by Fred Ashton, Economist, NEMA
Workplaces designed for individual needs that boost productivity and enhance employee wellbeing can have a material impact on business outcomes. Advanced technologies in workplace lighting, ventilation and air quality, and temperature control are increasingly considered by some as “must-have” building design features that can create a more dynamic and productive work environment in addition to contributing to reducing a building’s carbon footprint. These new technologies blend digitalization, artificial intelligence, and advanced control systems to deliver connected systems that monitor, adjust, and improve key elements of the workplace environment.
Human-centric lighting (HCL) is at the forefront of this frontier and presents a new global market for lighting systems and products. Studies have shown that poor lighting can have negative health effects on our circadian rhythm, causing difficulty sleeping. HCL technology in the office allows for the user to “adjust the intensity and color temperature of the light to mimic natural light,” according to BUILDINGS.com.1 An HCL system can be paired with advanced window shading systems to optimize performance. According to High Performing Buildings Magazine, shades can be “automated with software that ensures the shades are open at the right level, at the right time, to optimize their benefits.”2 These products can be operated by smart, wireless controls or can be fully automated to improve performance.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, airborne pollutants, chemicals, and even excess moisture can have short-term health and productivity consequences such as drowsiness and more long-term complications, including some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer.3 Devices that measure indoor air quality can communicate with HVAC sensors using Internet of Things (IoT) platforms to create systems that go beyond just heating and cooling. Improved ventilation will undoubtedly become a focus area in the next normal following the outbreak of COVID-19.
While some of the human-centric design is about individual products, a main feature is the ability to integrate these components into one management system. Sensors, artificial intelligence, IoT, and data have unlocked the ability of predictive analytics, according to The IoT Magazine.4 We are empowered with the ability to intervene in order to prevent machine failure, predict condition-aware maintenance schedules, and optimize workflows.
In a post-coronavirus world, health and safety will remain a leading workplace challenge. This puts manufacturers in a unique position to promote those human-centric designs that can be credited as part of the solution to risks such as COVID-19. Despite a surge in pandemic related unemployment, a tight labor market remains for skilled workers of all types. Moreover, the size of the prime working-age labor force is projected to grow just 0.5 percent per year through 2028, intensifying the skilled labor-force gap, according to forecasts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics5, as shown in the accompanying chart. Human-centric building design offers companies a competitive hiring edge and greater expected productivity which will be important demand signals for products and systems that deliver these benefits. ei
- Sarah Kloepple, “What You Need to Know About Human-Centric Lighting,” BUILDINGS.com, March 18, 2019
- Craig Casery, “How Human Centric Lighting Can Help a Building be More Sustainable, Efficient and Green,” High Performing Buildings, April 6, 2020
- “Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)," Environmental Protection Agency
- Kayla Matthews, The IOT Magazine
- "Projections overview and highlights, 2018 -28,” Monthly Labor Review, Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2019