Get Smart About a Better Building Occupant Experience

Get Smart About a Better Building Occupant Experience

This piece was originally published in the November/December 2019 issue of electroindustry.

Pekka Hakkarainen

Pekka Hakkarainen is Vice President of Government and Industry Relations at Lutron Electronics Company Inc.

The relationship between commercial property developers and their tenants is evolving. Across the country, there is a growing trend toward building systems that create more value for real estate developers, building owners, property managers, and occupants alike.

All these people have different, but complementary needs with a common goal of creating an overall better occupant experience. And owners are prioritizing solutions that help attract and retain both top talent and long-term tenants by:

  • Enhancing the occupant experience and providing desirable amenities
  • Optimizing building operations
  • Reducing energy use
  • Making that experience seamless across their building portfolio

Lighting controls and window shading solutions already play a major role in a building experience that enhances occupant comfort and saves energy, but moving forward, networked lighting control solutions will have to contribute to additional building occupant and owner goals while enabling an elevated human experience within the built environment.

Let’s consider three essential lighting control technologies: daylight sensors, occupancy sensors, and tunable, white-light fixtures. Each of these plays an important role in building systems that enhance building value. To keep up with changing expectations they are going to have to incorporate new features and higher-level functionality.

Sensors Offer So Much More Than On and Off Switching

Daylight and occupancy sensors, for example, are already engrained as staples of any code-compliant, lighting-control solution. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Daylight sensors are broadly deployed

to help adjust electric light in response to available daylight, but most designs still rely on manual shades or mini blinds as the main mechanism for daylight control. This not only limits the benefit of the daylighting sensors but also, most of the time, these blinds just stay closed.

The future of networked lighting control must incorporate control of both electric light and daylight via a dynamic daylight management system. This holistic approach will increase energy savings, and it also provides greater access to views and “natural” light throughout the space.

Occupancy sensors fall into the same category— essential to any energy-efficient lighting design, but with so much more potential. As sensor capabilities expand to easily share actionable data with other building systems, they become a key tool for space optimization and building management. They have  the ability to provide rich data about how individuals use building space and can integrate with specialized occupant apps that are being developed to put control and customization into the hands—or smart phones— of individual employees.

As building owners adopt technologies designed to enhance workforce productivity and engagement, lighting controls will have to integrate seamlessly— plug-and-play integration will be the key to broad adoption of any lighting control platform.

Lighting as a Key to More Comfortable, Flexible Spaces

Tunable white is a big topic of conversation, but it has not yet become a mainstream technology. At this point lighting control manufacturers are paying close attention to ongoing, academic research into the power of tunable white lighting and the potential impact of human-centric and circadian lighting.

Groundbreaking technologies such as natural lighting systems are already delivering the next generation of beautiful, customizable illumination, full-spectrum, saturated color, and advanced control integration that will be easy to deploy—even in retrofit situations. The goal is to provide building owners and occupants with adaptable, flexible control that enables quick, easy adjustments to accommodate changes to space design, furnishings, or other materials integral to the overall comfort of a space.

Smart building solutions are at the edge of a new technology frontier. As building owners refine relationships with their tenants, they’ll count on manufacturers to provide solutions that contribute to higher occupancy rates, greater building value, and long-term tenant relationships.

From simple energy retrofits to full-scale smart building integration, lighting control providers understand the opportunity to enhance value by delivering systems that grow with expanding real estate portfolios and deliver ever-better experiences for both the owner and the occupant. ei

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