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Smart Buildings

The Analyst

I just read a piece in Urban Land Magazinetitled “ULX: Smart Buildings.” Smart in the UK typically means fashionable and expensive.  In the US, it’s clever or intelligent. It would be great if a building met both definitions. 

Smartness is hard to avoid these days. Smart appliances. Smart cities. Smart vehicles. Smart streets. Then there’s street smarts. I first heard that term, smart building, over 35 years ago. A real estate wag I knew said then, “I know what a smart building is. It’s one that’s fully leased.”

So far, a smart building is one that does things we ordinarily should do and do them better in many ways. It’s all about electronics, sensing and data. Some buildings are more susceptible to seismic activity and some can cause health problems. Will smart buildings sense such problems before they cause harm?  The list could get longer. And how smart should a smart building be?  It’s not yet one that thinks like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. “I’m sorry Mr. Bowman, but because your lease payment is a day overdue, I can’t allow you in.” 

Does any entity test these objects for smartness? How would it be scored? Like an SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) US high school seniors take for university and college admission and scholarships? SAT scores range from 200 to 800 for analytic writing and for math to total 1600. 1500 puts one in the 98th to 99th percentile (top 1 to 2 percent) and will get a student into an elite University.  The 50th percentile is a total score of 1030. With that and good extra-curricular activity, a student could be admitted to an institution that delivered a good education. 

When I was an undergraduate some time ago, I took a special course from a highly regarded physics professor about using electronics and sensing to design smart vehicles to minimize accidents and congestion.  It’s not quite two generations since then.  I also talked with an agricultural economist at the university to learn how long it took for a new, more productive and hardy seed to be able to make it to market. Two generations.  

Vitruvius proposed three categories: utilitasfirmitasand venustas. Using the same scoring an average building might get a total of 1590. If it were a smart building, it might get a higher score. Can current approaches to due diligence evaluate smartness?  What should be on the check list?  

The Analyst

About Gordon Brown

M. Gordon Brown, DTech is Principal of Space Analytics, LLC which he founded 30 years ago. He taught, and was a professor of, architecture at IIT, Arizona State University and the University of Colorado. He was later Head of the Real Estate Management and Development Group at Eindhoven University of Technology. He's the author of many scientific, professional and critical articles and essays and of Access, Property and American Urban Space published by Routledge in 2016.

Articles by Gordon Brown

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