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What does it take to be the world’s smartest building

From London to Taipei, smart cities around the globe are built one smart, energy-efficient building at a time.

​​As thought leaders in energy management and sustainability prepare to convene prepare to converge on the 2016 Building Energy Summit coming up March 16 in Washington, DC, Real Views has rounded up examples from around the world of buildings that combine leading-edge technology with energy conservation.

“Smart buildings are redefining efficiency in the built environment – from energy savings, to operations and maintenance, to worker productivity,” explains Darlene Pope, Senior Vice President, Energy and Sustainability Services, JLL, and the founder and producer of the Building Energy Summit.  “Whether it’s a retrofit of an existing building or a development of a new project, there is a clear focus on integrating leading-edge technologies to support energy and sustainability goals. Ultimately, technology is leading the charge on reducing energy use, fighting climate change and creating  better workplaces.”

As real estate adapts to the challenge of increasing energy costs, global climate change and technical obsolescence, forward-looking owners and developers are pursuing smart building solutions that can integrate and share valuable operational information – from the building systems that control lighting and HVAC, to the people and applications that bring it all together.

The Edge (aka Deloitte HQ), Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Deloitte’s much-lauded 40,000-square-meter corporate headquarters building  has been widely proclaimed the world’s most sustainable office building, having secured the highest ever BREEAM sustainability assessment score of 98.36 percent. It’s also among the smartest, with 28,000 wireless sensors monitoring air quality, temperature and other aspects of building operations, and a smartphone app that “knows” when an employee arrives, shows him or her where to park and finds a free desk. On the energy front, the 40,000-square-meter building generates its own solar energy with south-facing solar panels and rooftop arrays atop neighboring university buildings.

311 South Wacker, Chicago (United States)

As a close neighbor to the Windy City’s iconic Willis Tower, the “smartest building in Chicago” at 311 S. Wacker is a prominent example of the power of smart renovation. In 2014, new owner Zeller Realty set out to transform the 65-story, 13,000-square-meter office tower into a model of energy efficiency. One key step was installation of a cutting-edge smart building management system to enable continuous monitoring and adjustment of building equipment to optimize energy use and building performance. For instance, the Zeller team replaced outdated thermostats with wireless pneumatic thermostats that the smart building system could manage remotely. In 2015, the state’s largest electric utility company awarded 311 South Wacker with a $402,318.50 incentive check—the largest ever—for energy improvements in a commercial building.

Shanghai Tower, Shanghai (China)

China’s highest tower, and the second tallest in the world, is a frequent favorite in sustainable building rankings. The 128-story, 380,000-square-meter building doesn’t just rely on transparent "skins" on the building’s interior and exterior to maximize natural light—it also uses wind power from onsite turbines for outer lighting and parking areas. Sustainability features, including smart controls that monitor ventilation, heating and lighting, are expected to reduce the LEED-certified building's carbon footprint by 34,000 metric tons annually. Smart controls will monitor everything from ventilation to heating and lighting, helping to cut energy bills in the process. Speaking of green: The building’s lighting controls alone are expected to achieve annual energy savings of $556,000.

Capital Tower, Singapore

Completed in 2000, this 52-story, 95,500-square-meter tower in the Singapore’s financial district quickly gained recognition as the city-state’s first smart building. Features include an integrated building management system, a smart parking lot outfitted with real-time maps that help drivers find empty spaces, and sensor-powered exhaust fans. It also recycles water from sewage for non-domestic use.

One Embankment Place, London (United Kingdom)

Built atop London’s Charing Cross Station, One Embankment Place boasts the second-highest BREEAM score worldwide (now that it’s been ousted by The Edge, mentioned earlier in this slideshow), with a 96.31 percent score. The 10-story, 3,716-square-meter building garnered outstanding ratings from the certification agency because of cutting-edge technologies that include a biofuel trigeneration cooling, heat and power system; green walls;, and waterless urinals and low-flow toilets. Connectivity is also a plus, with a comprehensive metering system and building energy usage monitoring that’s available for interactive screening in reception.

Bullitt Center, Seattle, Washington (United States)

This Pacific Northwest building is changing the world with its myriad efficient features, as Grist sees it. Aiming to become the most efficient office building in the world, the six-story, 4,800-square-meter Bullitt Center is swathed in solar panels that produce all the electricity it needs—despite Seattle’s notoriously gray skies. Its green roof houses a rainwater capture system, while its basement houses an array of composting toilets. Massive smart windows help save energy by opening and closing automatically. All told, the building’s ecosystem services have been estimated by a third-party researcher to provide $18.5 million in public benefits.

Chifley Tower, Sydney  (Australia)

A few years ago, Sydney’s landmark skyscraper owners decided it was time for a performance boost in terms of energy efficiency. The results of the three-year green retrofitting program are in—and accolades are, too, with a Global Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) awards for the energy efficiency upgrades. Today, the 53-story, 90,000-square-meter office tower is green-powered, with a new central chilled water plant, tenancy control zones that give occupants choice over air conditioning, and new light fittings that together have led to a 55 percent drop in the building’s electricity use.

Taipei 101, Taipei (Taiwan)

In 2011, Taipei 101 became the tallest LEED-certified building in the world. Though the mega-tall 101-story, 412,500-square-meter building has since been ousted for top spot by the Shanghai Tower, the World Green Building Council calls it “a model for resiliency,” and continues to laud the building’s energy efficient retrofit projects that accomplished energy reductions of 33.41 million kWh, and energy cost savings that ring in at US$2 million per year. A sophisticated building automation system allows building engineers to control heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling systems (HVAC) across the entire complex to optimize energy consumption.

Manitoba Hydro Place, Winnipeg (Canada)

Widely recognized as one of the most energy-efficient office towers in North America, the 22-story, 64,590-square-meter Manitoba Hydro Place is estimated to use 60 to 70 percent less energy than other similarly sized buildings, thanks to its energy-saving systems. To boot: Its 115-meter solar chimney provides passive ventilation, a double-skin façade (complete with computer-controlled vents and triple-glazed windows) helps temper Winnipeg’s extreme weather conditions, and a geothermal system serves up heating and cooling.

​This article originally appeared on Real Views, JLL's news site that features stories exploring the world of real estate and its impact on the wider business world. Visit the Real Views site to subscribe for our weekly email of top stories, delivered direct to your inbox.​​