The region may have grand ambitions when it comes to the development of smart cities, but better integration between buildings is required if they are to achieve these, according to a new study.
The US-based engineering firm Honeywell has unveiled new research providing a Smart Building Score for 620 buildings in seven Middle East cities, which found that few industries were able to integrate data from different buildings within their own companies, let alone between different building owners within geographical areas.
Honeywell partnered with EY and Nielsen on the research, which scored each of the buildings out of 100 on 15 factors related to their safety, sustainability and productivity. These included everything from the efficiency and coverage of cooling systems, fire detection, access control and the reliability of Wi-Fi.
Doha had the smartest buildings of any Middle East city, achieving an average score of 70, followed by Dubai (65). Abu Dhabi matched the overall regional average score of 48, while Jeddah was the lowest-scoring city on 37.
Differentiating between industries, Honeywell said that airports were the only assets whose buildings were not poorly integrated. Airport owners achieved a score of 80 for building integration. High-rise apartment buildings (45) and education buildings (41) were the least integrated building types.
Norm Gilsdorf, the president of Honeywell’s Russia, Middle East and Central Asia region, said that the education sector was a good example of where improvements could be made, as operators in that market owned several buildings.
“You would think that naturally you would want to integrate those to keep common systems, maintenance, training and results,” he said. “The top people have figured that out and done it. The ones at the bottom have not.
“Whichever way you look at it, smart buildings are the fundamental building blocks to a smart city. It’s impossible to have a smart city without smart buildings,” he said.
Honeywell’s recommendations for government and lawmakers is to follow existing examples of best practice in places like Doha and Dubai, and to encourage building owners to make properties smarter.
Honeywell’s research also found that across the Middle East, buildings only scored 68 out of 100 on “asset uptime”, meaning that some element of operations – be it Wi-Fi or an access control system – was often out of action.
Newer buildings were not found to be smarter than older ones, but those that had some form of sustainability certification, such as Leed or Estidama, outperformed uncertified buildings by an average of 28 points.
Saeed Al Abbar, the chairman of Emirates Green Building Council, said that better technology is only one element required to make buildings more efficient. He argued that better training of building managers and operatives was also required.
He said the council wanted to create minimum capability benchmarks for building management. “Educating the building owners and the asset managers and saying, ‘if you’re going to pay Dh15million to Dh20m for all of this technology in your building, you may as well pay people who know how to use it’.”
Mr Gilsdorf agreed, saying there was a “shortage of training and skills, high turnover, maybe not having the right metrics and KPIs and maybe not being so conscientious of what’s required.
“This region does not have an FM [facilities management] industry that goes across the board. Here, a lot of building owners do their own operation and maintenance.”
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