To say that we’re moving towards a new era in building construction and management may be a cliche, but it’s undeniably true. The past decade has seen an emphasis on both green building and smart building construction, with goals of sustainability and system performance converging in many spaces.
The size of the U.S. Green Building market has surpassed $81 billion, while the smart building market is expected to grow to nearly $110 billion within the next four years. The most intriguing component for us, though, is their convergence, along with the role cable management could play in its acceleration toward an optimized building.
It is essential to understand the key similarities and differences between smart buildings and green buildings to understand how to implement these concepts. In the goal of creating an optimized, well-functioning, and eco-friendly workspace, effective cable management becomes a crucial component.
Green Buildings, Defined
The World Green Building Council defines the term green building as:
A ‘green’ building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.
In other words, sustainability is key. Any building can be green, from homes to hospitals, as long as the building minimizes environmental impacts. That includes features like an efficient use of energy, use of renewable energy, waste reduction measures, use of non-toxic materials, and more.
The features that make a building sustainable also vary by region. Most countries are home to a localized arm of the WGBC that is responsible for more localized standards and guidelines. In the United States, the U.S. Green Building Council oversees LEED certifications, the standard by which buildings are deemed sustainable and can become eligible for tangible benefits like tax credits.
Smart Buildings, Defined
While green buildings are by definition dependent on their surroundings and location, as green building standards protect air and water quality by reducing the distance people have to drive and making it easier to walk, bike, or take public transit, smart buildings are more ubiquitously defined. ScienceDirect provides the following definition:
A smart building involves the installation and use of advanced and integrated building technology systems. Smart buildings recognize and reflect the technological advancements and convergence of building systems, the common elements of the systems, and the additional functionality that integrated systems provide. Smart buildings provide actionable information about a building or space within a building to allow the building owner or occupant to manage the building or space.
In other words, smart buildings merge building management with IT systems to consider technology needs and optimizations as part of the construction and management process. Through automation, life safety, telecommunications, user systems, and internet-connected facility management systems, these buildings dynamically optimize system performance and simplify facility operations.
The Overlap: Defining Smart Green Buildings
At first glance, the two concepts are inherently separate. One seeks to minimize harmful environmental impacts, while the other optimizes technological integration for improved operations. Increasingly, though, both concepts are converging into what we’ll call smart green buildings.
To understand the concept is to first understand a core truth: in both smart and green buildings, a core goal is efficiency. Both aim to minimize manual maintenance and resource needs, even if it might be for different goals.
Smart green buildings, then, are constructions that use connected technology to create a holistically optimized, well-functioning, eco-friendly workspace. As a recent report by Cisco points out, many of the goals of smart and green buildings are actually similar. Buildings leveraging smart technology are intended to accomplish sustainability by hitting on a few core LEED certification requirements:
- Optimized Energy Performance, through strategic and automated management of regulated (HVAC and lighting) and unregulated (individual electronics) systems.
- Measurement and Verification, automated in smart buildings through automated metering, management, and reporting platforms.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Monitoring, which in smart buildings can be dynamically connected to HVAC adjustments to minimize health hazards.
- Controllability of Systems, particularly at the micro-level for occupants to adjust settings for temperature, lighting, etc. per individual room.
- Permanent Monitoring Systems, which (again) is integrated into smart buildings to adjust HVAC settings based on occupancy rates, exterior temperature, and other variables.
- Innovation in Design, such as the innovative uses of cabling and technology that’s common in smart buildings to reduce materials and save energy.
In short, smart green buildings don’t just share common goals. They leverage one concept to accomplish the other, ultimately marrying the two concepts to create more efficient, effective, eco-friendly, high-performance spaces.
The role of Cable Management in Smart Green Buildings
Naturally, cable management is just one of many components in creating smart green buildings. At the same time, it can play a core role in accomplishing the ultimate goal of more efficient sustainability and flexibility.
As the Cisco report points out, for instance, the optimized cable infrastructure of a centrally-planned smart building reduces the use of materials, especially if the materials used are eco-friendly. Wireless integrations where possible, and planned in connection to the wired infrastructure, can save further resources.
Moreover, standardizing cable management from the beginning of building planning and design allows for less wiring and rewiring. Cable management solutions like Gridd eliminate waste from wiring demolitions and remodels. Further, standardizing cable management creates the potential to reuse materials, further saving energy in the process.
Finally, the right raised floor cable management satisfies another LEED certification guideline: the ability to remain flexible to changing conditions. Smart buildings make up one of the fastest-growing and fastest-changing trends in construction today. Any solution implemented in 2021 should keep in mind potential adjustments and improvements for future years. Cabling solutions that are designed for that type of flexibility can allow for fast, agile changes once the need arises.
While cable management is only one component in the complex web that comprises smart green buildings, it provides a great example of the intersection between both interlinked concepts. It’s a necessary component of creating an intelligent space, while also providing opportunities for eco-friendly material and energy effectiveness. As such, it’s bound to play a core role in this trend, both now and for years to come.
Gridd® Adaptive Cable Distribution® System is the FreeAxez patented low-profile access floor. It bridges the gap between smart building infrastructure and sustainable reuse. The Gridd solution changes and grows with a business, reconfiguring an unlimited number of times. Unlike raised floors of the past, Gridd is an access floor, cable management solution that meets today’s most demanding business environments.