The Technology Behind ‘Smart’ Schools
There are a number of emerging technologies in play around energy usage, climate control and other key areas of building management. For K–12 users, these may include:
- HVAC: Smart HVAC controls can manage energy use, limiting consumption in unoccupied parts of a building and reducing usage during times of peak demand.
- Lighting: Advanced lighting controls incorporate motion sensors, utilize longer-lasting bulbs to reduce maintenance and can deliver lighting tailored to specific functions.
- Security: Video management systems can maximize how cameras detect possible unwanted activity, while artificial intelligence can help reduce the security workload by scanning for specific anomalies.
- Automated system optimization: ASO collects and analyzes building systems performance data and can make changes in operations based on occupancy patterns, weather forecasts and utility rates.
While all these can be leveraged in a K–12 setting, schools in particular can take advantage of certain aspects of the emerging smart building approach based on how their spaces are utilized.
Take, for instance, concerns about ventilation. “In K–12, they have so many variable-occupancy spaces,” says Sara Grant, a partner with Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects. “In a gym or an art room, they might have 30 kids comes in, and the next period it might be empty, so you don’t want to be dumping the same amount of conditioned air in there all through the day.” Smart controllers can help with that.
When Grant worked on the design for the Rodeph Sholom School in New York, security was top of mind. While she didn’t incorporate AI into that project, she sees a growing place for this approach in schools where security awareness is at a premium.
“AI can really help security personnel to better target their efforts,” she says. “During drop-off, you have a huge influx of people in a short time span. Both sets of doors are wide open, with a constant stream of people coming in. You need the ability to quickly assess any potential risks, and AI could certainly be helpful for that.”