The adage “work smart” applies to the construction industry in a number of ways. It could not only refer to safety on the jobsite, but to the adoption of technology that can save time, money, and resources at any point during a project’s lifecycle. Smart building-management technologies in particular can give owners and operators the tools to develop efficient, cost-effective strategies for the long term.

This week, the U.S. GSA (General Services Admin.),, Washington D.C., announced it will harness this type of smart-building technology to increase the energy efficiency of 50 federal buildings. The initial 50 buildings were chosen because they are some of the government’s highest energy consumers. As a result of the technology installations, GSA expects an annual savings of up to $15 million.

GSA says it has contracted IBM,, Armonk, N.Y., to develop and install the technology, which will monitor building performance nationwide and stream data to a central cloud-based platform. The goal is to provide realtime data to building managers so they can make the best, most informed decisions possible.

By linking building controls in realtime, GSA says the newly available data and analytics will help save energy and reduce operation costs across its entire portfolio, which includes more than 180-million sq.ft. After the first 50 buildings are retrofitted, additional facilities will be upgraded, and any newly built projects will also be managed with this platform.

According to IMS Research,, Wellingborough, U.K., which was recently acquired by IHS,, Englewood, Colo., GSA’s announcement is an important step toward bringing intelligent buildings into the mainstream. In fact, IMS forecasts the market for integrated and intelligent buildings systems in the Americas will be worth more than $24 billion in 2012.

But before the market hits these types of numbers, projects such as GSA’s must help set the precedent. According to Linda Chero, acting public buildings commissioner, GSA, the development of its smart building system begins “a new era” in how the organization manages the nation’s public buildings.

Not only that, the project may have a ripple effect across the entire construction industry. Whether technology is used to automate design/build or backoffice processes, connect workers in the field, or manage completed buildings, it pays to think “smart” when it comes to construction.