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Future smart building ecosystem produces and uses information valued beyond its boundaries

In the future, information created and used in a building ecosystem will be more elaborate and valued even more than today. Consequently, building ecosystems grow larger, start to build own brand, and interact with other ecosystems.

23.4.2021

Smart buildings

Smart building is able to sense changes in its environment and optimise and adapt itself accordingly. It uses technologies such as sensors, software and at least in the future, artificial intelligence, to monitor building characteristics, analyse collected data and provide findings that can be used to optimise the building’s environment and operations.

Thus, with smart buildings, the information that is produced and used is multiplied. Smart building needs to have smartly organised information system. It is no more a question of only services that professionals deliver more efficiently. It is a question of effective information exchange between building human resources – users and service providers – and effective usage of sensor-originating information. Building stakeholders are more intensively involved in the smart building ecosystem. The development of information flow and communication is a prerequisite for the building stakeholders. It means that the data that originates in the building is developed further, combined with different types of data, and tailored to suit the needs of the various receivers in question.

 

Stakeholders and ecosystems

Smart buildings are planned, built, used, and maintained by several stakeholders. During the planning of the building, professionals from many fields of expertise collaborate to prepare plans. The plans should be appropriate in all levels of details, from the location of pipes to the style that should fit in the environment and the purpose of the building. In the construction phase, other professionals cooperate to solve the emerging practical problems and to ensure that tasks are done in an appropriate order. When the building is ready, those living or working in it need maintenance services provided from several organisations and areas of expertise. In the case of renovations, new planning and construction phases coexist with the building used in everyday life as normally as possible.

All these professionals and their organisations, along with the building inhabitants or other type of users of the building, form the building ecosystems, changing in accordance with the lifecycle of the building. If new buildings are being planned and built in the area, several ecosystems can coexist in this area.  An example of this is the core of campus ecosystem in the figure. There, the human and organisation network is vast around the set of buildings (campus). The mutual dependency and cooperation among the building related stakeholders make the ecosystem a single entity with the same goal of making the ecosystem thrive. The well-being of an ecosystem means satisfaction among the users of the building and prosperous business to service providers and other building related professionals.

Smart building enables smart ecosystems

We studied information and communication needs in a campus ecosystem with several buildings and many organisations contributing to the ecosystem. The parties include tenants, professionals responsible for the campus infrastructure and brand, and service providers, as well as planners and builders targeting to raise new buildings to the same campus area. It became evident that communication needs and networks extended beyond the direct contact to the existing building tenants, professionals who work in and for the campus only, and the related service providers. The professionals whose work is planning and constructing new buildings as well as those who provide maintenance services, participate in many groups, each focusing on its own projects and contact networks.

The intensified production and use of building related smart information in a building ecosystem has its consequences. Building ecosystem that prospers, also possesses valuable data, which is interesting also outside the ecosystem in question. Therefore, smart ecosystems become gradually larger so that also the parties, which are presently not collaborating  intensively with the building system, that is, the parties which exist in the area of extended campus ecosystem only (see the figure), may become more connected to the ecosystem in question. The eagerness to be connected depends on the value perceived in the belonging to the same ecosystem. The same happens also elsewhere in the domain. Finally, whole ecosystems collaborate and compete with each other, buy and sell ecosystem originating relevant information and value human contacts connected to important or interesting ecosystems.

The building of a valued ecosystems requires, then, a well-functioning building or set of buildings, showing the competence of its ecosystem. This way the ecosystem raises its brand and it becomes more widely known. It also requires high-quality information, which is available to interested parties in the domain. Finally, some kind of marketplace is needed in which this information can be sold and bought. The starting point to these prerequisites for a building ecosystem information exchange is interested and competent parties, who want to develop their work and the domain. The starting point surely exists. Let us see whether this forecast will come true. If becoming real, it would benefit both the ecosystem players and the building stakeholders themselves.

Marja Liinasuo

Senior Scientist, Human factors and service engineering, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd

Susanna Aromaa

Research Team Leader, Human factors and service engineering, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd