No Yawns this time
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 at 11:08PM
Toby Considine in Background, Enterprise Interaction, Standards

I remember the last push for energy efficiency. At UNC, we still have some of the buildings built during the last energy crunch. These buildings are known as a good place for a nap in the afternoon. One that houses fruit fly research has a slow sweet redolence of nutrient solution fruit fly nutrients. This smell combines with the general lack of oxygen in this early efficient building to put any inhabitant into a deep sleep.

The Healthy Building Institute (HBI) wants to address this. The HBI is a new group, akin to the Green Building Council in scope and organization. It is not one of the many groups, including Healthy Buildings International with similar names and acronyms.

The mission of the HBI is simple: Buildings that do not harm humans. The HBI wants to update the ventilation and air quality standards (among other things) to what is actually needed for the people who are actually in the room. Just as important, the HBI wants to be able to monitor and document performance of space to HBI standards.

If they pull this off, then the metrics will be another use for building systems that are able to expose their activities as services for consumption by enterprise systems.. HBI monitoring would be a separate service, usable by multiple external systems, and outside of the centralized control functions.

Some owners will object to this model, because they fear potential liability. Some building operators will object because they do not want anyone to look over their shoulder. The best operators will incorporate such metrics into their service level agreements, and demand premiums for better work. The more sophisticated owners will advertise their numbers to attain higher rents and higher occupancy.

The LEED and Sustainability crowd should welcome HBI metrics as well. As I noted in my post Sustaining Sustainability, nothing would be less surprising than for the public to lose interest in Sustainability as the current crises fade. If high performing buildings have lethargic tenants, then the new approaches will not last long. HBI metrics read directly off the building system interfaces by third parties will provide the feedback to keep sustainable buildings healthful and productive. Healthful and productive buildings will stay green.

The biggest expense in creating responsive interoperable building systems will be the definition of the first surface. That may support Monitoring and Operations. It may support Demand Response. Thereafter, each surface comes with minimal additional cost. If that additional cost lest owners demonstrate superior healthfulness, than it provided the commercial owner a method to regain all of his investment in intelligent buildings from increased rents and re-sale.

Look for opportunities to leverage enhanced building operations with HBI metrics. Start using standard interfaces to systems now, so that you can add HBI as it is defined. And watch those yawns.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (
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