This piece was originally published in the July/August 2019 issue of electroindustry.

Buildings are like small cities. They are the infrastructure of our economy and include multiple and varied subsystems that serve to support the people who live, work, and visit them. These “communities within cities” are increasingly smart and connected.

According to Congress, “the term ‘high-performance building’ means a building that integrates and optimizes on a life cycle basis all major…attributes, including energy conservation, environment, safety, security, durability, accessibility, cost- benefit, productivity, sustainability, functionality, and operational considerations.”

To oversee the proper functioning of a building—regardless of its type—facility managers make use of connectivity to monitor and optimize occupant comfort and productivity through a range of integrated system controls. These controls employ a variety of smart sensors located throughout the building that capture data related to the climate within the building, the operation of the building equipment, and even the use of the building. This data is then analyzed, made available to the facility managers, and utilized to keep buildings humming for a more comfortable and industrious work environment. Everything from lighting controls to HVAC

to fire safety data can be examined, and that data can be used to increase building functionality and occupant morale.

The upsides to all of this connectivity in building systems are many. System collaboration promotes efficiency, function, and security—to name a few. But over time, the collected data “teaches” us even more and it enables innovation in building design at virtually all levels—architectural, technical, and human. The most innovative buildings are touted as being “high performance,” meaning, in addition to being environmentally sound and sustainable, the owner/operators place a high priority on occupant output, safety, and more.

Facility managers are major players in defining the future of connected buildings since they have a systemic view from the very edge of function. For instance, by exploring newly enabled concepts in energy efficiency such as harvesting natural lighting via automated blinds and sensor technology in HVAC to decrease utility costs for owners. Over time, homeowners are expected to adopt the residential versions of smart building systems, which will deliver similar benefits related to safety, security, and comfort on a residential scale.

Taking care of these “little cities” and making sure they operate to their full potential will have far-reaching results for the people who live and work there. People spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors, and while they are inside, they want to be comfortable, productive, and efficient. The market will

demand buildings that not only employ leading-edge designs and optimized system performance but also embrace a human-centric focus. Ultimately, that is what will make them smart. ei

Mark J. Gliebe
Chairman, NEMA Board of Governors

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