Emma Barrett, channel marketing manager for Somfy Projects in Northern Europe, talks about the future of smart building development, and why automation technology for daylight management needs to be considered as early as possible as part of any build or renovation project.

A decade or two ago, the kind of smart technology that’s now a part of our every day lives might have seemed like something out of a science fiction novel. We now live and work in an age of app-controlled heating, automated lighting and dynamic solar shading that can all help to significantly reduce a building’s energy consumption. What we once regarded as the ‘technology of tomorrow’ is here, and it’s becoming the norm.

Some businesses now refer to smart technology as improving a building’s IQ, treating their workspace as an organism in and of itself that can help make their working day easier and reduce overheads. This kind of technology has now become a core consideration when businesses shop for new office space, just as it has with homebuyers in the residential space. People want convenience and affordability while also minimising their impact on the environment. It makes homes more attractive to potential buyers or renters, and makes offices a more desirable place in which to work. Our increasing dependence on smart devices is such that it’s now common for smart technology to be ‘baked into’ new builds, from smart lighting to smart security and dynamic shading.

The more these technologies communicate with one another and work together, the greater their effects and added value - and property developers are beginning to take notice. While there are some elements of smart technology that can be easily retrofitted, there are some that developers should be planning for at the early stages of design and development, and for commercial spaces, these include dynamic solar shading technology.

In new housing developments, this could mean providing a smart home hub to ensure the essential infrastructure is already there for buyers to add more devices to suit their lifestyle. A homebuyer, whether they’re looking to move in themselves or rent out to occupants, will find it much easier to move with the times if their build already has the necessary infrastructure in place to embrace smart technology.

Commercial property developers often miss the boat when it comes to taking full advantage of smart technology like solar shading. Not through a lack of awareness of the cost-saving benefits or the value the technology can add, but because they fail to consider it at the right time. Shading and blinds in particular can be easily dismissed as ‘interior design’ and therefore not even considered in the early stages of building design and development. However, modern dynamic shading technology, when leveraged in the right way, is a crucial component in daylight management, so, in our move toward so-called ‘smart buildings’ and their associated benefits relating to connectivity, sustainability, well-being and productivity, it is essential to think of it along with the other building services.

Smart technology, in many ways, is blurring the line between what’s considered part of ‘build development’ and what’s considered part of ‘interior design or fixtures and fittings’. If developers and investors want to capitalise on the smart building boom, they need to consider a broader range of technologies much earlier in their building projects.