Smart Buildings Will Transform Our Lives

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Smart Buildings Will Transform Our Lives

Homes, offices, retail stores, schools, hospitals, and factories are shaped by the needs of the occupants as well as the materials and construction methods available to build them.  At the same time, these buildings shape the way we live and work, in and around them. 

Whether we’re talking about the tents occupied by herdsmen in the Middle East, mud brick huts occupied by South Asian farmers, or office towers occupied by OECD workers, buildings facilitate and constrain how people live and work. 

Each Techno-Economic Revolution has reshaped our buildings, while those buildings have influenced the spread and impact of the revolutionary change.  Now, the Fifth Techno-Economic Revolution based on digital technology is transforming our buildings.  And, more importantly, our buildings are helping or hindering the spread of that revolution. 

Trends previously documented the implications of the Fifth Techno-Economic Revolution for the way buildings are constructed.  New materials, new processes, and new business models promise to make homes and workplaces more affordable and resource-efficient.  In the next decade, this will enable many millions of people now trapped in the pre-industrial era to leap into the twenty-first century.

But it’s not just construction that’s being revolutionized, it’s the buildings themselves.  To understand this, consider what happened during the Mass Production Era, which plateaued in the ‘70s.  The widespread availability of air-conditioned buildings enabled the economic emergence of the Sun Belt.  The widespread adoption of automobiles meant that buildings were built with parking as a major consideration.  Electric lighting, elevators, and the telephone, which had emerged in the Third Techno-Economic Revolution, became ubiquitous and helped shape the buildings of the twentieth century. 

Now, digital technology is transforming buildings into active participants in our lives. 

For our purposes here, we’ll focus on commercial buildings like offices, retail stores, schools, hospitals, and factories.  We’ll look at smart homes again in a later issue of Trends


Over the past few years, commercial buildings have been quietly turning into Software Defined Buildings (SDBs).1  This is not only lowering the operational cost of the building, but also fostering smarter cities, increased safety, and generating greater occupant comfort.  As such, building has already become one of the fastest growing market segments for the Internet of Things (IoT).

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