Trending towards unSMART buildings

In fifty years, our industry has forgotten a lot.

When I was a youth in the 1960's, my mother taught my sisters and I to keep the house cool without refrigeration:
  • Close the drapes and exterior sun screens on the side of the house receiving sunlight.
  • Use window fans to exhaust air on the hot side of the house to draw cooler air in from the shady side.
  • Plant trees and vines strategically to mitigate weather extremes.
  • Retreat to the cooler basement during the hottest times of day.
  • Cook on the outdoor hibachi to avoid heating the kitchen.
  • Dress for the weather. 
Meanwhile, my father worked in a downtown office building with shafts for natural ventilation and light. Borrowed lights and operable transoms allowed daylight and breezes to reach deep into the building.

The standard today is to seal the building and use automatic controls to maintain comfort. Our appliances may be more energy efficient, but we still depend on machines in our homes and workplaces.

Yet we may be seeing a backlash that could be significant to building product marketing. Consider these items:
"It takes a smart architect to make a dumb building." Link.
1. The Seattle architecture firm of Weber + Thompson has moved into what is touted as the "first modern office building without air conditioning". It has as a central courtyard that affords natural lighting and cross ventilation to all workstations. Operable windows allow staff to actively manage their environment.

2. "Dumb is the New Smart", an upcoming lecture at the University of Toronto asks: "Is a 'Smart Home' really the smart choice? ...Reliance on interconnected and often incompatible gadgetry... isn't necessarily the most effective way to accomplish a responsive, responsible, and resilient home. Using a suite of devices that utilize multiple apps to monitor and operate your heating and cooling systems arguably consumes more energy than opening a window or turning on a fan."

3.  Government initiatives to promote building resilience in the face of disasters encourages a reexamination of ways to keep buildings in operation when the infrastructure goes down.

4. The effort to create "net-zero" buildings requires us to question dependence on energy consuming appliances and systems.

What opportunities and risk will this pose to your building product business.  Contact me at +1 818 219 4937 or to discuss your concerns.  And, if you come to see me on a a hot day, dress for the weather.