Higher Ed Readies for Smart Buildings

With the competition for students increasing amongst higher education institutions, expectations are rising for the built environment to deliver a personalized, immersive, and safe experience. Students who want to be on campus are often there because of the exceptional learning and social environment an institution providesCampus leaders are investing in their facilities so they may thoroughly engage students, faculty, and staff in new ways and recognize how technology plays a crucial role in making this a reality.  

To better understand and prepare for technological advancements and innovations, a prestigious Northeast University recognized the need to develop a campus-wide strategy for smart buildings. smart building, as the industry defines it, uses an integrated set of technology, systems, and infrastructure to optimize building performance and occupant experience. With this University’s campus buildings ranging from 200-year-old historically preserved architecture to modern, new constructionthe plan needed to be diverse enough to apply to their entire building portfolio, with each facility having an individual path to becoming a smart building 

Strategy Development 

The University engaged Leading Edge Design Group (LEDG) to help them better understand how IoT and other emerging technologies are impacting the built environment and to create a 10-year prospectus for how those technologies would change the landscape of the building infrastructure and occupant experience throughout campus.  To facilitate the process, LEDG leveraged an assessment process that is now part of the LEDG Smart Building Implementation Model (SBIM). 

 Smart Building Implementation Model


Diverse Stakeholder Dialogue 

LEDG organized interviews with stakeholders from many university departments representing various roles encouraging interdisciplinary dialogue amongst groups on campus that often do not interact.  The objective was to define why smart buildings were essential to University stakeholders bringing forward different engagement requirements, budgets, facility profiles, and research initiatives.  Example participants in the interdisciplinary dialogue phase included representatives from: 

  • Facilities Management & Engineering 
  • Energy Management 
  • Planning, Design, & Construction  
  • Network Services 
  • Academic Technologies 
  • Student Services \
  • Professional Schools (Business, Engineering, etc. 
  • Central IT  

The interdisciplinary dialogue phase unified the stakeholders in defining how smart building technologies would benefit the University and improve their built environments in which they work, learnlive, and play.  

Gap Analysis 

To develop a plan on how the University could move forward with a campus-wide smart building initiative, LEDG also identified constraints and shared important considerations for making a campus-wide strategy a success including: 

  • Addressing network infrastructure challenges such as fiber optic backbone redundancy and in-building structured cabling.
  • Creating cross-department Service Line Agreements (SLA) to confirm responsibility for uptime and maintenance of traditional facility systems that were now network-connected.
  • Installing critical power, cooling, and monitoring infrastructure at edge computing locations.
  • Leveraging the availability of data from network-connected systems to improve operations, energy efficiency, and occupant experience. 


Assessing the needs of organizational stakeholders individually and through group dialogue is critical to getting leaders and end-user segments bought into and supporting smart building design and implementation. When all stakeholders can see the benefits and value to their constituents, university leaders can more easily move forward with a sustainable and scalable smart building strategy.