Drees & Sommer UK Webinar: What makes a smart building "smart"?

Real Estate today is saturated with terms like ‘Proptech’ and ‘Smart Buildings’ but they are often used without a genuine understanding of their true meaning. On 19th May 2020, Drees & Sommer UK drew on its global pool of talent for a webinar attended by dozens of industry professionals from the UK and abroad to explore the question, ‘what makes a smart building truly smart?’ Phillip Ratcliffe, Managing Director, Drees & Sommer UK, moderated the session which saw enthusiastic participation in online polls conducted during the discussions. 

Klaus Dederichs, Head of ICT at Drees & Sommer, argued that “the tipping point for intelligent buildings has already been reached”.

He said: “Data analytics is very important. If you don’t collect data, you can’t work with it.”

He also highlighted The Edge, in Amsterdam, which is equipped with 30,000 sensors to continuously measure occupancy, movement, lighting levels, humidity and temperature, allowing the building to automatically adjust energy use.

Norman Meyer, Head of Digital Services, introduced Drees & Sommer’s new data aggregator Mosaix. He said: “Mosaix, can provide users with complete transparency across a building’s entire lifecycle — from construction through to decommissioning, recycling or repurposing”. By bringing data and different steams together, we can claim ‘together we know’, he added.

But ultimately, Customised Smart Buildings need to be designed and built with the end-users’ needs in mind, argued Salla Lardot, Head of User Experience and Workplace Consulting in Drees & Sommer Netherlands. She said: “Every user community is different so there’s no one solution, so designers can only provide a multitude of solutions and choice from people to choose from. “But the most important thing that a Customised Smart Building can do is make the user’s day frictionless.”

Marco Abdallah, Head of Engineering at Drees & Sommer UK, explained how Smart Building approaches contribute to achieving Zero Carbon targets, and added that “a building is only ‘Smart’, if it is also sustainable”.

He said: “The majority of buildings are designed for worst-case scenarios. Ventilation is a great example as they are based on maximum or full user occupancy. But the office on Monday morning will look very different to the office on Tuesday afternoon in terms of the number of users occupying it.”

Marco went on to explain that heat sensors connected to a central artificial intelligence (AI) ‘brain’ are able to detect how many occupants are in a room at any one time and allocate air accordingly.

An AI ‘brain’, like the one used at cube berlin, can control heating, cooling and ventilation automatically in order to save energy. The AI brain constantly monitors and learns from user behaviour, so it is always improving. “Customised Smart Buildings can also manage occupant density to control disease spread,” Marco said. “If the number of users gets too high in one room, they will get a push notification telling them to go for to a different, less busy room.”