City skyline on computer chip depicting intelligent buildings.

Digitizing, Connecting, and Delivering Energy Efficiency – the Future of Intelligent Buildings

by Margaret Naughton and Olive Murphy

We are living in a world where urbanization is driving a global need for more housing and office space within cities. It is predicted that the global building floor space will double by 20601, adding the equivalent of Paris to the planet every week for the next 40 years. Today, buildings are estimated to be responsible for 26% of all energy related emissions and about 30% of global final energy consumption, with 18% of those emissions from the production of electricity and heat used within them2. The day-to-day running of a building needs to be made intelligent to ensure building operations leverage data-driven insights to capture greater energy-efficiencies than is possible with always on or scheduled operations that don’t allow buildings to be adaptable. This is why the future of intelligent buildings is embracing digitization and connectivity.

Making buildings more intelligent is not just for new builds (traditionally referred to as a greenfield site) but needs to address brownfield sites (all existing buildings being upgraded or retrofitted for a new purpose) as well. Did you know that according to a European Commission study, more than 220 million buildings (which represents 85% of the EU’s building stock) were built before 2001. 85-95% of all buildings within the EU today will still be standing in 20503. This means upgrading and retrofitting of these spaces will be required to ensure they can adapt to fit the needs of a growing urban population, of a changing workforce model, and people’s safety and comfort over the coming decades.

An office building has very different lighting, heating, and occupancy needs at midnight than it does from 9 am to 5 pm on any given workday. Think of the inefficiencies if air conditioning was left running when the building is empty; if lights were always on no matter if the building is occupied. Shops and retail premises, schools, and universities all have the same considerations, as do you in your house – do you leave on all the lights at night when you go to bed? I hope you answered ‘no’. You are manually controlling your environment by moving through your house, turning off lights, switches, TVs, and other electrical items to reduce energy waste and making cost savings decisions. We need to plan today for more connected devices, offering greater intelligence at the edge and the ability to gather insights and more data than ever before to ensure the centralized management and efficient control of a building throughout its 24-hour operations.


While manual actions work for you around the house, to do the same on the scale of large buildings or environments that need to adapt to a non-conventional 9 am – 5 pm operating model, like factories running 24 hours around the clock, automating these processes is key. Placing intelligence in the form of sensors within rooms and open spaces, to monitor temperature, light levels, occupancy, and many more factors, allows the building to react as needed to guarantee the spaces are managed efficiently. Why have air-conditioning trying to keep a room at a set temperature if it is empty, room occupancy sensing can tell whether the area needs to be ventilated at that given moment. If you have a lovely sunny day and sunshine hitting your building windows, instead of having to pump up the air-con to bring the temperature back down, the sensors at the window can decide the room blinds need to come down to better maintain that room’s environment ensuring the room doesn’t heat up to have to be cooled. There are many smart ways to manage a building, but all require localized intelligence through sensors deployed around the building and connecting these devices to a centralized control system (a Building Management System). Hence, digitization and connectivity are both needed to deliver sustainability, creating adaptive environments that react in real-time to the needs of the building versus operating on set schedules.

Interested in learning more go to

See the next blog in this series here.


1 GABC_Buildings-GSR-2021_BOOK.pdf (


3 EUR-Lex - 52020DC0662 - EN - EUR-Lex (