Governments and businesses across the country are learning everything they can about what a reintroduction into shared work spaces and common places might look like, especially for densely-occupied city buildings. As part of city and state plans to address the ongoing health-care crisis posed by COVID-19, they should encourage building owners to incorporate TIA’s industry-defined assessment criteria for smart buildings. The criteria, which includes technology requirements promoting health, wellness, and safety, among others, in buildings, can bolster preparations for reintegration into buildings.
According to the Brookings Institution, despite economic growth patterns from the 2010s and the pandemic spurring temporary migration away from cities, high levels of population growth and work opportunities in urban areas are still expected in the future. In a recent United Nations report, it was estimated that the global urban population will increase from 54% in 2016 to 66% in 2050. It’s a statistic that TIA CEO Dave Stehlin has previously emphasized, and it provides city leadership with clear motivation to plan city clustering in a safer and healthier way than ever before.
As the U.S. continues to grapple with the coronavirus and all of its uncertainty, TIA remains confident that its smart-buildings assessment criteria can help building owners meet heightened market demands for optimized work environments to support increased productivity and overall health and well-being of building occupants. City leadership should engage with and encourage adoption of TIA’s smart-buildings assessment criteria, which are organized by six primary categories: connectivity, health & wellbeing, life and property safety, power & energy, sustainability, and cybersecurity.
Historically, city leaders across the U.S. have demonstrated the feasibility of working with standards development organizations (SDOs) to meet important goals. When cities in the mid-2010s sought to address greenhouse gas emissions with sustainability measures, according to the Paris Climate Accord, mayors and councils introduced a range of bold policies and enforcement mechanisms to achieve them. Some have included capping the amount of emissions a building can release based upon that building’s square footage, and then penalizing the building according to its emissions overage. Others elected to incentivize retrofitting buildings so that they become more efficient in their deployment of energy. But what is most important for SDOs has been the large-scale adoptions by cities of common standards to guide public and private building owners toward broader compliance. Local governments’ endorsements of certain standards, such as LEED standards, to promote green buildings have played a vital role in helping achieve city sustainability goals.
Successful scalability and implementation of a cities’ energy and sustainability goals and enabling building operations to meet those goals depends on the ability to collect and analyze multiple levels of information inside of buildings. The better a building can accurately collect and analyze data from its energy consumption, the better a building can manage and adjust its strategies for optimizing utility usage.
The same pragmatic application of incorporating health, wellness, and safety features into buildings can make buildings instrumental for maintaining public health in the ongoing pandemic. Some examples include smart sensors, which can help maintain social distancing in offices, open areas, and elevators. Sensors can also assist ‘track and trace’ efforts, provide data for not just density tracking systems, but they can also enhance security through access controls. Special UV lighting systems can help disinfect surfaces, and temperature scanners can help identify symptoms before occupants even enter a room. In addition, installation of advanced HEPA and HVAC filtration mechanisms can neutralize potentially contaminated airborne particles in ventilation systems in both open and condensed spaces.
The number of examples of how TIA smart buildings assessment criteria can help building owners improve the health, wellness, and safety of buildings will continue to grow with adoption. TIA believes that city-wide adoption and promotion of assessment recommendations in support of public health initiatives can contribute to a responsible new phase of interactivity between buildings and the people who occupy them.
TIA has established a comprehensive plan for buildings to become smarter, cleaner, healthier, and safer than ever before. Local governments need to actively engage with building owners and together with TIA to expand insights on what buildings can offer cities today and in the future. Then, by implementing scaled health-and-safety measures for buildings based on the assessment criteria, cities will help to streamline response efforts and increase technical clarity for building owners and managers. Through greater adoption and promotion of this assessment criteria for smart buildings, TIA believes that public health goals for cities will become more collectively attainable as workers and residents reintegrate back into buildings.
Improvements in this space will yield a multiplier effect, leading to clusters of smart buildings, which will prove results for long-term smart city agendas and the lofty goals we often read about in the press. Standards can ultimately make cities healthier, safer, and better connected, and TIA stands ready to work with private and public partners on achieving healthier and safer buildings.
By John Bat, Summer Law Clerk Intern, TIA