Jun 26 2024

The Benefits of Smart Buildings for State and Local Government Campuses

The Internet of Things improves the experience of both citizens and government workers.

Although smart city technology has long been a focus for local governments, a great deal of energy and investment has been put into projects such as smart streetlights, transportation infrastructure and digital kiosks. Less heralded has been the smartification of the humble government office building, be it city hall, the headquarters of a state government agency or even a remote outpost.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act is expected to spur a surge of investment in smart building technology, especially in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability. It’s an area that is ripe for innovation in state and local government: Residential and commercial buildings together accounted for about 37 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Higher education campuses are already shifting toward smart buildings, and state and local governments have an opportunity to do so as well.

“State and local governments that pursue smart building strategies can unlock the benefits of cost savings through energy efficiency, improved operational efficiency, enhanced security and resource optimization,” says Ki Carr, hybrid work and workplace transformation specialist at Cisco.

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How Are Smart Buildings Valuable to State and Local Government?

Smart buildings converge buildings systems such as lighting, HVAC, alarms, security and other systems into a single, IT-managed infrastructure, Carr notes.

A smart building is any building that “uses technology inherently in operations, from building management to lighting systems and HVAC, to create a safe, comfortable environment for occupants,” says Kurt Semba, principal architect in the office of the CTO at Extreme Networks.

These integrated systems, Semba says, can also be “improved through automatic workflows built on contextual information and historical patterns, enabling continuous, personalized experiences for building occupants no matter where they are within the building.”

State and local governments are not developing smart buildings for the sake of being smart, Carr says: “The question governments are trying to answer is, how can our physical space help our employees be more productive and safer? And how can we use real-time insights to visualize what is going on in the physical environment and make data-driven decisions?”

As state and local governments evaluate smart building design, employee- and customer-centric strategies should be at the core, Carr says: “The combination of smart building design, cutting-edge technology and data can help state and local governments attract and retain talent and better serve residents.”

READ MORE: Multi-access edge computing will impact the future of smart cities.

With smart building technologies, agencies “can optimize resource consumption and make better-informed decisions about building management, helping to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly community,” Semba says.

Smart building sensors can monitor and alert for physical security breaches and also help officials make more informed decisions about how to allocate resources. In turn, Semba says, that can “help improve the delivery of public services such as emergency medical services, transportation, waste management and water conservation,” improving sustainability along the way.

“Our world is more reliant on technology than ever before, and in fact many residents expect their state and local governments to modernize their operations and use more technology to improve local quality of life,” Semba says.

Smart building technology can also help state and local governments reach their energy efficiency goals and automate resident services, he adds. “For these reasons and more, the adoption of smart building technology and the path to becoming a smart city will continue to increase,” Semba says.  

What Is Building Automation?

Building automation involves integrating various building systems to enable centralized control, Carr says. It is a “crucial component of smart building technology, allowing for efficient resource management, occupant comfort and predictive maintenance.”

That includes everything from HVAC to Wi-Fi access points, light, security alarms and more, Semba adds. Automation can also free government employees, especially those involved in facilities management, to work on more strategic priorities.

“By automating these systems and linking them to the network that creates the foundation of the smart building’s connected infrastructure, state and local governments can reduce manual tasks for government employees, improve the quality of life for citizens, lower energy consumption costs and make buildings more environmentally friendly,” Semba says.

LEARN MORE: Agencies strengthen services through data center optimization.

Building automation supports dynamic operation management, which uses advanced technologies and data-driven approaches to manage and optimize building functions in real time, says Carr.

This can provide government employees with “enhanced comfort and productivity, improved air quality, and energy efficiency and sustainability,” he says.

For example, he says, building automation supported by dynamic operation management enables automated heating and cooling of specific meeting rooms while they’re in use.

“Instead of having to heat or cool an entire floor, the automation adjusts to usage, efficiently saving energy and costs,” Carr says. “Another example is smart blinds, shading or lighting, which adjust when rooms and spaces are in use and, alternatively, power down when a room is empty.”

Ki Carr
As technological innovation continues to occur, the future marketplace will likely see more products that require even less power, making PoE the future-ready infrastructure for smart buildings.”

Ki Carr Hybrid Work and Workplace Transformation Specialist, Cisco

What Is the Role of PoE in a Smart Building?

As governments consider smart building technologies, one path forward might be Power over Ethernet, or PoE. The technology “simplifies and streamlines the deployment of smart building devices by delivering power and data over a single Ethernet cable,” Carr says. Traditionally, PoE is used for powering Internet of Things devices such as sensors, cameras and APs.

Installation costs for PoE are lower because a licensed electrician is not needed to install the network cable, Semba says. “Installation is also safer because the PoE DC voltage is less dangerous than 110 or 220 volts AC power,” he adds.

“As technological innovation continues to occur, the future marketplace will likely see more products that require even less power, making PoE the future-ready infrastructure for smart buildings,” Carr says.

PoE saves time and costs for governments during installation, he adds, and also gives agencies more flexibility in how devices are positioned.

A PoE network also enables “better overall network power management; it provides both discrete control over the power of the connected devices and backup power during power outages,” Semba says.

DISCOVER: Amarillo, Texas, transformed its municipal data center.

How Do Smart Buildings Leverage Existing IoT Infrastructure?

As state and local governments look to use more smart building technology, existing IoT infrastructure that is current will likely serve as the foundation for smart buildings, Semba says.

Additionally, because technologies in a smart building must be connected to the same network to work together and centralize management for IT, the first step is the network, he adds. Smart buildings need the right amount of wired and wireless bandwidth to support all the functions, sensors and IoT devices that deliver the smart building experience.

The network also “must offer an easy, centralized view into network and device activity to ensure IT can easily manage performance,” Semba says.

Existing IoT infrastructure in government buildings can also be used to “gather real-time data on energy usage, occupancy patterns and environmental conditions,” Carr says.

This data informs decision-making, “enabling proactive maintenance, efficient resource allocation and better service delivery to constituents and government employees.”

Additionally, existing infrastructure can also be leveraged intelligently to help the migration of existing IoT sensors and gateways “toward a common, standardized infrastructure that will allow modern management systems to switch to secure, end-to-end solutions that interconnect and share data,” Semba says.

“Without an intelligent network constantly running in the background and supporting both new and existing IoT, delivering a smart building experience is next to impossible,” Semba adds.

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