Updated: Feb 4
The smart/efficient building space and all of its different pieces have been on my mind a lot lately (for obvious reasons). I keep coming back to an often underappreciated component and, in the worst examples, ignored. It is the "human element." This is partly due to the "comfort is king" reality behind buildings and our reluctance to recognize it in an industry that appears on the surface to prioritize energy and sustainability. Still, in fact, those are a distant second to comfort and especially VIP comfort. I believe that anyone in this space has experienced a new building with different "Green" certifications being commissioned with wide temperature dead bands and responsible scheduling that was overrun by "comfort" overrides as soon as the commissioning was over to maintain perfect "comfort" for the tenants – a building's operations team may tout a commitment to energy reduction while overriding schedules over fears that an executive may come into work at midnight and they will expect their area to feel perfect from entry to exit.
One of the analytic rules present in our software involves the ASHRAE Guideline 36 (High-Performance Buildings) recommendation of a 5-degree dead band between your heating and cooling setpoints at a zone level. This rule is violated at nearly every site I have seen when presented to the facilities team; the response is always the same: "...Our tenants would never allow a five-degree range of temperature!" and they are not wrong. We have trained our workforce/tenants and building management teams to expect peak PERSONAL comfort at all times regardless of the impacts it will have on the entirety of the system or the environment. This is the human element that needs to improve. We need to educate the importance of building use because greater understanding comes with greater acceptance and personal responsibility.
This is one of the main reasons I am with Resolute Building Intelligence, leveraging technology to present data in a visual representation that anyone can understand. Allowing this education to take shape.
It is a complicated problem that will take many different solutions from working together. I would be interested to hear other ways we can positively affect a change like this.