Smarter buildings and public facilities have long been of interest to architects and developers. Innovators can see that the promise of intelligent data used for spatial design can transform how we work, live and play.
How can Big Data be used for intelligent building design? There are a consortia of companies trying to figure this out together. I will discuss the Building 4.0 Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) in Australia.
I have already been examining the new approaches to using big data in facilities management. This is done by developing smarter office spaces, embedded with devices employing Ambient Intelligence (AmI). Research looked at how the intelligent use of big data contributed to building an environment with greater energy efficiency, optimised space utilisation, enhanced workplace experience and occupants’ comfort. This includes sound masking, the use of lighting for enhance environments, and sensors for occupancy for hygiene controls.
Ambient Intelligence (AmI)
AmI refers to electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of employees, residents or visitors. These environments can have ecosystems (pun intended) of different IoT devices communicating with each other.
There is a real emphasis here on edge computing, sensors and other IoT devices, and building intelligence into the edge for near real-time decision making closer to where the problem may sit. Ecosystm research finds that construction firms focus a significant amount of IoT investment for building management and energy management (Figure 1).
For example, if an HVAC system is on the verge of malfunction, the system could send a message for a repair intervention. When it comes to AI, predictive maintenance and surveillance are two of the leading use cases in the construction industry (Figure 2).
Building 4.0 Co-operative Research Centre (CRC)
In Australia, this push for sustainable and smarter building development is being driven by a consortium of companies looking at Big Data and infrastructure development for buildings. This year, the Building 4.0 Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) has been awarded a USD 19.5 million grant to focus on medium to long-term industry-led collaborations that can assist in driving the growth of new industries. The Australian building and construction industry is a major economic engine that contributes 13% of GDP and employs over 1.4 million Australians. Development of the Building 4.0 CRC makes sense and is timely given the current pandemic and economic conditions.
Part of its research program focus on develop new building processes and techniques through leveraging the latest technologies, data science and AI to ultimately improve all aspects of the key building phases. Their overall ecosystem is designed for enablement of several use cases (Figure 3).
The Building 4.0 CRC’s principle aims are “to decrease waste; create buildings that are faster, cheaper, and smarter; and capture new opportunities by facilitating collaborative work between stakeholders across the whole value chain in cooperation with government and research organisations.”
Green Star, the rating system which was created by Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) in 2003, rates the sustainability of buildings, fit outs and communities through Australia’s largest national, voluntary, holistic rating system. The GBCA is a partner organisation in the Building 4.0 CRC – as are many other major organisations in construction and trade, all pulling together here, for innovative efforts for the industry.
Where might the Building 4.0 CRC effort make an impact? Its collaborative structure of industry, academia, vocational trade organisation and governmental bodies harness innovative ideas to transmit them to transformative practices of industry and construction partners.
To be smarter, one must work smarter and more efficiently. A consortia such as this pulls the best minds together to try to accelerate industry efforts for intelligent design with data.