New and renovated facilities can make covert decisions; as a contractor or owner all you have to do is add the intelligence to allow it to do so. For example, an office building can monitor carbon dioxide levels, energy performance, and temperature, adjusting systems as needed for the well-being of the occupants.

These smart buildings that make decisions aren’t far-off visions of the future or even new creations; the intelligent structures surround us every day, especially in large cities. However, that doesn’t mean smart buildings and smart cities still aren’t poised for significant growth in the coming years.

With the number of people living in cities set to grow from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion in the next four decades, the need to drive innovation in urban design, technologies, and services is greater. By 2025, there will be 37 megacities, each with a population greater than 10 million. Additionally, trillions of dollars will be spent on urban infrastructure, according to Pike Research, www.pikeresearch.com, Boulder, Colo. This opens an opportunity for new transport management systems, smart grids, water-monitoring systems, and energy-efficient buildings all across the globe.

Focusing specifically on the energy-efficient aspect, building controls can monitor and manage the amount of energy consumed in a facility. Lighting is a commonly used example—and rightfully so. The GSA, www.gsa.gov, Washington, D.C., says lighting accounts for 38% of the electricity consumed by commercial buildings in the United States and 39% of electricity used in office buildings, representing a large potential source for savings.

Late last year the GSA evaluated a comprehensive lighting retrofit package, which includes sensors that allow lights to be dimmed or turned off when a space is vacant and a control system that coordinates sensor data and occupant input to control and monitor lighting and energy use. The results are clear: responsive lighting controls can effectively deliver on the GSA targets for energy savings.

Smart buildings are already here, inundating the marketplace in one form or another. However, as the need for innovation grows in cities across the globe, corporate owners and construction companies have an opportunity to incorporate even more intelligent technology into buildings.