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With smart cities featuring in the agenda of various governments in the region, it is important now more than ever to smarten up in the development of new buildings, say analysts. A survey by global technology firm Honeywell has revealed that cities in the region approach the smart building concept differently. The survey also shows Doha and Dubai as leaders in terms of smart building capabilities.
The survey, developed by Honeywell with researchers Nielsen and global advisors Ernst & Young, assessed airports, hotels, hospitals, offices and residential buildings along with educational and retail facilities.
The Honeywell Smart Building Score, a first-of-its-kind global index designed for the comprehensive assessment of any building, was used to evaluate 620 buildings across seven major cities in the region: Abu Dhabi, Dammam, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait and Riyadh.
The Smart Building Score evaluated a building’s use of 15 technology assets to find out which systems were in place to make them green, safe and productive — the three main indicators of smart buildings. The systems’ overall capabilities, coverage of the facility and uptime were then factored in.
More than half of those surveyed in the region had only limited connectivity and integration of building systems.
“Smart buildings are the fundamental building blocks of smart cities, and every city in the survey showed clear leadership in delivering ex amples of benchmark-setting smart buildings,” says Norm Gilsdorf, President of Middle East, Russia and Central Asia at Honeywell.
“We spend 80-90 per cent of our lives in buildings; they are an integral part of a city’s ecosystem,” says Gilsdorf. “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 happiness, lifestyle, well-being and productivity of occupants.”
Pete Costa, Vice-President of Automation and Control Solutions for the Middle East at Honeywell, adds: “The survey results show that the region is well on its way to achieving its smart city goals, with Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi in particular serving as great examples for the region.
“The scores also reflect the local regulatory focus on building codes, which is a crucial driver behind creating and maintaining smarter buildings. Investing in smart building solutions can make facilities more connected and adaptive, reduce energy and operating costs and improve the safety and quality of life of occupants and users.”
Gilsdorf says that by 2030, more than five billion people or 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities, rising from 3.5 billion current urban dwellers.
However, Dubai’s smart city journey is far from over. With the big shift of people, “we are going to need a sus tainable and resource-sufficient way”, says Gilsdorf. “Smart buildings need to be an enabler to lower emissions, reduce waste production, manage water usage and improve the quality of life of the people living in the building.”
Gilsdorf also notes that a good number of older buildings fared very well in the survey, which was a very interesting finding.
Also, public buildings outperformed private buildings in the Middle East. This is because of government-enforced industry codes are adopted in the public sector before they are rolled out in the private sector.
“Old buildings can achieve high level of efficiency,” says Gilsdorf. “It is not about how much more you are going to invest. It is the mindset and the people who drive that.”
With depressed oil prices and its impact on budgets, and the move towards removal of subsidies, technology becomes an important enabler, helping to achieve long-term energy efficiency.
The survey showed that the average smart building score in the Middle East was 48 out of 100.
The average building score in Doha is 70 — more than 20 points above the regional average. The average score in Dubai is 65. Abu Dhabi came third with a score of 48.
Costa says the region’s airports lead the way with smart building technologies, with an average score of 80. Hotels had an average score of 57, followed by hospitals at 56, retail at 52 and private offices at 46.
Scoring the lowest were high-rise residential buildings at 45 and education facilities at 41.
“With the exception of airports, connectivity and system integration were found to be lagging. Fifty-seven per cent of the buildings surveyed were found to lack efficiency-boosting technology that helps centralise facility information and streamline operations,” says Costa.
The Honeywell Smart Building Score not only looks at energy efficiency, but safety and productivity also. “For example, if you are running a hotel, you are competing with other hotels,” says Costa. “There is a tremendous upside, if it is productive.”
For existing buildings, retrofitting is the way to go, according to Costa, and there are a lot of technologies available. “Cloud-enabled maintenance can be done from a faraway location and can be done safely.”
Across the Middle East, buildings scored only an average of 38 on asset capability. This number can be improved by investment in smart systems such as gas and water leakage detection, health and fire-safety fixtures, energy-efficient components and emergency power systems.
Source: N.P. Krishna Kumar, Special to Property Weekly