Demands of smart living for building service systems


Metropolia, Oulu and Tampere universities of applied sciences and cities of Helsinki and Oulu as well as private companies are developing digital services for assisted living facilities together in the HIPPA – Wellbeing and better service housing through digitalisation -project. Many of the developed solutions can however be used also in other forms of housing. The developed solutions also enable older people to live and enjoy living at home longer. Many services include IT solutions of their own. In future, we should also think what kind of demands are required for buildings’ own service systems to enable them to have a role and potential for acting as a service platform.

User needs

When the solutions for building service systems are selected, the decisions have to be based on the needs of the users and potential of the technology. The needs and desires of different parties for assisted living facilities were clarified in the project Pilot environment for digital solutions in assisted living facilities. Accessibility, safety, coziness, flexibility, freedom of choice, individuality, community and compliance were recognized as the most important user needs. In order to recognize and model the meanings, the needs were cross tabulated with services, physical factors, technology, operational culture and ownership. The network of user-based meanings was created as a result of this tabulation (figure 1.). (Harra and Lintula 2018.)

table about user based needs


The network of user-based needs enables the systematic analysis of the relations between different factors in housing. The user based value field of the smart technology was formed by the further analysis of the network. The analysis showed that four most important values are community, individuality, freedom of choice and regulation. The remaining factors are user-based needs in assisted living. These user based needs are safety, flexibility, coziness and accessibility (figure 2.). There are clear tensions between different factors of the user-based needs, which makes it difficult to achieve all desired features, when smart technology is developed.

table about user absed value field


“Each resident should have the right to feel assisted living residences as the home of their own. The tension arises from the fact that the regulations are needed for the safety of some residents, but the regulation may at the same time restrict the accessibility for others. For example you may have to lock the doors because of the dementia of some inhabitants which restricts the accessibility of others.” (Harra ja Lintula 2018)

The challenge of smart technology in the future is to develop assisted living facilities, which meet the values of different residences. One possibility to meet this challenge is to assess how smart products and services fulfill the user-based values and needs.

The design of assisted living facilities and services in the future cannot be based on the current status because of the new generations and changes in environment. That is why the building service systems in future have to fulfill the user-based needs and values. This requires the understanding the user needs and the ability to choose solutions, which meet the growing needs of the future residents.

Potential and challenges of smart technology

One of the key challenges in modern technology is to decide, which functions should be done by separate systems and which should be integrated in building management systems. Nowadays it is easy to measure different quantities in buildings, because the prizes of sensors have decreased and they have become smaller. We can even talk about intelligent dust (figure 3.).



Separate measurements do not always create a working system, because without coordination, we can end up in the situation where systems work independently and we have to check in separately in each system. This is also a risk for safety, because one unsafe system may open entry to other systems and thus compromise the safety of the entire system.

It is also important to understand what measurements enable needed functions and services. Table 1 includes examples of connections between user based needs and required measurements. Using the table we can for example see that air conditioning and its control have an impact for users’ safety, coziness, flexibility, freedom of choices and individuality. In order to achieve desired functionality, air conditioning can be controlled according to presence, carbon dioxide (CO2) and/or temperature.

table about technology and user needs


Artificial intelligence and data collection to cloud services (big data) enable us to synthesize and analyze information in new ways making it possible to use data for multiple purposes. For example, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels enable predictions for the presence and behavior of the occupant when current values are compared to history values of the normal day.

The growing requirements for energy efficiency and carbon footprint have to be also taken into account in the design process of assisted living facilities.


Goals for building service systems in collective housing

Collective housing is considered as one of the growing forms of living in future. Collective housing means in this context the facilities, which offer more common spaces and services than houses in general. The goal is to decrease loneliness and offer more contacts and stimulus for residents. Larger units of collective housing may include a housing coordinator, who coordinates the services and arranges common activities for residents. Important goal of collective housing is to increase interaction and social life between residents and offer a link between generations. (Jolanki, O., 2017, Lipporanta web pages, 2020)

In his BSc theses, Niilo Pirhonen examined special features of collective housing, which have an influence on the planning of building services engineering. He ended up to seven main features, which are often applicable also for assisted living facilities and in general for smart housing:

  1. The good cooperation of designers is needed to ensure that spaces will serve the needs of collective housing.
  2. Subscriber, users and housing coordinator has to take part already in early stages of design.
  3. Design of the building service systems has to cover the requirements of spaces that do not normally exist in residential buildings. These spaces may include common living rooms, clubrooms, big laundry spaces, pools, restaurants, common kitchens, green rooms, and spaces, which are hired for services.
  4. Collective housing units may include spaces where different services are provided in different times. The services may vary from day to day, which means that building service systems have to be flexible enough to meet these requirements.
  5. Common spaces and their service systems have to be flexible in order to enable variable use of the spaces.
  6. Spaces and service systems have to provide availability and user friendliness. The control systems have to be usable also for example the residents with wheelchairs. Building service systems should also adapt to future technology, which helps older people in their day-to-day life.
  7. Indoor climate and energy efficiency are important factors in collective housing facilities, because older people often spend lots of time at home and it’s important that a cozy environment is provided efficiently. (Pirhonen, N., 2019)

As an example, we can look at the requirements of building service systems in common space, which functions vary from day to day. If a hairdresser works in the space, there has to be a water tap. If a common gymnastic exercise is held in the same space, one has to be able to increase ventilation airflow when required. The control of the airflow may be based on carbon dioxide level (CO2). In this case the airflow is increased when CO2 level crosses the set up value. The number of people in the space can also control ventilation airflow. On the other hand ventilation airflow has to be smaller when the space is empty or only a few people are in the space because of the energy efficiency requirements.

People are used to different temperatures in their own spaces. Usually older people require higher temperatures than younger ones. This means that residents have to be able to control temperature in their homes. The safety system of the building has to adapt to spaces, which have different levels of privacy. For example a restaurant is open to anyone, a common living room is open to all residents and own spaces are open only to the ones that are living in them.

Already these few examples point out that the requirements for building service systems cannot be met only by measurements. Instead, the requirements affect the measuring and structure of the systems substantially.



Harra, T., Lintula, L., Käyttäjälähtöisyys älykkään palveluasumisen kehittämisessä, Metropolia Ammattikorkeakoulu 2018. (only in Finnish)
Jolanki, Outi, Leinonen, Emilia, Rajaniemi, Jere, Rappe, Erja, Räsänen, Tiina, Teittinen, Outi & Topo, Päivi. 2017. Asumisen yhteisöllisyys ja hyvä vanhuus. Valtioneuvoston selvitys- ja tutkimustoiminnan julkaisusarja 47/2017. (only in Finnish)

Pirhonen, Niilo, Control of building service engineering for collective housing, BSc (Eng) thesis Metropolia 2019. (in Finnish, English abstract)

References in web:

HIPPA - Hyvinvointia ja parempaa palveluasumista digitalisaation avulla (read 2.3.2020)

IEEE, Future Directions

Lipporannasta löytyy Kotikatu 365 – uusi asumisen malli. Kotikatu 365. Verkko-aineisto. (only in Finnish)

Lipporanta, Palveluasumisen digitalisaation pilottiympäristö (only in Finnish, read 20.3.2020)


This article has been originally published in HIPPA project´s blog 16.9.2020.


Lauri Heikkinen, Licentiate of Technology, Principal Lecturer, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, School of Facility and Construction
Harri Hahkala, MSc (Eng) , Project Engineer, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, School of Facility and Construction