Sustainability

The Results are in: Demand for smart buildings is up

There is no question that COVID-19 has changed the building landscape for consulting engineers ― especially when it comes to specifying office and industrial workspaces.

Over 40 percent of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full-time, according to a recent Stanford research study. More than half of these managers and employees report struggling with productivity in their work-at-home environments.

These changes are driving new demand for smart building technologies, such as mobile apps that enable workers access to timely safety information, hot-desk flexible workspace schedules, and other digital workplace services for increasing employee engagement. As an engineer, you may be tasked with specifying smart buildings that support these technologies in the future.

To better understand the impact of COVID-19 on smart building technology and the engineering industry as a whole, we looked at the results from a recent CFE Media & Technology survey of nearly 200 U.S. design-build and consulting engineers. Here are some of the key findings.

What do changing construction demands mean for consulting engineers?

More than half of the engineer respondents (52 percent) report that COVID-19 is creating more interest in the usefulness of smart building technologies, such as the mobile apps noted above. Nearly half (43 percent) report they are currently involved in construction projects related to COVID-19.

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How are engineers adapting processes and tools?

As engineers work to specify COVID-19-related construction requests, they are also facing their own challenges involving processes and tools.

When asked, “How has COVID-19 impacted the process and tools you use?” nearly 70 percent of the 182 respondents reported that all their personal interactions have shifted to virtual meetings. Just over 30 percent said they still conduct meetings in person, when possible.

Figure 2 – Process and Tool Changes Since COVID-19

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Only two percent of the surveyed engineers indicated COVID-19 had no effect on their current processes and tools.

How does the new smart building demand impact continuing education?

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has limited in-person opportunities for engineers seeking continuing education. The majority of survey respondents now obtain their continuing education from webinars (92%), followed by supplier and vendor websites (48%), and industry associations (32%).

Figure 3 – Continuing Education: Preferred Sources

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What industry code and standard changes can engineers expect?

Nearly 80 percent of the respondents predict some kind of impact or changes to building codes and standards because of COVID-19.

The most common codes and standards referenced include:

  • ASHRAE 62.1: Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality
  • ASHRAE 90.1: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings
  • International Building Code
  • National Standard Plumbing Code
  • NFPA 70: National Electric Code
  • NFPA 99: Healthcare Facilities Code
  • NFPA 101: Life Safety Code

Figure 4 – Building Codes & Standards Changing as a Result of COVID-19

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In the survey comments, one respondent predicted an increased focus on ventilation standards “for an overall increase in building health,” with less focus on energy efficiency.

What does the future look like for construction projects?

Only 24 percent of the survey respondents indicated that COVID-19 did not change their perceptions of smart building technologies. The remaining 182 responses confirmed that the pandemic proved the importance of smart building technologies.

Respondents also expect a change in project types in the future. 63 percent of respondents predict a decrease in new construction projects, 52 percent predict an increase in commissioning, and 71 percent predict an increase in retrofits / renovation projects.

Figure 5 – COVID-19 Impact on Smart Building Technologies

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Seeking resources in response to COVID-19

Engineers are now seeking more resources to navigate construction changes and smart building technology demands driven by COVID-19. When asked about obtaining these resources, the survey respondents noted a wide range of building types of interest.

These include:

  • Hospitals/healthcare facilities
  • Mission-critical facilities
  • College/university buildings
  • K-12 schools
  • Data centers
  • Industrial/manufacturing facilities/warehouses
  • Utilities/public works/transportation
  • Office buildings
  • Sports/entertainment/convention center facilities
  • Government or military buildings
  • Transportation/logistics
  • Correctional facilities
  • Hotel/motel/resorts
  • Engineered multi-dwelling complexes

Delivering smart building specification resources:

The PROficient Premier Access Portal

There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the impact of COVID-19 for the construction industry and consulting engineers. This analysis of the CFE Media & Technology survey is one of many resources for engineers navigating the evolving smart building landscape ― all available via the Schneider Electric™ PROficient Premier Access Portal.

Use the portal to explore resources that can help engineers such as yourself adapt to the post-pandemic world, including the Spec Designer tool, the LayoutFAST digital design tool, and access to Division 25 experts. Register for the PROficient Premier Access Portal today to get started.


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