Lis Christy with Stacey Vaeth Photography
Wanda Lau

When not to automate

March 14, 2023
In Smart Buildings Technology's March 2023 issue, editorial director Wanda Lau considers what can be missed when everything is automated.

For someone who covers building technology, I am a relatively non-techy person. I write my to-do list in a spiral notebook, I have never waited in line for the latest version of a device, and I don’t ask Alexa or Siri for anything. In my engineering days, when I needed to, say, calculate area or volume, I would sometimes integrate by hand rather than use software. To me, going through a process manually leads to greater understanding and appreciation of the result.

In a world with overlapping deadlines, nonstop multitasking, and tightening margins, the meaning and value of work can get lost. Few of us appreciate an HVAC system until it stops working. Only when the facilities or maintenance team dissects its mechanical and digital innerworkings that we remember the complexity of conditioning spaces of different volumes and changing occupancies.

That rush of wonder and gratefulness can come with moments of all scales, from nailing a few lines of code that successfully executes a function to learning your building has achieved performance certification from a respected organization.

In the March 2023 issue, writer Jeff Link looks at the 3 million-square-foot CIBC Square commercial office development and multimodal transit hub in Toronto. Imagine how many meetings, field surveys, drawings, contractors, and materials had to be coordinated to complete this state-of-art project.

Also, contributor Betsy Conroy aggregates the latest details from building performance certification programs, including U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED, WiredScore’s SmartScore, and BOMA Best. Next time you walk in or by a structure bearing a certification mark, pause and reflect on the requirements, prerequisites, and people-hours that went into making our built environments better.

Publishing a magazine is an undertaking of a significantly different scale, but many pieces and parts are involved. In this issue, our masthead debuts several new names, including Robert Nieminen, chief content director of several SBT partner brands; he dives into the smart-building world with a story on advanced fault detection and diagnostics technologies.

In a world with limitations on everything from resources to attention span, I recognize that we cannot cover every topic in great detail and frequency. Taking the time to appreciate what we can accomplish is an essential practice that cannot be automated.

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About the Author

Wanda Lau | Editorial Director

Wanda Lau is the editorial director of Smart Buildings Technology, LEDs Magazine, and Architectural SSL. She is an award-winning editor, writer, and podcaster whose work appears in several publications, including Architectural Lighting and Architect, where she was most recently the executive editor. In 2021, she was named one of Folio: and AdMonsters' Top Women in Media, in the DEI Champions category. Along with working a decade in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, she holds a B.S. in civil engineering from Michigan State University, an S.M. in building technology from MIT, and an M.A. in journalism from Syracuse University.

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