Building smart

I AM NOT much of a fortune teller, but I am confident enough to predict that sooner or later, perhaps in a few years, people will be buying condo units on the basis of how smart the condo buildings are, and not so much on the basis of how good they look.

Common sense and simple economics will eventually make condo buyers realize that not unless a building is smart, it will cost more for them to sustain their condo units if the costs of utilities would be too high.

Actually, it is not just about the basic costs of utilities in particular, it is also about the overall costs of living in general. It would be one thing to talk about the availability of utilities for these buildings; it is another thing to talk about water security and energy security.

It is said that being effective is about doing the right things while being efficient is about doing things right. On the other hand, says that effective means being adequate in accomplishing a purpose, thereby producing the intended or expected results, whereas being efficient means performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.

Applying these to the logic of designing smart buildings, we could say that being smart should both mean being effective by doing the right things and being efficient by doing things right. Taking this logic further, being smart should both mean accomplishing the purpose of producing the intended results and getting these results in the best possible manner.

Dwelling now on the subject of costs, it should be interpreted to mean that a smart building should not only be cost effective, it should also be cost efficient. The bottom line of these two goals should be good economics, meaning that a smart building should be more economical to sustain than a dumb building.

In fairness to all those who built the older buildings in the past, we could neither say that they are smart nor dumb, because there were no smart technologies that were available for them to use during those times. However, we could not say the same for those who will be constructing new buildings now and in the future. Hopefully, we would not end up saying that those who will be buying condo units in dumb buildings are also dumb themselves.

I have a friend who is amused about the fact that in the modern era, what is now called portrait used to be called vertical, and what is now called landscape used to be called horizontal. While that may sound irrelevant to the discussion, I needed to mention that to bring home the point that everything that applies to smart buildings that are vertical should also apply to smart cities that are horizontal.

In a manner of speaking, it could perhaps be said that the only difference between the two is that building administrators are appointed, whereas city mayors are elected. As it is now, there are also city administrators that are appointed, but the real power is still with the city mayors.

Not too many people are talking about it now, but I am told that there are some cities that combine their housing departments with their transportation departments. It seems that the logic behind that approach is the fact that transportation or mobility is a utility that should be provided in line with, and as part of housing as the central component.

Stretching this logic further, it could be said that the other utilities namely gas, electricity and water should also be provided in line with, and as part of housing as the central component. As a mnemonic device that would help us remember all the four utilities, I have come up with GEMS, meaning gas, electricity, mobility and safe water.

A city might claim to be smart, but it would actually be a false claim if it is not sustainable. There may be several criteria for judging whether a city is sustainable or not, but the first test is to find out whether its utilities are sustainable or not. That is rightly so because all other services that a city could provide are either powered by these utilities. Either that or these other services are dependent on these utilities, one way or the other.

Aside from being important as individual assets, these utilities would actually be mutually reinforcing, in the sense for example that electricity could produce safe water, while on the other hand, even dirty water could produce electricity.

A city might also claim to be smart, but it would also be a false claim if it is not safe. As it is generally understood, a city would be considered safe if its four public safety components namely fire, rescue, ambulance and police (FRAP) are both effective and efficient.

FRAP is just another mnemonic device that I have come up with, to help us remember these four components. As it is also generally understood, the effectivity and efficiency of FRAP is usually measured not only in terms of availability, but also in terms of the quality of service, based on response time. In theory, FRAP might be available in a city, but if the response time is slow, it would amount to being useless./PN


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