Smart Provisions: 5 Ways the COVID Relief Bill Boosts Smart Building Innovation

By Patrick Lozada, Global Policy Director at TIA

In the post-pandemic era, the safety of tenants and workers will be a top priority for building owners and developers. While many equate smart buildings with energy efficiency and productivity-enhancing amenities, these tech-equipped structures will also play a huge role in mitigating the public health risks brought on by COVID-19 today and in the future. 

To that end, the final COVID omnibus relief bill in December included provisions supporting the implementation of smart buildings technologies.  

The bill included measures in Section 1007 tasking agencies with carrying out initiatives previously articulated in the Smart Building Acceleration Act, originally introduced by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)The bill: 

  1. Tasks the Department of Energy and the General Service Administration with establishing a new Federal Smart Building Program to implement smart building technology and demonstrate the costs and benefits of smart buildings. 
  2. Orders the selection of a series of buildings belonging to various federal agencies, the setting of smart building targets for those buildings, and the implementation of a strategy to meet these benchmarks. This strategy should include an identification of which advanced technologies are the most cost-effective and show the most promise for: 
    • Increasing energy savings 
    • Increasing service performance to building occupants 
    • Reducing environmental impacts; and 
    • Establishing cybersecurity measures.
  3. Expands awards made under the Federal Energy Management Program and the Better Building Challenge to recognize specific agency achievements in accelerating the adoption of smart building technologies. 
  4. Tasks the Secretary of Energy to conduct a survey of privately-owned smart buildings along the criteria established in point 2. 
  5. Tasks the Secretary of Energy with developing smart building accelerators to demonstrate innovative policies and approaches that will accelerate the transition to smart buildings in the public, institutional, and commercial buildings sectors. 

TIA is taking these new provisions into account as we engage with government stakeholders on smart buildings policy and standards. This includes working to ensure these provisions receive sufficient appropriations from the incoming Congress and educating incoming Biden administration officials about how independent benchmarking tools can help policymakers meet their congressionally-mandated goals. 

These provisions address a range of smart building issues from implementation to innovation. As smart buildings become more integrated, industry-led standards framework will be needed to accelerate adoption at scale. The first step on this journey starts with assessing and verifying smart building performance using a transparent, industry-defined criteria. 

Smart building technology will be critical for the future of thoughtful development. In September, 2020, TIA and UL launched SPIREthe world’s first comprehensive smart building assessment and rating program.   

Currently, the SPIRE Self-Assessment online tool can provide a snapshot of building intelligence based on an expertly curated, objective framework. And later in 2021, TIA and UL will offer the SPIRE Verified Assessment and Rating.  

Learn more about our Smart Buildings Program here:  

About TIA

TIA is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop voluntary, consensus-based industry standards for a variety of ICT segments. Follow TIA on FacebookLinkedInTwitterYouTube, and TIA NOW for the latest updates.