Buildings Buzz - Voices from the Industry

BUILDINGS - Smarter Facilities Management

Featured Posts

4 Ways to Make the Smart Building Case to the C-Suite

Posted on 9/14/2016 9:48 AM by Kaynam Hedayat

For facility managers tasked with keeping a site up and running seamlessly, creating a networked, smart building is quickly becoming not only a badge of honor but an essential part of ensuring operations are fully optimized. The smart building taps into the Internet of Things (IoT) by integrating automation software into building platforms, such as HVAC, lighting, security, and safety. These platforms have the capacity to collect unprecedented building intelligence – ranging from employee productivity to energy usage and opportunities to save – which all have a major impact on the health of a business with the ability to optimize business operations. But the C-suite, who is dealing mostly with priorities that include meeting revenue deadlines, scaling the business, and making sales numbers, in many cases doesn't even know what type of intelligence is hidden within their building.

So how can facilities and operations teams advocate for adopting a smart building platform in their organization? Below are four benefits of the smart building you should know to make the case to the C-suite:

Benefit 1: The Smart Building Offers Unprecedented Operational Intelligence

When a facility is connected to an intelligent network, a plethora of operational data can be collected. This data harvesting and analytics can shed insight into how the facility is managed and operated through occupancy trends and employee traffic patterns. Intelligent lighting systems, for example, can provide a heat map to show how a facility is being used – from what time of day employees arrive, to the aisles they primarily work in – which can have a larger impact on inventory management. The facility manager may find that inventory in the back of the facility is particularly popular and workers are spending lots of time in transit, so there is an opportunity to streamline processes by relocating inventory. Separately, intelligent HVAC systems, particularly when networked into an intelligent lighting system, have the capacity to understand what areas of the facility are in use and at what time, and know to heat and/or cool those areas only when necessary.

Benefit 2: The Smart Building Improves Employee Engagement/Productivity

Networked solutions actually create a better work atmosphere, as a smart environment offers fewer distractions and more comfortable and, in some cases, individualized settings. Not only does that make staff more engaged and happy at their job but also more productive team members, which of course is a top goal for the C-suite. Here’s why:

Connected platforms are able to take into consideration occupancy, time of day, and available daylight in order to maximize energy savings without employee distraction. For example, intelligent lighting systems offer dim settings, so light only goes on in a section of a facility or is dimmed at a certain level or rate depending on staff utilization or occupancy, which makes for a friendlier, less distracting environment. And for employee comfort and engagement HVAC systems integrated with connected lighting platforms allow setting comfortable facility temperatures, depending on time of day or outdoor temperature, etc., to ensure a pleasant working environment.

Another critical application the smart building offers for employee productivity relates to asset tracking via indoor positioning technology. By adding beacons to intelligent light fixtures and tagging assets, like inventory, managers can have real-time access to the exact location of the assets. This solves the “where is the box” problem that many warehouses face, allowing facility staff to stay efficient and therefore more engaged.

Benefit 3: The Smart Building Enhances Facility Security & Safety

Smart solutions not only increase the physical security of a building, but also safety of the building’s equipment and emergency systems. While it may be obvious that intelligent lighting platforms can prevent break-ins by turning on the lights when the sensors detect movement, they can also perform tedious and time-intensive, but extremely critical, testing on a regular basis, ensuring that if the power goes out, emergency lighting is turned on. This prevents hazardous situations for employees, and also provides automated confirmation that a building or facility meets the necessary safety certifications.

Because intelligent lighting systems offer heat maps and occupancy data over time, facility mangers can identify high areas of traffic that require special attention to employee safety. For example, facility managers can strategically plan forklift pathways across the facility so that they move in areas of least occupancy, preventing any accidents and decreasing the potential safety risks to employees.

To further maximize security, managers are also utilizing occupancy sensing data to create virtual fences around particular areas within a facility. If there is trespassing into any virtual zone during certain hours of the day or night (set forth in advance by the facility manager), the connected platform immediately alerts the facility manager so he or she can respond to any possible breaches in real-time.

Benefit 4: The Smart Building Contributes to the Bottom Line

Networked smart buildings have the capacity to reduce energy costs, optimize staffing and asset usage, and improve security, thus delivering a meaningful impact to the organization’s bottom line, which is always top of mind for the C-suite.

Intelligent lighting systems, which use already efficient LED fixtures, have the capacity to save up to 90% on energy-related expenses simply by better managing operations, such as turning off when the area is not in use and using daylight harvesting to dim the facility when possible. As the system’s heat map can show areas in which inventory isn’t being used or accessed, the C-suite can also see areas of business where products may not be selling, which provides them with the valuable data that can be applied to manufacturing planning. A heat map can also track equipment utilization, so organizations know if they should (or shouldn’t) make additional investments, be it loading dock equipment, trucks, or lifts. Separately, an intelligent security system can replace or complement employee security to ensure facilities are protected against theft, thereby reducing salary allotments and/or losses related to potential stolen materials.

All in all, while the C-suite might not care about the "smart building," they do care about the aforementioned benefits that the smart building provides. By showcasing the power of a connected network, facility managers can get the buy-in they need from the corner office.

Kaynam Hedayat is VP of Product Marketing and Management for Digital Lumens. For more information, please visit 

View(1832) or Add Comments(0)

Enhance Building Performance: Aesthetics with the Right Shades

Posted on 9/12/2016 7:56 AM by Colin Blackford

A comfortable temperature and plenty of daylight are among the most attractive benefits commercial building owners can offer occupants. In addition to energy savings, solar shading solutions provide these essential benefits and contribute to a pleasant work atmosphere for those who spend their days working indoors.

Choosing the right shade color can have a dramatic performance and aesthetic effect in any building. Doing it correctly, however, isn’t simply black and white.

Managing Daylight

Performance-based design concepts emphasize the value of design and material selections as they relate to the successful implementation of the building. For instance, selection decisions such as shade fabric color and Openness Factor (OF) can impact the available daylighting for building occupants. As a result, architects, designers and building owners are incentivized to employ technologies that enhance daylighting, preserve views to the outdoors, and contribute to overall occupant wellbeing.

Solar control fabrics provide solutions for a wide range of daylight conditions for commercial buildings. Understanding the influence of shade color is the first step to managing daylight with shades. Fabrics for both interior and exterior shades generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Dark fabrics
  • Light fabrics
  • High-performance, thermal control fabrics

Choosing Shade Colors Based on Design Intent

Shade colors should be matched to the design intent of each building. Before choosing a shade fabric color solely on looks, it is important to evaluate the performance needs of the building. The specific needs of a building can be affected by its orientation, position relative to other buildings and the intensity of year-round sunlight based on local climate.  

It is equally important to understand the task needs of building occupants for proper daylighting. For retrofits and renovations, existing temperature readings and general observations of glare can be valuable information to determine the right shade color for the specific application. Of course, there are varieties of factors that come into play. They should be evaluated together to determine the best product selection that matches the design intent.

If an architect’s main design intent for adding shades is to maximize the reductions in annual energy consumption, then light colored shades should be considered for their thermal performance properties. Using light colored shades increases solar reflectance while maximizing daylighting. However, light colored shades may still experience glare and be highly visible to the exterior.

Conversely, if the design intent is for the shades to blend with the reflected color of the glazing, then darker shades are the best selection. Dark colored shades will maximize glare control and preserve views to the outdoors, but may absorb and re-radiate too much heat for occupants sitting close to the shade to be comfortable.

Light vs. Dark

To better understand the trade-offs between aesthetics and performance in light and dark shade colors, building owners must consider the distinct advantages and disadvantages of each choice:

Advantages of light shade colors:

  • Preserve natural light and reduce the need for artificial lighting
  • Reflect a higher percentage of solar energy
  • Reduce interior heat gain, resulting in lower energy expenditures for cooling
  • Increase privacy levels due to visible light reflectance (Rv) properties

Disadvantages of light shade colors:

  • High visible light transmission (Tv) values can add to visual discomfort or glare
  • Depending on glazing selection, may be highly visible from exterior and interfere with street-side aesthetics, causing unintended visual noise

Advantages of dark shade colors:

  • Significantly reduce Tv values and enhance glare control
  • Provide superior view-through for enhanced connection to the outdoors
  • Often virtually invisible to the street-side, providing exterior continuity to building aesthetics

Disadvantages of dark shade colors:

  • Absorb more solar heat than light colors
  • Can be less energy efficient when compared to light colors

Is Black the New White?

One option to simplify decision-making is to choose a shade fabric that has been designed for maximum performance across many conditions. This option allows building owners to ensure shades are aesthetically integrated into the building design, while also maintaining a comfortable interior space free of glare and excessive heat gain. Innovative shade fabrics that enable dark fabrics perform with levels of solar reflection that approach those of white or light fabrics, while still providing reduced glare and excellent visibility to the outdoors.

Color and Shades – the Great Equalizers

Shades aren’t simply window covering attachments meant to look beautiful on the inside of your space. Selecting the appropriate shade color for the building’s design intent will have a large impact in managing interior building temperatures, lighting and glare throughout the life of the building. Shades can effectively update the energy efficiency of older buildings and can be an attractive, sleek accessory to update a building aesthetically. Perhaps most importantly, they can be integral in delivering the level of occupant comfort and well-being that is desired in the built environments of today.

Colin Blackford is the Innovation Manager for Mermet USA. For more information, please visit

View(934) or Add Comments(0)

Get featured on Buildings Buzz! Contact Keith Evanson for more information.