WELL: From Good to Smart in Building Design

WELL: From Good to Smart in Building Design

This piece was originally published in the June 2018 issue of electroindustry.

Caption: Lighting is a main contributing factor in employee-centric workplace environments. Photo courtesy of ASID

Eric Lind, Vice President, Global Specifications, Lutron Electronics Company, Inc.

Mr. Lind is a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society.

Not so long ago, energy use ­was a primary measure of building performance. Efficient operation of a building typically revolved around managing the energy impact of building lighting and HVAC.

Although energy use is still a significant aspect of building operation, the evolution of smart light-emitting diode (LED) technologies, building systems connected through the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced daylighting practices are significantly reducing energy use while simultaneously enhancing the capabilities of lighting and shading solutions. Smart technology is essentially redefining the way we think about commercial building performance.

This is no surprise to neuroscientists and psychologists who for years have theorized sustainable building design can also have a positive effect on productivity, health, and cognitive function. Lighting and thermal conditions are often specifically identified as main contributing factors in more desirable, employee-centric workplace environments.

Today, manufacturers can provide smart building systems that deliver detailed information about how the building is used over the course of the day, arming facility managers and building owners with data that can help improve the entire building environment, boost employee satisfaction and retention, and increase building value. Because lighting—both electric light and daylight—impacts every space in a building, smart IoT lighting and shading solutions can play a pivotal role in creating the right environment.

People-Centric Environments

Appropriate lighting and control solutions—especially those that integrate easily with other building systems—can not only improve operational efficiencies but also contribute toward certifications, such as the WELL Building rating system,[1] that help to guide the design process and improve built environments for the people who live and work within their walls.

The WELL rating system was launched in 2014 to “advance buildings that help people work, live, perform and feel their best.” It reflects performance-based measures that mirror the impact of the built environment on human health and provides a model for design and construction that integrates wellness features into the built environment.

The structure of WELL certification revolves around seven concept areas. Light is one; the others are air, water, nourishment, fitness, comfort, and mind. Within each concept area are features that define basic preconditions that must be met to achieve compliance, as well as additional features that expand the opportunity for an improved workplace environment and higher levels of WELL certification (gold and platinum).

One study, a before-and-after examination of how workplace design impacts health, wellness, employee satisfaction, and work performance in the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) headquarters in Washington, D.C., provides further evidence to support the beneficial aspects of smart building design.[2]

In that project, smart lighting and shading solutions contributed to the following four features of the WELL Light concept:

  • Visual lighting design. This feature defines required average light levels of 215 lux/20 fc on the horizontal plane and requires the appropriate brightness and contrast ratios on different surfaces within spaces to avoid dark or excessively bright spots in a room. Tunable lighting helps designers meet the required contrast ratios. Independently controlled zones of light no larger than 500 square feet are also required. Digitally addressable ballasts and drivers can accommodate these zoning requirements without the need for complex wiring and make post-installation adjustments easier.
  • Circadian lighting design. Lighting that mimics natural daylight has the ability to improve employee engagement. Circadian lighting may help improve—or at least not disrupt—sleep cycles and influence a variety of physiological conditions.
  • Solar glare control. An automated, motorized shading solution is the best method for achieving the solar glare control feature, which cannot be met with the implementation of static glare inhibitors.
  • Daylight modeling. The fourth precondition, daylight modeling, is also most effectively met with the use of automated shades and daylight-responsive lighting control.

The ASID headquarters was the world’s first space to achieve both WELL Platinum and LEED Platinum certifications. The lighting design effectively supports an emerging model for sustainability and contributes to the positive results ASID reported in its research, including:

  • Twenty-five percent of employees attribute circadian lighting at the new office space for their enhanced sleep quality.
  • Employee collaboration has increased by nine percent, and employee absenteeism has seen a 19 percent improvement.
  • ASID has saved more than 76 MWh in lighting energy over the first 15 months of occupancy, equal to $7,636 in cost savings.
  • ASID saves, on average, 78.2 percent of the energy it would use each day if the lights were left on fully by using daylighting, tuning, occupancy sensors, and personal control systems.

Interacting with Manufacturers

Smart lighting and shading solutions, in combination with building rating systems and enlightened building professionals, can play an increasingly pivotal role in creating the right environment. As more devices, systems, and services connect within the building network, the number of value-added applications and opportunities also grows exponentially.

Smart control solutions include sensors, smart fixtures and controls, automated shading solutions, and system software and apps that take the guesswork out of day-to-day control. The right control software helps customers better analyze information to understand how employees and other building occupants interact with their spaces, and an intuitive graphical user interface can ensure the ability to easily monitor and adjust system settings in response to changing building needs.

Data and data management are changing the way we interface with the world around us and impacting the spaces where we live, work, and play. Building owners and managers will count on manufacturers that embrace interconnectivity.

In referring to the redesign of the House of Commons in 1944, Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” His words profoundly resonate today as we understand the impact of our surroundings on the rest of our lives.

[1]  https://www.wellcertified.com

[2] https://www.asid.org/impact-of-design/asid

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