Considered a novelty not long ago, smart buildings are now popping up everywhere – fuelled by advances in technologies, networked infrastructure and software applications, as well as newfound awareness of the value that building intelligence has for improving a company’s bottom line.

A 2018 Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) report, “Monetization of Intelligent Buildings” noted that smart building technologies, while “…not pervasive across all buildings…are a sign of what’s to come: interconnected and automated processes that improve operational productivity, efficiency and tenant comfort and satisfaction.” According to the now well-accepted “3-30-300” rule, businesses and other organizations spend just $3 per square foot for energy costs, $30 for real estate rent and $300 for employee salaries and benefits. With the ever-increasing array of comforts and conveniences building intelligence can deliver to a company’s workforce, the value of smart building technologies and IoT applications for facility owners and managers is becoming easier to see.

And, indeed, the trend toward equipping commercial buildings with the “brains” to reap a range of benefits such as improved occupant wellbeing, comfort and safety, and reduced facility operational costs, is clearly hitting its stride. Valued at approximately $5.8 million in 2016, the global smart building market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 34 percent between 2017 and 2024 - reaching nearly $62 million by 2024, according to a July report by Zion Market Research.

Against this backdrop, our two organizations – CABA and the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) – recently executed an agreement to work together to promote adoption of smart building systems, technologies, and IoT applications, focusing on the potential for connected lighting to provide a facile gateway for building data and intelligence.

CABA’s “Monetization of Intelligent Buildings” study projected that the installed base of IoT devices in North America would grow by 9.5 percent annually between 2018 and 2023 – to a total of over one billion devices at the end of that period. Likewise, the number of connected devices shipping to North America between 2018 and 2023 is forecast to increase by 11 percent annually, with networked lighting controls (NLC) playing an important role in that increase.

NLC systems can be wired, wireless or both, and may or may not include IoT applications. The energy efficiency value of NLCs was illustrated in a 2018 DLC study showing that they can boost the energy savings of commercial LED lighting projects by about 50 percent. While the energy savings potential of NLCs is an important asset, it’s only part of the story, however. Real estate owners, developers and managers are increasingly recognizing the smart building-enabling value of intelligent lighting solutions such as NLCs – a technology that boasts an ROI of less than two years.

Through NLC technology, LED lights become so much more than illumination. Installed in regular patterns throughout ceilings, they comprise the only building system that is virtually everywhere – making them ideal vehicles for data collection. NLCs can be equipped with sensors to perform a wide array of functions valuable to both building managers and occupants. Examples include mesh networks for Wi-Fi, sensors for temperature and carbon monoxide, and daylight harvesting to decrease artificial lighting where it isn’t needed – thereby reducing expenses and demand on the electric grid. NLCs also support collection and sharing of data with other building systems to enable tasks ranging from parking elevators on highly occupied floors and facilitating navigation to available meeting rooms, to letting first responders know where people are during emergencies. In addition, intelligent lighting controls allow a building owner or third party to collect and analyze data that can inform further improvements to lighting products and other smart building systems.

Advancing the development and deployment of intelligent lighting technology is a vision shared by CABA and the DLC, and one that will benefit from our newly minted alliance. As our partnership matures, look for CABA and the DLC to collaborate on research, working groups, and technical and policy materials relevant to the advanced lighting, building automation, and connected buildings industries. We’re optimistic this collaboration will speed development and wider adoption of smart building technologies that foster more efficient utilization of building space, better occupant comfort, and greater energy savings.