A study we conducted among professionals across the smart buildings ecosystem produced several noteworthy results, which we detail later in this issue. Among the results I find most intriguing is data centers are the property types most frequently using smart technologies. Across all property types, and not surprisingly, HVAC and lighting are the building systems with the highest degree of smart-technology penetration. And from among the professionals who completed our survey, smart-system implementation takes place in about equal amounts in new construction and brownfield/retrofit projects.
The bottom line matters too. Financial considerations were the biggest factors both encouraging and encumbering the use of smart technologies. Specifically, the factor most significantly influencing investment in smart building technologies is the opportunity to reduce operating or energy costs. And the factor most influencing a reluctance to adopt these technologies is the cost of the initial investment.
Another stat that stood out to me more than most others was 60% of survey respondents said the presence of industrywide standards would raise their confidence in smart building technologies. Standards outpaced easier implementation and management (55%), as well as performance contracts guaranteeing savings or ROI (52%) as a potential confidence booster.
That result made me think of the quote that is most often attributed to computer scientist Andrew Tanenbaum: “The nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from.” There are indeed several standards that in some shape or form address smart buildings or smart building systems. From the work that has come out of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Embedded Intelligence in Buildings Program, to the documents produced by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Technical Committee 7.5, and BICSI’s 007-2020 ICT Design and Implementation Practices for Intelligent Buildings and Premises, as well as the Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA) 862 Structured Cabling Infrastructure Standard for Intelligent Building Systems, technical specifications do exist for practitioners and real estate owners/managers working with intelligent buildings. But citing Tanenbaum’s “so many to choose from” observation is apropos here because like the building industry itself, the standards related to smart buildings exist largely in silos without deliberate collaboration among the standards-making entities. Without doubt there are individuals who participate in more than one group and contribute to multiple standards. But each of these organizations has its own charter, its own membership, its own vision, and methods. And the results of our survey solidify the notion that many professionals working with smart buildings believe they could benefit from some type of overarching standard or specification.
It’s a fool’s errand to try to be all things to all people, and the standards that have been established to serve vertical slices of the smart buildings industry do their jobs well. Nonetheless, here we are, with an information need among many professionals. What’s the best way to meet that information need? Your thoughts on this matter are valuable, and I’d be interested to hear them.