Specifiers will need to think about the user interfaces and the less tangible but vital elements such as the ’feeling’ a building invokes
Ten years ago, much of my work was focussed on solution development for integrated buildings. Since then both the technology and my career have evolved and we are now all familiar with the concept of the smart, intelligent building and some of you may even be sat in one as your read this blog. Based on the experiences I’ve had and how I have seen the industry change I think now is the time for the wider construction industry to take a fresh look at how it specifies projects.
For too long the norm has been completing a complex tendering process that requires the varying and diverse components to deliver to a pre-agreed performance specification. This has created opportunities for tenderers to deviate from what is being requested and to provide variations because their particular technology has been developed in an alternative way.
With smart buildings and cities becoming a reality this approach will no longer suffice; the specification should be about the outcomes not just the performance of the various installed systems. This will no doubt generate some challenges, the first one being how do you articulate these outcomes at the tendering stage, then how do different providers understand, integrate and evaluate their component’s contribution to these outcomes and finally how are these outcomes measured meaningfully.
The answer to the first is that for end-users to really get what they want from an ever-changing world of technology, they need to describe in the simplest terms how they, the people, citizens or users, are intending to engage with the space and/or building. This might encompass how they will operate and interoperate with it eg the use of a theatre with rehearsal and workshop spaces, cafés and an auditorium will differ greatly from how an international bank or a university uses its specific spaces.
Specifiers will need to think about the user interfaces and the less tangible but vital elements such as the ’feeling’ the building provides as you walk in and experience, not only for the first time but on a regular basis. Adopting this new, more challenging approach will allow the technologists to think, explore and even collaborate to achieve these outcomes and not be hindered by a tried and tested performance spec that may well have been written for a previous project and has just been reworked!
But how will this work? It is not going to be easy to change the approach of an industry that has infinite complex and convoluted process and procedures that are understood by all but are equally found frustrating and burdensome by many. There is going to have to be a leap of faith and an element of trust that will empower people to take an unfamiliar approach and one which will give leave to the technologist to find a more effective way of delivering the newly defined outcomes.
One approach that I think could be trialled is to make far better use of pilot projects. Whilst having a pilot project may extend the duration of a large-scale development, the opportunities for learning, collaboration and improvement that can be gained with this approach are plentiful. It may require a new way of tendering that allows for both the technical proof of concept but additionally will also create a proof of cost model as well. These different elements can then be scaled up and compared to the final project cost plan and changes and enhancements can be made that will ensure a more effective outcome.
In order to make these pilot projects really valuable the hitherto entrenched elements in the construction hierarchy are going to have to take a deep breath and adopt a new way of working. No longer will contractors and sub-contractors vye to pass the blame/responsibility for hiccups and delays in programmes. Far earlier in the process these different teams of highly experience personnel, each with valuable knowledge and comprehension of their specific niche are going to have to drop their tribal loyalties and become true team players, with the team being the building’s final user.
It won’t be easy, there may be tears (!) but ultimately the satisfaction of working on this type of project combined with the real outcomes that will be delivered must make an innovative approach worthy of real consideration. Are you brave enough to take the lead?
Simon Blazey has a wealth of experience within the built environment, having worked for several of the major building automation manufacturers over a 25-year career. He held several key sales positions at Schneider Electric, managing a team of segment specialists covering key end user accounts and delivering fully integrated building automation and energy management solutions. Additional duties included building strategic partnerships to facilitate high level end user selling with a specific focus on building performance ie Energy optimisation and workplace performance. Due to the success in the UK Simon was also responsible for the deployment of this methodology across the Global Schneider business community.
More recently Simon’s role was building performance director at Armstrong Fluid Technology, working with end users developing carbon reduction strategies and projects. These relationships and his understanding of building performance has helped Simon in his Strategic Solution sales role at Tridonic, in particular with the beyond lighting strategy of IP connected buildings and cloud based lighting solutions, which are at the forefront of developments in lighting.
If you enjoyed this, you may wish to view the following:
The perfect storm: how lighting can become the backbone of a connected city by Tridonic’s Simon Blazey
How can collaboration and partnering really work when it comes to creating the digitally connected ceiling, asks Tridonic’s Simon Blazey