Five Pitfalls to Avoid for Smart Buildings and Intelligent Infrastructure

Written by Jesmin Liew, DPSM

by Jesmin Liew, DPSM

Smart Buildings and Intelligent Infrastructure


With advanced technology driving the digital evolution, organization have to adopt technology, and that the project manager tends to occupy the prime communicating position on building projects, coming into direct or indirect contact with nearly everyone involved. As such, they should familiarize themselves with this realm of knowledge and treat it with equal regard to areas such as structural or mechanical engineering. Building automation systems, which control such things as heating, air conditioning, fire alarms, sprinklers, door locks and security cameras, as automated buildings become more proliferous and more sophisticated the range of possible attacks might become more nefarious. For instance, losing control of temperature in a building and starting a fire by remotely overheating equipment in a building, where a fire alarm and sprinklers are disabled could be catastrophic. In order to prevent all these risks and losses in the building, below are the pitfalls to avoid in Smart Buildings and Intelligent Infrastructure.

The Five Pitfalls to Avoid

1. The first step in preventing such problems is to understand on a general level how these systems work, in the case of buildings the setup is relatively simple, physical components that control building systems, (a thermostat controlling HVAC), for example, can be accessed remotely by the building’s operators because they’re connected to the internet. In a recent security exercise, for instance, IBM hackers gained access to a large corporation’s building systems through a single Wireless Access Point — a piece of equipment found in most people’s living rooms and could subsequently control the temperature, fire suppression and security systems in all that company’s buildings across North America. Systems controlling heavy infrastructure are often more complex than off-the-shelf building automation systems, they also tend to be proprietary and customized, so it’s difficult to make generalizations about them, as such, a sophisticated team of engineers could combine their knowledge to make educated about exactly what equipment is being controlled, they can see in a network’s everyday functioning, then manipulate it in ways they know would cause the damage.

2. What can be done about this? The most effective answer lies in the problem, lack of awareness about these vulnerabilities. Automated building systems control equipment that works in essentially the same way since well before the digital revolution, this equipment is engineered, designed, manufactured and installed by a chain of people who likely have no knowledge, expertise or training in cyber security. An architect in close quarters with a building contractor or manage is typically the conduit through which all these parties communicate with each other, Thus, if architects were to treat knowledge of these weaknesses the same way they treat knowledge of the building equipment that contains them, they could help spread that awareness to everyone involved in a project, a vital first step in making safeguards against hacking a standard practice.

3. It’s most likely that the security of building and infrastructure controls will eventually fall to the responsibility of a single-source project manager, engineer and vendor, in much the same way that structural or mechanical engineering is handled today, but that is a nascent field and when it does take on a greater role in building projects, project manager, engineer and vendor will undoubtedly be tasked with coordinating with the person’s involvement, In the meantime, it is important that the persons involve in this building project educate themselves as much as possible about how a building’s operation works or get the building management personnel involve as well as the building architect, this will matter in a more connected future.

4. Although powerful smart-building capabilities exist, obstacles remain to their wider use. Smart is not in everyone’s design vocabulary, people are still using return on investment as an excuse not to build smart, high performance buildings, they do not understand that it often can be done for the same first cost, if you know how to do it, in some cases, the building automation systems capabilities are just sitting there, waiting to be tapped, especially in existing buildings, getting a smart, high-performance building should not cost more. “The idea is to get that data exchange between building systems working together to achieve the highest performance possible. It’s more about developing a comprehensive strategy that will determine the order in which the technology puzzle pieces will be assembled, the strategy needs to consider your prioritization of sustainability, energy, and occupant experience goals, and this strategy will impact the appearance of the assembled puzzle, that strategy will help determine the order of integration the building subsystems’ puzzle pieces.

Amount of usage in and out of the building increases

Amount of usage in out of the building increases


5. When smart building approaches are applied in existing buildings, energy savings can be substantial. A large airport is undergoing a major retrofit, integrating many building subsystems, including power and BTU monitoring, jet bridges, and cooling systems across all its terminals are expecting to see benefits in energy savings, as well as operational advantages and enhanced comfort of occupants and tenants and able to see changes in the ways high-performance buildings interact with utility electrical grids, when the grid and buildings work together for demand response situations, high-performance buildings can cycle up or down more frequently and quickly.

Decreasing energy consumption of the building

Decreasing energy consumption of the building

Successful Smart Building

Smart buildings are on the rise around the world as companies recognize the potential cost savings of automation, with the advent of the Internet of Things, every building with an integrated security and access control system has the capability to also integrate the building’s energy use, water use, ventilation and more.

Below are the steps to ensure successful automation of a commercial facility.

Perform a detailed cost analysis, the first step is to show your customers the potential savings by conducting a thorough cost analysis, when surveying, you should look at everything from air handlers and chillers, to irrigation and what types of lighting are currently in place, be sure to also include details like switching to LED lighting, updating compressors and chillers, show the total potential cost savings. Buildings waste a lot of energy, simply propping a door open can cause the automation system to go into overdrive, pumping out air and creating significant energy waste, the ROI on building automation can sometimes free up money for other projects, while enhancing technology, comfort and security.

enhancing technology, comfort and security

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Build relationships, there’s an ongoing shift in the decision-making authority from facility managers to the IT leadership, this can be problematic, as many CIOs are unfamiliar with the challenges of maintaining a facility’s physical security, facility managers can be equally frustrated by unfamiliar technology. Helping to create or improve the relationship between the CIO and the facility manager is crucial, educating the CIO about physical security and bridging the knowledge gaps for the facility manager with smart device technologies will be essential as the industry moves to a more loT-centric mindset, providers and integrators should present themselves as a coordination point.

Foster communication, as with any new technology, there will be those who are hesitant to embrace the change, for instance, the IT director may have concerns about putting all their eggs in one software basket. Global BAS Market Growing 11% annually, report says when a building is fully automated and networked, a failure in one area can cause failure in others. There may also be network bandwidth limitations that will have to be addressed to handle the amount of data that will be collected and shared between the various components of an automated system, concerns can usually be alleviated through detailed communication and concrete information about how the building’s systems can live side-by-side and how integration can benefit the customer in the long run, the most important thing is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to voice those concerns at the beginning.

voice those concerns at the beginning


The aggregated data and powerful analytics that add intelligence to existing building infrastructure have the potential to transform the way in which companies manage energy across their estate portfolio, in particular, building engineers can be empowered to take a more targeted, data driven approach to their work while automation improves their productivity. This delivers substantial cost savings, while helping firms achieve carbon reduction targets with relatively low capital investments. Microsoft’s smart buildings pilot program shows that while various adoption barriers remain, these can be overcome by following a set of key design principles, most importantly, the underlying technologies are now more widely available and easier to implement. By sharing its experience with the public, Microsoft hopes to contribute to the evolution of the technology and encourage other companies to implement programs of their own, the potential for information technology to improve building energy efficiency is huge and the related electricity cost savings amount to US$20-25 billion, quite simply, firms seeking to enhance their bottom line need look no further than the office they’re sitting in.


Comark. (2017) 5 Steps to Successful Smart Building Automation. Retrieved from (Accessed 6 December 2017)

Accenture. (2011) Energy-Smart Buildings. Retrieved from (Accessed 9 December 2017)

Ross Brady. (2017) Hacking Architecture: A Crash Course on the Pitfalls Facing Smart Buildings and Intelligent. Retrieved from (Accessed 6 December 2017)

Kurt Roth. (2015) Smart Buildings: Challenges and Opportunities. Retrieved from (Accessed 6 December 2017)

Rita Tatum. (2017) Overcoming Obstacles to Smart Buildings. Retrieved from –38739 (Accessed 6 December 2017)

Wallpapers Wide. (2017) Retrieved from (Accessed 8 December 2017)

Memoori 2017 Retrieved from (Accessed 13 December 2017)

About the Author: Jesmin Liew has several years of procurement experience, specifically in the Building and Technology sector. She is a member of the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). She completed the Diploma in Procurement and Supply Management (DPSM) in December 2017 at SIPMM Academy.

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