This piece was originally published in the March/April 2019 issue of electroindustry.
Pekka Hakkarainen: Vice President, Government and Industry Relations, Lutron Electronics Company, Inc.
Building systems are designed to be smarter, more efficient, and more agile than ever before. With the rapid evolution of smart lighting control, automated shading, and daylighting solutions, the conversation among owners, facility managers, and end users is changing to focus on the total building experience and how it affects productivity, well-being, and long-term property value.
System providers are increasingly expected to help deliver dynamic spaces that better reflect the needs of the people in indoor spaces, outdoor spaces, and everywhere in between. And, because lighting is essential in every space, lighting control strategies will have to implement best practices that create greater value for building owners and tenants and deliver a more human-centric experience to the people in the space. People are generally acknowledged to be an organization’s most valuable asset. Creating a more human-centric environment can improve the overall building experience to deliver higher return on that critical investment.
Consider these five ways smart solution providers can help create the right environment.
1. Capitalize on available building information.
To help deliver a high-performance environment, smart-building solutions must effectively collect and aggregate system data in three performance categories:
- Energy use by fixture and area—this information enables facilities managers to decrease energy consumption without sacrificing control or occupant comfort.
- Advanced analysis of space utilization over time— once facility managers understand how a building is being used, they can take advantage of enterprise software tools to quickly and seamlessly adjust to changing occupant needs.
- Lighting, HVAC, and automatic shading as they pertain to occupant comfort and preference—a human-centric environment integrates all this data to deliver a more consistent, pleasant, and productive work environment.
Gary Bouthillette of IA Interior Architects in Los Angeles emphasized the critical link between data and the human experience in a recent Lutron-hosted Human Centric Lighting Roundtable: “They want to give their employees more control over their environments, but they’re also interested in the data that’s being generated by smart building systems.” Building system data can help owners answer key questions about real estate use, individual space use, and how to make the most of their investments. Owners understand the power of being able to adjust the work environment, and they are willing to pay for this capability.
2. Simplify future expansion.
Identifying the right building system solution can be daunting—even more so over multiple buildings, let alone multiple geographies. The ideal solution will support actionable data with a simple-to-use, intuitive graphical user interface to monitor, manage, and adjust system settings from anywhere in the space—or even off-site—from a tablet or other smart device.
Facility managers will select systems for their ability to provide information that is easy to view, easy to compare across systems, simple to share with other building systems, and easily scalable as their business and responsibility expands. Communication and reliable integration can make or break system utility and efficiency.
3. Align features with the facilities team and business mission.
The best solutions will help facilities teams improve the work environment. For example, occupancy data can identify where conference rooms are frequently overbooked, where office space is underutilized, and where additional capacity is needed. Once the need is apparent, it should be easy to reassign lighting areas or reconfigure spaces from intuitive software, anywhere in the world. The right user interface can be the key to satisfied employees and high-value buildings.
4. Access reports to optimize space
Lighting data can facilitate informed decisions about adding, expanding, and repurposing real estate. It can also help improve staff efficiency by highlighting periods of low occupancy and identifying situations where the occupancy pattern has changed— permanently or temporarily.
Make sure information is easily accessible via the building’s system software—single-screen access, the ability to quickly see the percentage of occupied versus unoccupied areas, reports on occupancy history presented as charts and bar graphs, and the ability to create historical occupancy reports for selected areas. Information is only as good as the individual’s ability to use it to access and adjust system settings across the enterprise, ultimately improving planning and workflow.
5. Improve the occupant experience.
Natural light has been cited as one of the most popular office perks. In a study cited by Business Insider, a recent survey of 1,614 North American employees found that “‘access to natural light and views of the outdoors’ was the most popular perk of all, beating out other things like cafeterias, gyms, and on-site childcare.”
Vivian Loftness, internationally renowned researcher, author, and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, talked about the importance of control as part of the same Human Centric Lighting Roundtable. “There’s a critical need to rethink how our lighting is much more conducive to the test at hand, which often means we have to let humans back into the loop and let them control the light levels,” she said. “We have to carefully consider how people interact with and relate to the environment in a way that is most comfortable, most productive, and least restrictive.”
Integrated daylighting and digital lighting control strategies can provide that valuable connection to the outdoors while ensuring that glare and heat gain don’t offset the positive effects.
Human-Centric Solutions Enable the Right Environment
Building owners will continue to invest in spaces that improve comfort and productivity, enhance recruiting efforts, and improve retention, while smart building solutions will continue to be instrumental in a real estate strategy that emphasizes the total user experience.
System providers are key to the advancement of smart, integrated control. Beyond product solutions, they can further enhance value with training, consulting services, resources to simplify installation and setup, and 24/7 support to ensure their systems meet expectations for the life of the building.
Data management is changing the way we interface with the world around us, and helping to enhance the spaces where we live, work, and relax. Designing for the human experience means we will increasingly rely on systems and providers that embrace interconnectivity, offering solutions that make people’s lives easier and their buildings more productive.