Smart buildings

Whilst cities’ infrastructures are massively reshaped by the
fourth industrial revolution, buildings themselves are going
through a dramatic evolution, giving rise to a new generation of buildings called smart buildings.
Despite the instrumental role played by buildings in
smart urban environments, there is no standard definition
yet of what a smart building is. None of the numerous
articles published on smart buildings provides a definition
widely adopted by the academic community and industry
alike. Baum (2017) identifies over a dozen different definitions of smart building which are customarily created by
smart building system vendors to suit their own requirements. To add to the confusion, a lot of terms are used
concomitantly, for example, intelligent building, sentient
building, smart building among others (Ghaffarianhoseini
et al., 2016). As pointed out by Clements-Croome (2013),
the world of intelligent buildings and smart cities has a
‘‘wide vocabulary.’’
The concept of intelligent building has been around
since the 1980s. Initially, researchers defined intelligence in a building by its ability to have total control
over its environment. Wong et al. (2005) highlight that
the early definition of intelligent buildings supposed as
little human interaction with the building as possible.
The academic view is that smart systems are a subdivision of intelligent buildings since smart buildings are
developed upon intelligent building concepts (e.g.
Clements-Croome, 2013). However, smart buildings display radically distinctive traits.
Most importantly, adaptability separates smart buildings
from previous generations of buildings. As explained by
Buckman et al. (2014), smart buildings adapt to events by
utilising ‘‘information gathered internally and externally
from a range of sources to prepare [ … ] for a particular
event.’’ As a result, a smart building is ‘‘able to adapt its
operation and physical form for these events.’’ In a nutshell, a smart building is adaptive, whereas an intelligent
building is reactive.
Adaptability is also associated with the concept of
future-proofing, that is, smart buildings have built-in flexibility, sometimes called elasticity (RICS, 2017a). Embodied intelligence ultimately allows a biotechnological
approach to building performance (as opposed to an industrial one), conferring to buildings ‘‘a range of properties
that are traditionally associated with life’’ (Amstrong,
2016). A smart building should ‘‘learn from its inhabitants,
adapt to their life cycle and initiate decisions about changing states of engineering itself’’ (Volkov and Batov, 2015).
Bidirectional consciousness brings a new dimension of
intelligence to buildings. Some researchers even wonder
whether buildings are on their way to becoming ‘‘conscious’’ akin to living organisms (Warwick, 2013).
Consciousness between buildings and their occupants
encapsulates the unique nexus between physical and digital
in smart environments.
Smart buildings’ integrated adaptability is assessed both
short term (e.g. ability to change the number of people in a
room) and long term (e.g. adaptation to change in use).
Buckman et al. (2014) explain that long-term adaptability
will primarily depend on the materials and physical design
of the building. Scott Turner (2016) predicts that ‘‘buildings must now no longer be static structures and machines,
but dynamic, capable of re-building themselves to meet
unpredictable and shifting demands.’’ Materials and construction should allow for change in use and climate so that
future-proofed smart buildings will materialize as ‘‘flexible, loose-fit shells with easy access to rewire and retrofit’’
as new technologies become available (Charles Russell
Speechlys, 2016).
Buckman et al. (2014) identify five pillars underpinning
smart buildings’ adaptability: intelligence, enterprise,
materials, design, and control. Those pillars subsume integrated enterprise systems that are unique to smart buildings: ‘‘Enterprise is any method through which building use
information is collected.’’ Enterprise systems consist of
both hardware and software. As a by-product of enterprise,
buildings are increasingly evolving into repositories of data
sourced from building management systems. Thus, in smart
cities, buildings are turning into computing devices

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