Smart buildings use advanced technology to control and manage the systems and services they use efficiently and sustainably. The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) expands the definition and confers on them the “capacity to respond to changes in the environment to achieve optimum operating conditions”.
In any event, smart buildings have been gaining prominence in recent years. Population growth, new social habits, increasing amounts of time spent at home, and environmental concerns are driving the popularity of these types of buildings, which are characterized by their ability to integrate and optimize the use of different technologies and systems, such as lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, security, and energy and water management. However, beyond these factors, the growth of smart buildings responds to a commitment to the environment. Beatriz Bolonio, Smart Buildings & Industry at Idrica, points out that smart buildings “respond to the need to be more efficient, sustainable and resilient, improving our quality of life based on data”.
In fact, water resource management is one of the main priorities in smart buildings. As a study by Betsy Otto and Leah Schleifer at the World Resources Institute highlighted, water consumption for domestic use has grown by 600% in the last 50 years, much more than the amount used for industry or irrigation. Hence the importance of smart water management.
Digital transformation: from smart cities to smart buildings
At a time when digital transformation has gone from being a pipe dream to a reality, some cities have already committed to technology to drive this transformation. Thanks to the management of large volumes of data, these cities are making resource and service management more efficient. An example of this is Valencia, Spain, which is a Smart City thanks to the operational intelligence solutions it has deployed.
Smart buildings also drive these smart cities, as they use technology to implement intelligent water management, monitoring and controlling its use in buildings. In this sense, Beatriz Bolonio states that this type of technological solutions “mark the present but will also shape the future of smart buildings thanks, precisely, to their ability to reduce the CO2 footprint by almost 70% in some cases, to implement alerts when leaks or illegal water use are detected, as well as to optimize water use in different systems”.
Smart Water Management thus refers to the use of technologies to optimize water consumption in smart buildings, some of which include:
- Data management platforms: this is one of the key elements. They facilitate the analysis and monitoring of data related to water consumption, helping utilities to make better-informed water management decisions.
- Digital Twin: the construction of a digital simulation of the building to enhance management and decision-making by preventing problems that have already been detected in the digital twin.
- Water sensors: these are used to measure the amount of water consumed in real time and detect leaks.
- Smart taps and showers: in addition to sensors to measure the amount of water consumed, we must also talk about sensors that detect the presence of people so that water use is adjusted accordingly, thereby optimizing consumption.
- HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) solutions: these focus on reducing the building’s CO2 footprint and energy costs.
- Water monitoring and control systems: these monitor water consumption and enable early leak detection. These systems can also automate management, e.g., they can automatically close valves if there is a leak.
- Water cleaning technology: this helps to remove pollutants and purify wastewater for discharge without causing damage to the environment.
- Water treatment systems: these systems filter and disinfect water for reuse in non-potable applications such as irrigation, car washing and toilet flushing. This can reduce the amount of drinking water used in the building. Furthermore, one of the ways to cut down on this amount of water is by recycling it to be used for irrigation or flushing toilets.
- Smart irrigation systems: these include humidity and climate sensors to determine when it is necessary to water and how much water to use. This optimizes the irrigation of gardens and green areas. Although this is more commonly associated with agriculture, its use in smart buildings is already a reality because it improves environmental sustainability as well as optimizing water use and, consequently, reduces energy consumption.
Therefore, the implementation of technology in smart buildings to improve water management not only reduces water consumption but can also have a positive impact on the environment by reducing the amount of wastewater and energy use involved in its treatment. In addition, it can also lower the costs associated with water consumption, as well as enhance the energy efficiency and overall performance of the building.