Smart Buildings

We are Not in the Business of Smart Building Technology, We are in the Business of Occupant Wellness

“I have been a building automation junkie / zealot / freak for over five decades, always trying to trowel the newest technologies onto those darn pesky people who live and work in our buildings,” said Ken Sinclair, editor, owner and founder of AutomatedBuildings. “As an industry, we have always left the touchy / feelie part of our buildings to the behavioral scientists and psychologists. Our rapid digital transformation of everything has exposed (made transparent) the location, presence, even the mood and feeling of the occupants (those pesky people!) who are our reason for building and automating in the first place,” he continued. Sinclair is absolutely right, we in the smart building sector are not in the business of technology, we are in the business of occupant wellness. Only by focusing our work in that direction can we achieve our true objectives – making buildings better for people and making our urban environment better for society. […]

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“I have been a building automation junkie / zealot / freak for over five decades, always trying to trowel the newest technologies onto those darn pesky people who live and work in our buildings,” said Ken Sinclair, editor, owner and founder of AutomatedBuildings.

“As an industry, we have always left the touchy / feelie part of our buildings to the behavioral scientists and psychologists. Our rapid digital transformation of everything has exposed (made transparent) the location, presence, even the mood and feeling of the occupants (those pesky people!) who are our reason for building and automating in the first place,” he continued.

Sinclair is absolutely right, we in the smart building sector are not in the business of technology, we are in the business of occupant wellness. Only by focusing our work in that direction can we achieve our true objectives – making buildings better for people and making our urban environment better for society. Sinclair’s words are echoed by the most progressive voices in in the industry.

“I have a strong interest in understanding the balance between technological and behavioral approaches when implementing this kind of change,” says Ken Dooley, Sustainability Group Manager at Granlund. “Tech solutions are important as they will more than likely cause the biggest changes. However, a behavioral approach is often much lower cost, equally impactful and lasts much longer than the technological solution.”

Sinclair, Dooley and Memoori will all be speaking at the the Nordic Smart Building Conference Helsinki, on June 6th and 7th this year. An event whose program title reads “intelligent technology is for humans, not real estate.”

These messages are not just good for business, they are also good for society as a whole. Sometimes we get side tracked into thinking that technology is leading us into the future but the reality is that we are leading technology into the future that we, the people, desire. Following this humanistic theme, the Digital Minister of Taiwan, @audreyt, offered a provocative prayer for the digital community:

“In the 10 years since founding Memoori there has been one common thread running through much of our research, The Internet of Things. That much used, little understood marketing term, attempts to condense into 3 words what is actually a very profound concept,” we say in our recent report ‘The Future Workplace: Smart Office Design in the Internet of Things Era.’

“Over the years, as we have endeavored to measure and visualize its impact on our built environment. On building automation, on security, on lighting and of course on the software we are using to control all of these systems. One thing above all has remained consistent, its potential to revolutionize the way WE interact with OUR buildings,” the report sets out.

That is the key to the technological advancements of today, designing and operating buildings for their occupants and for wider society. Where energy efficiency helps cut electricity costs for building owners and tenants, it also helps reduce carbon emissions to support our environmental responsibility as a society. Smart lighting and environmental controls make energy use more efficient but are also focused on creating the ideal conditions for the individual and varying needs of the building’s occupants.

If the building is a school it should help teachers teach and students learn, if it is a hospital it should helps doctors and patients heal, if it is an office it should help employees be more productive and help managers manage. Instead of concentrating too much on what technology advancements can achieve, we must focus on what technology can do for us. This subtle difference will not only ensure that technology works for us but it will encourage adoption and use, which should ultimately be the only marker of technology’s success.

“We need to find methods of significantly reducing the fences and barriers between people and their built environment. Virtual visibility, transparency, and the digital twin are key concepts in creating that all-so-important interface between occupant and building,” says Sinclair. These fences and barriers , that Sinclair refers to, are simply mindsets, to overcome them we need to go from designing technology for buildings to designing technology for people.

“This report is not really about technology, it’s about people,” we explain in our Future Workplace report. ”It’s our attempt to take a step back from the technology and consider the WHY instead of the HOW. An examination of our belief that the Internet of Things can help us create more human and productive work environments. The premise is true for all kinds of building and even our other urban spaces in the smart city. It should act as a guide for our digital evolution across society.

“By seeing smaller and larger communities collaborate, procure, set innovation agendas, sharing know-how, creating economies of scale, and aggregating demand, digital inclusion can be addressed effectively, with smaller communities benefiting from the same digital innovations large cities can typically already enjoy,” suggests Bas Boorsma, writing for the European IoT Council. “As we collectively enter the next chapter of digital evolution, we must leave no person behind.”

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