significantly grow by 2030 due to demand and investment. We’ve also discussed the integration of advanced technologies like IoT and mobile connectivity and their benefits in cost savings, productivity and maintenance efficiency, predicting future trends and impacts on urban development.

For more information on how you can boost mobile connectivity and start to make your building smarter, visit our main site.