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How Smart Buildings Bring Energy Efficiency to the Next Step

Real Estate is one of the largest factors contributing to energy consumption. In the UN’s latest Building and Construction Report, it was stated that the whole value chain of buildings is responsible for approximately 38% of the world’s total energy-related emissions. 

As housing is always needed, this problem won’t solve itself, especially with the increasing population and urbanization. More and more people are moving to cities, which is a challenge for the real estate industry. In particular, existing buildings have to be improved and retrofitted.

So-called “Smart Buildings” have the potential to increase the efficiency of real estate by using the Internet of Things, automation and artificial intelligence. But how much energy can you actually save and which technologies will help the most?

How Can Smart Buildings Improve Energy Efficiency?

Smart Buildings can improve energy efficiency by utilizing modern technologies such as smart HVAC systems, smart lighting, smart windows and supply of sustainable energy. This alone allows to save up to 50% of a building’s energy consumption.

What Are Smart Buildings?

Smart Buildings are buildings that use modern technologies, such as automation systems, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things in order to maximize efficiency in terms of operation costs, resource consumption and tenant wellbeing.

energy efficient smart building

Technologies That Boost a Building’s Energy Efficiency

These modern technologies, as described in the short definition previously, are the key for smart buildings and energy efficiency. Furthermore, the cooperation of them with each other and even with other buildings in a network can bring us one step closer to the future. 

The following technologies are selected because they potentially provide the greatest value for energy efficiency. There is a nearly infinite number of other solutions, especially because of the very active start-up scene, but we will focus on the ones that have shown success already.

Smart Lighting

Often we leave the lights on, even though there is no one left in a room, especially in offices or public buildings. Many places have already started to implement solutions such as LED lighting, but there is still a big untapped potential. Smart lighting uses sensors to measure for example the brightness, colour of light and also the number of people in a room.

By connecting them to a building management system (BMS), automation software can decide where to turn a light on or off, but also dim and change its colour to provide the perfect environment for its tenants and reduce energy consumption.

Smart HVAC

One of the most energy consuming devices in a building is the “Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning” or HVAC system. In office buildings, they make up to 40% of the total consumption. This is why it has to be a priority when considering to make real estate more efficient.

These intelligent systems will make use of different types of sensors to measure the climate in a room. They can then decide where and when to change settings for a good air quality, temperature and humidity. In addition, they will allow smart buildings to be energy efficient.

Smart Windows

Another step towards sustainable buildings is the use of smart windows. This technology can change how light or dark a window is and thus can decide how much light and also radiation will be let through. Smart Windows can save energy, by supporting HVAC systems to cool and heat a smart building.

Energy Supply

To even further advance a smart building’s energy efficiency, supplying your own electricity or heating/cooling can be very useful. Photovoltaic panels or solar water heaters can reduce the amount of energy demanded by the public network. Furthermore, heat pumps can also be used to extract thermal energy from the under-ground.

Solar panels and the sky

To What Extent Can Smart Buildings Improve Energy Efficiency?

Now that we know which technologies can provide energy efficiency, it is still the question to what extent. This is not easy to say, as it depends on the building, its location and the infrastructure.

According to a study by Jennifer King and Christopher Perry for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, there are some general savings that can be estimated. The following savings can be achieved by these technologies in comparison to their “normal” counterpart:

  • Smart HVAC
    • Variable frequency drive 15 – 50%
    • Smart thermostats 5 – 10%
  • Smart Lighting
    • Advanced lighting controls 45%
    • Web-based lighting management 20 – 30%
  • Smart Windows
    • Automated shading 21 – 38%
    • Switchable film 32 – 43%
    • Smart glass 20 – 30%


It is clear that smart buildings can bring energy efficiency to the next level by utilizing modern technologies. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning account for a large part of the energy consumption in buildings. With smart solutions that are able to detect patterns and behaviour of energy consumption in offices or multi-family housing, operating costs can be reduced and sustainability increased.

If you want to learn more about smart cities and sustainable real estate, feel free to take a look at our other blog articles.

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