Buildings as Products Prevent Smart Building

We currently construct buildings with a product mentality, handed over by a developer or construction company to an owner-occupier or management company with little thought as to the efficiency of its long term operation and maintenance. This model de-incentivises developers to build Smart buildings because the rationale behind Smart is that significant gains and savings can be made via the performance of the building over time. Developers have long since left the scene before those benefits are fully realised.

This product mentality extends throughout the life of the building. We build with one purpose in mind (normally based on what is being done within an organisation today), without the appreciation that these use cases for spaces are almost certain to change over time. Organisations today, especially businesses, need to be responsive to the changing requirements of their workforce and adapt their work practices and environments accordingly.

As part of our Smart building research, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time reviewing literature from across both the construction and technology industries. We found the product approach to building development to be prevalent throughout. For instance, Norbert Lechner, Professor Emeritus at Auburn University suggests that “In the process of creating a building, the early decisions have the greatest impact.”

This statement is absolutely valid when considering the construction phase alone. However, decisions to enable people to effectively use the building over its lifetime, especially where this involves embedding technology need to be made much earlier in the process.

Changing the Y-axis of the same graph to represent cost of decisions rather than their effectiveness results in an inverted curve towards the end of which change becomes that uneconomical that we tear down a building or completely gut spaces in an effort to perform a ‘reset’. Also note the relative cost of change at the end of the construction phase, just as it’s handed over to its new occupiers.

Building Optimisation

Our premise is very different. We believe that in the process of creating and running a building, continuous optimisation has the greatest impact.

When everyone involved is focused on the end user and the lifecycle of the building, decisions can be made early enough to help reduce the cost of change over the lifetime of the building.

What is required is a levelling off of the cost of change curve so that whilst cost may rise slightly over the life of the building, it remains comparatively static and facilitates incremental changes and upgrades.

Adjusting the time axis to be more representative of the actual lifespan and cost profile of a building (10-20% is spent in construction, 70-80% in operation and maintenance and approximately 10% on decommissioning) it is easy to see that the potential for operational savings is huge.

As buildings start to get smarter, we must install the technology that underpins the functionality within them with a view to changing it over time. It is foolish to think hard baking any technology in on day one is going to support occupants properly in the decades of building use to come.

Our technology design, implementation and optimisation methodologies enable people to be responsive to this challenge. Talk to us about how we can revolutionise your next new build or refurbishment project.