“Smart buildings” is a term that has been bandied around everywhere over the past few years but what does it actually mean and how does it impact the built environment? We spoke to 3 companies active in the sector to find out the latest technologies available to improve productivity and comfort in smart buildings.

Nowadays, buildings are no longer just simple structures to live, work and play in. Today’s drive for greater productivity, connectivity, health and satisfaction is raising the bar for buildings to become smarter and to put the needs of its occupants first. They are increasingly defining the quality of life of the people that live and work within them.

Smart buildings, which incorporate the latest technologies to improve productivity and comfort while reducing maintenance and operational costs, are gaining popularity as developers and other stakeholders strive to ensure that the increased urbanisation caused by rapid population growth and economic development remains sustainable.

“With the advent of new technologies, the role buildings play is being redefined from a static environment to a more dynamic and interactive space that impacts the lifestyles, well-being and productivity of their occupants,” said Suraj Rethnam, Regional Sales Manager for Tridium Asia Pacific.

From integrated mechanical and electrical systems to building a digital twin and tapping on an advanced building information management (BIM) system for predictive maintenance, there are many technologies and innovation that developers can tap into and this has led to a very lucrative market.

According to Navigant Research, the smart building sector is estimated to generate USD 8.5bn in revenue in 2020 while Adarsh Krishnan, a senior analyst with ABI Research, estimated that revenue from commercial building automation in Asia Pacific will grow to over USD 5bn in 2022, with an expected CAGR of 4.7% from 2017 to 2022.

Frost & Sullivan estimated that the Southeast Asia Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.2% to 2020.

By 2025, Indonesia expects 20-25% of its buildings to have smart and green related features, driven by a combination of policy support, tax benefits, educational and awareness programs.

“In the present time, the Asia-Pacific GDP economy growth is driving the whole world GDP economy growth. As well described in the JLL City Momentum Index, although the most dynamic cities are spread throughout the world, more than half of the top 30 in the 2017 ranking are in Asia-Pacific.

With this constellation, the smart buildings segment is not left out. The smartness of the building is partially defined by its building automation and as you can see from the image below, the growth of the segment will allow the APAC's business to overcome the American continent by 2022,”said Nicolas Sautter, Head of Sauter Asia Pacific Competence Center 

Among the key smart building features to take note includes how “Green, Safe & Productive” the building and its assets are including their capabilities, uptime and coverage. Consideration should also be given to, among others, the wired and wireless data infrastructure, flexible heating, cooling and ventilation, indoor environment comfort, quality and control, power monitoring and control, fire detection & notification & disaster response, surveillance, intrusion monitoring and access controls.

“Building operators are faced with rising utility costs that will likely increase in the years ahead – particularly as government authorities look to reduce water and electricity tariff subsidies. Powerful new enterprise solutions now help create intelligent buildings that bring many advantages. These include lower costs and improved ROI over the building’s life span, optimized performance and functionality, automated monitoring and control, greater occupant comfort, and additional safety and security,” Suraj added.

But one should not confuse smart buildings with green buildings. There are overlapping features, but both concepts differ. Smart buildings focus on improving the experience and comfort of a building’s occupants, using live data collected from various systems installed throughout the building and using machine learning or IoT to derive usage patterns and take predictive actions to optimise usage and save energy.

On the other hand, green buildings focus on having the most minimal impact on the environment and focuses on creating a healthy and sustainable environment.

Public and Private Sector Involved

In Singapore, there has been an active push from the government to incorporate more smart technologies into new and existing buildings and many initiatives have already been launched by both the public and private sector to encourage adoption.

For instance, in October last year, Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI) Singapore, an affiliate of statutory board Enterprise Singapore, together with the Helsinki Business Hub, co-organised the Finnish Smart Building Technology Matching event where 10 Finnish companies introduced the latest trends and technologies focusing on smart buildings, energy efficiency and digitalisation for the construction industry.

Even earlier, developer City Development Limited (CDL) collaborated with the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2017 to launch the NUS-CDL Tropical Technologies Laboratory (T2 Lab). Its aim is to study smart building technologies and sustainable solutions catered for tropical climates.

One thing that should be made clear is that while it is easier to add smart technologies into new buildings, it is not impossible to incorporate them into existing buildings during a retrofit.

Solid Implementation Strategy Needed

“With the new era of IoT (Internet of Things) and the ability to interconnect every systems, the smartness of the building is defined by the inter-operation of all its elements. The building must be adapted to its tenant/user, increasing its comfort whilst the user is present and saving energy automatically accordingly to the tenant activity,” said Nicolas.

In order to really benefit from all these technologies, it is important to have on hand a solid implementation strategy. An effective strategy should define a holistic set of requirements that spans across functional areas such as IT, operations, human resources, corporate real estate, and security.


Written by: Hairul Borhan

“As buildings grow smarter, the cyber resilience of the building must grow stronger, implementing strategies to identify and tackle such threats plays a vital role in the integrity of the Smart Building Era,” said Saro Natarajprabu, Division Manager, BAS at RoviSys.

A team of key stakeholders should also be identified based on these requirements, and prioritize use cases from the requirements to establish realistic time frames and make the right investments in proofs-of-concept and full-scale implementations. All of these are essential to making the most of a smart building initiative.