It seems that everything is ‘smart’ these days. We wear smartwatches to monitor our exercise levels, we watch our favourite shows on a smart TV and we do almost everything on our smartphone. But what do we mean when we talk about smart buildings?

It’s a question without a simple answer, says Joe Walsh, General Manager at Siemens Limited. Technology in buildings is continuously evolving and innovating and the pace of that innovation has ramped up in recent years. Advancements like IoT, digital twins, smart centres and energy efficient products are all terms associated with smart buildings, but they can have different meanings for different building types. “It’s difficult to define what a smart building is, as they differ quite dramatically depending on the application. In a general sense, a smart building uses the most recent technology to ensure a building is fit for purpose throughout its lifecycle. That technology will depend on the type of building it is and what it’s being used for.” 

Building owners in Ireland are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing products and systems that help make a building truly smart. The Smart Buildings team at EY provide solutions that allow owners and operators better understand occupant needs and behaviours, with the goal of enhancing wellbeing and productivity while saving operational costs and increasing building efficiency. EU initiatives to smarten up our buildings are also transforming our built environment; Cork’s participation in GrowSmarter, an EU initiative to transform cities across Europe, is making the city smarter and more sustainable. 

Siemens is at the forefront of this kind of technology across the globe, providing systems that create safe, secure and efficient buildings. Whether it’s fire safety, digital services, security, building or energy automation, Siemens has the capability to create bespoke systems that address the customer’s every requirement. Those requirements are diverse and so the solutions that Siemens provides are similarly broad-ranging. “We encourage our customers to view our portfolio like an à la carte menu and to pick and choose the solutions that best suit them. To give an example, we provide a range of extensive smart lighting systems, including our Enlighted IoT solution which adds to our core portfolio with intelligent lighting sensors. These systems save energy, but also collect data to give the user lots of information about the building – the number of people within it and where exactly those people are in the building at any given time. So, a customer can opt for some features while discarding others.” 

The recent acquisition of EcoDomus’ digital twin software will, says Joe, advance the company’s smart building offering. Ecodomus software creates, maintains and visualises Building Information Modelling (BIM)-based digital building twins, making design and construction data available for building operations and maintenance. Cloud services from Siemens allows an owner or operator to interact with the building systems remotely. “Ten years ago, I would send somebody to a building to fix a fault. Maybe he’d arrive without the right spare part. Today, he can investigate the fault within that building from his house or from his office and if the issue can’t be resolved remotely, then at least he can arrive at the building with the spare part he needs. With cloud services from Siemens, we’re moving away from reactive maintenance to predictive maintenance.” 

Cybersecurity is something businesses can’t afford to neglect, particularly in a post-Covid environment where remote working and digital technology play such a major role. It’s a service that Siemens also provides. “To limit the threat to security, smart building technologies have to address both physical and cybersecurity risks. It’s essential that digital networks are safeguarded with firewalls and data encryption. We offer cybersecurity systems through our consultancy service, along with an energy consulting service, primarily for commercial businesses.” Energy consulting involves carrying out an energy audit of a building and specifying products that will, for example, turn on and off by themselves depending on occupancy. “We also supply products that can break down the energy of a building per floor, allowing for collection of data. That information can then be used to take the energy efficiency of that building to the next level. Quite often, it’s marginal changes that really make a difference to the long-term sustainability of a building. As I mentioned, we really do offer an à la carte menu to customers; our job is to figure out what best suits their application.” 

Buildings aren’t smart if they’re not sustainable, but sustainability must be factored in from the planning stage, says Joe. “We provide transparency and control over energy and sustainability, with improved performance predictability and demonstrable results, so it’s easy to attain the necessary improvement to meet sustainability targets.” 

Siemens’ ability to innovate is, says Joe, in the company’s DNA. Developing innovative products that make a building ‘smart’ for customers, who are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to sustainability, is where the company excels. “Smart buildings provide customers with a fantastic opportunity, but I think it’s important to remember that they’re complicated. If you really want to be smart about it, you’ve got to ask yourself some key questions. What am I trying to achieve? Who’s going to help me on that journey? Once you start asking yourself those questions, you’re a step closer to realising your ambition of running a building that’s truly smart.”

This article was taken from Innovation Ireland Review. Innovation Ireland Review is produced by IDA Ireland & Ashville Media. Link to full magazine: