Vanti are one of the UK’s leading proponents of Smart building, so we often talk to people about the huge benefits integrated technology can bring to organisations and individuals. To us, it seems obvious: Smart buildings use tech to create more efficient and effective environments that improve productivity, wellbeing, and profitability.
On the opposite end of the scale are what we refer to as ‘Dumb’ buildings – spaces that rely on passive antiquated systems working in isolation that provide no benefit beyond their sole function. As advancements in technology and the increasing prevalence of the Internet of Things are key to Smart building, the majority of the world’s residential, office, commercial, and retail spaces are still very much Dumb.
As Master Systems Integrators, we are responsible for taking spaces and making them Smart – whether that’s by retrofitting technology into previously Dumb buildings, or by designing and implementing integrated systems into new builds. Part of this process involves educating stakeholders about Smart vs Dumb, putting into context the positive impact of our way of working. The main challenge we face is that Smart is so unfamiliar to many, and with the benefits of integrated systems impacting across so many areas, it can be hard to provide a concise yet clear picture of how it improves things like teams, data, systems, and overall user experience.
We thought it would be beneficial to lay down the difference between Smart and Dumb to demonstrate just how much of an impact integrated technology can have…
One of the main benefits of Smart is its ability to positively impact on the way people work, both independently and in teams. We believe that Smart buildings will revolutionise work and home lives, providing environments that contribute to the experience of those who use the spaces rather than simply acting as passive shells. Technology is already fuelling a huge shift towards flexible and remote working, making people more motivated, productive, and happier than employees of companies who occupy Dumb buildings.
|Lack of flexibility for workers
|More support for activity-based, collaborative, and remote working
|Small talent pool
|Hire from anywhere in the world by offering remote jobs
|A lack of collaboration
|Cloud-based collaborative tools supported by in-room hardware
|Unproductive working environments not designed around the needs of the user
|User stories allow better understanding of requirements to create great experiences for everyone
|Responding to/being frustrated by the building
|Building becomes a provider of useful, timely and passively-delivered information
|Inflexible temperature and lighting
|More control over comfort with a focus on the well-being of occupants
The potential for Smart buildings to provide data that can be used to optimise processes and workplaces is huge, with integrated systems logging their own data and feeding this to a central analytics system. This data can then be leveraged to make better decisions regarding the usage, management, and maintenance of a building, constantly improving processes in order to provide better user experience and help all stakeholders achieve their business goals. On the other hand, Dumb buildings provide very little in the way of useful or actionable data – the space is unable to self-optimise or offer any insight into its usage.
|Very basic – energy usage monitoring at best
|Multiple streams of data available for each system
|Poor understanding of energy cost impact
|Real-time energy reporting and baseload analysis
|Manual surveys of how space is used
|Intelligent systems monitor space usage
|Useless, wasted data
|Data can create new revenue streams
|No logging of data
|Historical data stored and available to review
|Hard to understand data
|Visualisations that help people easily interpret the data at a glance
Smart has changed the way a building’s systems connect with one another, with components such as HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), lighting, security and more interacting and working in harmony to make sure the building runs as efficiently as possible. As Master Systems Integrators, Vanti’s role is to examine how these systems can work together so we can architect the building’s technology around the needs of its users, whilst also considering factors like sustainability and potential future obsoletion of individual elements. Our Smart building systems are designed to co-operate, but are not co-dependent – unlike the hardwired systems of Dumb buildings, which are incredibly hard to upgrade or substitute (even if they become obsolete).
|Hard-wired and/or coded functionality
|Standards-based, open protocol based software and minimal proprietary hardware standards (including cabling). Wireless connectivity where feasible.
|Machine learning of how systems are utilised and how space gets used
|Constant monitoring and data collection
|Granular control through kiosks, touch screens and apps
|Proactive and predictive maintenance
|Always-on resources, high waste
|Intelligent systems only consume energy when they’re being used
It’s clear that compared to Dumb, Smart has a huge impact on human factors like productivity and well-being, whilst simultaneously improving a building’s efficiency and profitability. Although Smart buildings require a higher initial investment than their Dumb counterparts, the multiple payoffs of integrated systems mean the way we work is better for every stakeholder; workers, tenant companies, landlords, owners, and everyone involved in the build and maintenance process can all make substantial gains by thinking Smart.