Smart buildings: from detached technology to an integral, smart system

Edwin Koose

Danko Roozemond

Bart Valks

Lighting, ventilation and heating that responds to human presence, smart security software and the application of sensors: buildings on the TU Delft campus are getting ever more intelligent, or ‘smarter’. ‘The engineer’s approach: this is where we excel.’ A discussion with Smart Buildings Business Analyst Edwin Koose and Policy Officers Bart Valks (Campus and Real Estate, CRE) and Danko Roozemond (Education & Student Affairs, ESA). About smart buildings, their complexity and the necessity of an integral approach.

Recent years have seen plenty of smart technology innovation on the TU Delft campus. It would be a shame if applications used in one building did not make their way to another one. That is why Edwin Koose is busy recording which good examples of smart applications are currently in place in TU Delft buildings. The idea is to create a road map that will help determine the smart technology required for buildings on the campus.

Enough examples

There are plenty of examples. Even in this room. “See that round box on the ceiling?” asks Koose. “That’s an individual test sensor that registers human presence, temperature and humidity in this room. Companies are already working to integrate this functionality into the fittings: what we call integrated sensors.” They are also looking at providing the product as a service – selling light hours instead of lamps. “That’s a new philosophy where it is in the manufacturer’s interest to offer products with a long lifespan”, notes Valks. “However, this does demand a different mentality and form of collaboration. For example, we are working with researchers to see if we can apply the philosophy of leasing a service for the facade of one of our buildings’. The principles of smart buildings are also being applied to various projects currently underway.

Hang up sensors everywhere and that’s it?

When people think of smart buildings, sensors often come to mind: stuff your building full of all sorts of sensors and you have yourself a smart building. But it is not that simple. “It is not about the sensor, but rather about the information and the signals you retrieve from the sensor in order to control devices and systems”, Koose points out. “It’s supported by an enormous IT infrastructure. Sensors only make smart buildings possible. Because an increasing number of devices, sensors and their users are connected, the university has access to this new data. This information offers us insight into our daily operations and environment, while this insight enables us to become more productive and efficient.”

Charting user requirements

In order to establish what information you want to retrieve from the sensors, you need to have a clear idea of user requirements. Thanks to his work as Policy Officer for Educational Logistics, Roozemond is aware of the requirements of students and teaching staff. “For example, we know that the climate in the teaching rooms does not always need to stay the same. If a room is not in use, the air conditioning or ventilation can be reduced (or if lots of people are expected in the room, the air conditioning can be turned up). With this information, we can make significant progress.” Koose agrees: “We can use information about room occupation to determine which rooms can be put to better use. And which smart building applications are required to achieve this.”

Users also adapt

On the other hand, smart buildings also require a degree of collaboration from users. “It is difficult to predict how people will deal with a new system”, explains Valks. “Questions sometimes arise following implementation that you had not anticipated beforehand.” “How do you ensure that users accept the new system?” Roozemond asks himself out loud. “How smart can we be without undermining user convenience? We all want sustainability, but to be truly sustainable, we have to change our behaviour.”

Focus on security

The increasing amount of smart technology also places additional demands on security: “Connecting all sorts of devices to the IT infrastructure means that there needs to be a greater focus on security”, suggests Valks. “There does indeed”, adds Roozemond. “We’re improving ICT security; the ICT Security Officer is involved in all this.”

Lots of opportunities for smart technology

Edwin Koose, Bart Valks and Danko Roozemond see a bright future for smart applications on the TU Delft campus. The university’s ambition to be energy neutral by 2030 ensures that this will be the case. “The question is how smart buildings can contribute to this goal", says Koose. This is all possible with new buildings. “But we know the challenges are greater with the old buildings”, adds Roozemond. “That’s not necessarily a problem, but we do need to take it into account when working towards achieving our ambition.” And implementation in other areas needs to be explored rather than just looking at buildings alone. “Significant gains can be made by introducing smart technology to waste flows or parking on campus, for example”, notes Koose. “Waste is collected according to fixed timetables, but bins only need to be emptied when they are full.” So in future, smart sensors in bins.


If proper groundwork is laid in a building, the basis is there for the smart combination of functions and the integration of devices such as tablets and smartphones with physical security to create on-site general and facility management and technical installation systems. The actual effectiveness that can be achieved is taken into account, with added value and security being priorities. An app on a smartphone or tablet could be used to reserve a room and as a dashboard to control the technical systems such as air conditioning and ventilation.

Coherence and cooperation

“Students from different faculties are all working on smart buildings. From Energy Technology, Sensor Technology and Building Technology, for instance", Valks points out. “People from six different faculties collaborate in Safety Systems and Security to explore how information about building occupation can be used to improve security. This is another aspect of smart buildings”, he explains. “The Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment examines movement in the building, EEMCS explores software analysis, TPM deals with the risks and ethical considerations. You see, each faculty draws on its own specialism in the search for smart solutions.”

If smart buildings are to be used to achieve TU Delft’s sustainability ambitions, it is essential that this technology is applied coherently and is also the result of cooperation. Roozemond: “Things often don't develop beyond individual initiatives. We need to move towards more standardisation.”

Guiding principles for Smart Buildings

Edwin Koose has formulated six guiding principles for smart buildings. Smart technologies should be taken into account from the very beginning when designing a building. For example, lighting and heating and cooling systems can be connected to the same IT infrastructure. These guiding principles are already being applied in various new building projects.

What is a smart building?

In a smart building, all technology and environmental factors are tailored to the activities of staff and students. The building ‘thinks about what is best’ from the entrance right through to individual workplaces and lecture rooms. It learns and provides stimulus, collecting an enormous amount of data so as to optimise processes, reduce errors and improve user experience. A smart building understands the requirements of its users and is set-up to support efficient working and collaboration, and optimal productivity. A smart building is a building in which inspiration, ideas and innovation are promoted, systems communicate between themselves and become self-managing, making human interaction and intervention increasingly less necessary.

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