Water management in smart buildings

Smart buildings use advanced technology to control and manage their systems and services efficiently and sustainably, including water management. The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) expands the definition and confers on them the "capacity to respond to changes in the environment to achieve optimum operating conditions".

Smart buildings use advanced technology to control and manage their systems and services efficiently and sustainably, including water management. The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) expands the definition and confers on them the “capacity to respond to changes in the environment to achieve optimum operating conditions”.

In any event, smart buildings have been gaining prominence in recent years. Population growth, new social habits, increasing amounts of time spent at home, and environmental concerns are driving the popularity of these types of buildings, which are characterized by their ability to integrate and optimize the use of different technologies and systems, such as lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, security, and energy and water management. However, beyond these factors, the growth of smart buildings responds to a commitment to the environment. Beatriz Bolonio, Smart Buildings & Industry at Idrica, points out that smart buildings “respond to the need to be more efficient, sustainable and resilient, improving our quality of life based on data”.

Water resource management is one of the main priorities in smart buildings. As a study by Betsy Otto and Leah Schleifer at the World Resources Institute highlighted, water consumption for domestic use has grown by 600 per cent in the last 50 years, much more than the amount used for industry or irrigation. Hence, smart water management is important.

Digital transformation: from smart cities to smart buildings via water management

At a time when digital transformation has gone from being a pipe dream to a reality, some cities have already committed to technology to drive this transformation. Thanks to managing large volumes of data, these cities are making resource and service management more efficient. An example of this is Valencia, Spain, which is a Smart City thanks to the operational intelligence solutions it has deployed.

Smart buildings also drive these innovative cities, as they use technology to implement intelligent water management, monitoring and controlling its use in buildings. In this sense, Beatriz Bolonio states that this type of technological solutions “mark the present but will also shape the future of smart buildings thanks, precisely, to their ability to reduce the CO2 footprint by almost 70 per cent in some cases, to implement alerts when leaks or illegal water use are detected, as well as to optimize water use in different systems”.

Smart Water Management thus refers to using technologies to optimize water consumption in smart buildings. These include:

  • Data management platforms

    This is one of the critical elements. They facilitate the analysis and monitoring of water consumption data, helping utilities make better-informed water management decisions.

  • Digital twin:

    The construction of a digital simulation of the building enhances management and decision-making by preventing problems already detected in the digital twin.

  • Water sensors:

    These measure the water consumed in real-time and detect leaks.

  • Smart taps and showers:

    In addition to sensors to measure the amount of water consumed, we must also talk about sensors that detect the presence of people so that water use is adjusted accordingly, thereby optimizing consumption.

  • HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) solutions:

    These focus on reducing the building’s CO2 footprint and energy costs.

  • Water monitoring and control systems:

    These monitor water consumption and enable early leak detection. These systems can also automate management, e.g., automatically closing valves if a leak occurs.

  • Water cleaning technology:

    This helps to remove pollutants and purify wastewater for discharge without causing damage to the environment.

  • Water treatment systems:

    These systems filter and disinfect water for reuse in non-potable applications such as irrigation, car washing and toilet flushing. This can reduce the amount of drinking water used in the building. Furthermore, one of the ways to cut down on this amount of water is by recycling it for irrigation or flushing toilets.

  • Smart irrigation systems:

    These include humidity and climate sensors to determine when it is necessary to water and how much water to use. This optimizes the irrigation of gardens and green areas. Although this is more commonly associated with agriculture, its use in smart buildings is already a reality because it improves environmental sustainability, optimizing water use and reducing energy consumption.

Therefore, implementing technology in smart buildings to improve water management reduces water consumption and can positively impact the environment by reducing the amount of wastewater and energy use involved in its treatment. In addition, it can also lower the costs associated with water consumption and enhance the energy efficiency and overall performance of the building.

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