Smart Buildings:
sustainability and energy efficiency


On average, people spend 90% of their time indoors: home, office, school, gym.
Not only that, in recent years, homes have acquired even more importance than they already had, so much so that 68% of Italians, in 2022, said they spent more time at home than in 2019. These results emerge from CasaDoxa 2022, the fifth edition of the National Observatory on Italians and home, developed in collaboration with FIMAA Milano Lodi Monza Brianza. The data of this study were acquired by conducting interviews with a representative sample of 7,000 families, providing a snapshot of the changes taking place in Italian societies and homes.
A possible justification for this change of habits can be attributed to Covid 19, which forced us to live at home for a long time. This event has given rise to new needs for comfort in the residential sector (as stated in the article of the newspaper Smart Building Italia, those who want an extra room increase by 36% and those who want a terrace or a garden by 12%), and at the same time it has also created awareness that it is possible to carry out many everyday activities without having to move from home; think, for example, of smart working, a working method born during the health emergency, but which is continuing to be adopted even after the end of the health emergency by many companies.
Therefore, the central role that buildings play in our society is clear, today more than in the past. In retrospect, it is also necessary to point out that buildings are currently responsible for 30-40% of total city emissions. For this reason, policies capable of acting on climate change have intervened in recent years, with the aim of regenerating infrastructures so that they are more efficient from an energy point of view and healthier for users, and therefore more sustainable both for the environment than for people.
It is at this point that Smart Buildings come into play. These are buildings that are more comfortable, more efficient in terms of energy consumption and which allow the implementation of consumption monitoring activities, so that the user can always be able to know what happens in the building, calibrating and modifying habits on feedback from the control system of the home/office.
Lastly, it must be considered that in the coming years there will be rapid global urbanization. According to ONU, by 2050, 70% of the world's population will live in urban areas. This factor would increase the demand for buildings and spaces to support livelihoods and work needs. Considering this urbanization trend, governments around the world are investing, and will invest more and more, in Smart City projects focused on advanced infrastructure, clean transport, smart buildings and other technologies that can mitigate the human impact on urban centers and make cities more sustainable. Events dedicated to technologies for Smart Cities and Smart Buildings, such as Smart City Expo World Congress which is held in Barcelona, ​​are proof of the ever greater commitment in this sense.
Therefore, as Smart Cities projects and investments increase, the demand for Smart Buildings technologies is also expected to grow rapidly.

What is meant by Smart Building?

A Smart Building is defined as a construction built to be able to manage energy in the best possible way, providing comfort to those who live there and, at the same time, making these groups of residents as aware as possible about consumption, providing them the tools to reduce it.
The world of Smart Building, in recent years, has had a remarkable exploit, also thanks to, as we have already mentioned, many priorities at an international level on the subject of energy efficiency and sustainability.
But let's go deeper into the topic, starting with the definition of Smart Building.
The Intelligent Building Report, edited by the Energy & Strategy Group of Politecnico di Milano defines the Smart Building as "a building in which the systems present in it are managed in an integrated and automated way, through the adoption of a supervision and control infrastructure of the systems themselves, in order to maximize energy savings, comfort and safety of the occupants, and also guaranteeing their integration with the electrical system of which the building is part".
It is clear how this definition highlights not only the benefits of the Smart Buildings for residents, but also for the environment, indicating how this approach can be the right way to follow to reduce the ecological impact of buildings.
Indeed, the Efficient World Scenario of the International Energy Agency highlights the potential for buildings to reduce global energy demand by 2040: on average, by then buildings could be almost 40% more efficient than today!


It is often thought that "smartness" is a prerogative only of the new millennium.
In reality, the first technologies related to efficiency and comfort in the building date back to the 17th century.
Cornelis Drebbel, a Dutch engineer, was one of the first creators and promoters of the creation and development of control systems (systems capable of managing, commanding, directing or regulating the behavior of other devices). Drebbel created a mercury thermostat capable of automatically maintaining a constant temperature space, one of the first feedback-controlled devices known to history. In the 1980s, then, the term "intelligent building" was coined, to indicate a building with sophisticated telecommunications services, building management and data network services that provided shared services to residents.
With the advent of computers and their rapid evolution, solutions known as the Building Management System (BMS) begin to take hold. The computerized control systems installed in buildings begin to monitor mechanical and electrical equipment in the building, but the various subsystems are disconnected or compartmentalized, automated at the level of individual operation.
In the last three decades progress has been remarkable thanks to the significant evolution of technology.
In this way, Smart Building takes on an increasingly complex meaning: thanks to advanced analytical software, building owners can have access to large amounts of information that can be used to make intelligent decisions capable of improving building performance. The introduction of open protocols, the transition to wireless and the ubiquity of the IoT have opened the doors to a series of new opportunities: the transition to the Building Management System from a closed to an integrated system is due, in fact, to the Internet of Things which has allowed BMS to be informed of a whole series of events, also counting on the presence of sensors in indoor environments capable of dynamically controlling multiple information and variables.

The importance of energy efficiency and waste reduction

The main purposes of Smart Buildings are the reduction of energy consumption, the reduction of maintenance costs, the improvement of the well-being of the occupants and the extension of the life cycle of the systems. As already mentioned, one of the priorities to which Smart Buildings respond is linked to energy management. In fact, making intelligent use of energy is the main reason that most encourages the creation of intelligent buildings, especially for commercial use, so that energy efficiency can be fully managed.
Why, however, is the reduction of consumption and waste so important?
In the first instance there is the pressure of growing concerns relating to the increase in energy costs all over the world.
Secondly, buildings that consume a lot of energy also mean large generators of climate-changing emissions. What is happening in the world with climate change is now well known, and the need to find greener alternatives is also fundamental in the construction sector. It is from here that we arrive at the desire to count not only on a reduction in consumption, using materials and construction solutions that aim at energy efficiency, but also to manage and generate energy from renewable energy sources.
According to some reports, implementing advanced technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, IoT and other technologies, can help reduce energy consumption by 40% and maintenance costs by 10% to 30%. Therefore, strict governance on consumption and green building initiatives are expected to stimulate the demand for energy efficient technologies in all buildings.
The reduction of energy consumption with a view to sustainability has become such an important topic that Italy has introduced by law the obligation to build nearly zero energy buildings, or nZEBs (near Zero Energy Buildings) as required by Directive 31/2010 /EU, implemented in Italy by Legislative Decree 192/2005. Starting from 2021, in fact, all buildings, public and private, will have to meet this criterion.
According to the European directive on the energy performance of buildings (EPBD), buildings are responsible for around 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU, because around 35% of them are over 50 years old and almost 75% are considered inefficient from an energy point of view.
“If we think that only a share between 0.4 and 1.2% (depending on the country) of the building stock is renovated with new buildings every year, building redevelopment plays a fundamental role in achieving the energy objectives set by the European Union, because it is estimated that it can reduce primary energy consumption in Europe by 5-6%, with a consequent reduction of 5% in carbon dioxide emissions" explains Vittorio Chiesa, Director of the Energy&Strategy Group.
With this lens in mind, implementing a BEMS (Building Energy Management System) can allow for accurate and automated management of systems and energy supply, optimizing consumption. The BEMS aims to pursue the lowest energy consumption during operation and for the entire life cycle.
This objective is not negligible considering that we spend most of our days indoors, and where therefore, inevitably, we consume a good portion of our energy demand.
Thanks to BEMS it becomes possible to automatically monitor and control electrical and mechanical equipment that consume energy (such as thermostats, HVAC and lighting systems) within a building or group of buildings, allowing to improve energy efficiency and comfort .
It will therefore be possible to monitor systems such as air conditioners, lighting, etc, and based on the information received, it will become possible to control the on/off times of the systems from a single centralized platform, as well as parameters such as humidity and temperature.
Do you want to find out how BlueUp solutions and technologies can help make a building more efficient and sustainable?
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