Top Trends Impacting Smart Buildings In 2017

From tunable white lighting to graphic user interfaces, Crestron’s Andrew Gross shares his predictions on the most impactful smart building trends for 2017.

Every year, Facility Executive takes a look at the trends we think will impact facilities based on factors such as commonality in the marketplace, the audience affected, or the time it will take to adapt to a technology. These trends can include the latest gadgets to hit the marketplace, or identifying new systems that could alter the environment within a workspace. This year, we spoke with Andrew Gross, National Design Manager for Crestron, to get his insight on the trends he sees having the biggest impact on smart buildings in 2017.

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Andrew, can you give us an overview of the trends you see immediately impacting smart buildings as we start off the New Year?

Tunable white lighting, or lighting that complements or syncs with the body’s circadian rhythm, will see more traction in the New Year. We saw a little chatter about this in the marketplace over the past few months, but 2017 will be when companies and institutions alike make a more dedicated effort towards implementing this technology into their facilities.

Wireless control will also be big. This means installing solutions/fixtures that don’t rely on copper/hard wire connections. Wireless solutions reduce installation time, reduce costs (from taking away the actual copper element) and allow facility managers to up-scale systems without the help of external parties.

Workplace optimization tools, management solutions, and enhanced audio visual (AV) controls will also play a larger role in creating more efficient meeting rooms and office spaces. In an increasingly fast-paced working environment, companies will look to facility managers to find ways to best optimize meeting spaces — like providing solutions that ensure employees don’t double-book rooms, or finding solutions that reduce meeting set-up time. An added benefit of these solutions is the insights they provide. For example, if a boardroom is only being used by three people on average, optimization tools can indicate to facility managers how the space could be made into something more useful, like huddle rooms. Insights like these will help companies know they’re getting the most bang for their buck out of their facilities.

Out of these trends, which do you think will have the most impact on smart buildings in 2017?

Tunable white lighting — it can drastically impact a facility environment and how individuals respond within it. For those unfamiliar with tunable white lighting, think of the “Night Shift” feature on iPhones. This feature lets users make their screens warmer (yellow) or colder (blue) depending on preference. Warmer lighting helps release melatonin in the body, which also helps people sleep at night. In contrast, cooler lighting blocks the release of melatonin, or keeps people awake. If you put this concept into a facility perspective, cooler lights can help office employees stay sharp and alert during work, while warmer lights can help patients relax in waiting rooms.

What industry do you think will see the most change as a result of these trends?

Tunable white lighting can impact everything from commercial interior office spaces, to hotels, to healthcare institutions, to schools or educational facilities. Take healthcare institutions, for example: Facility managers can alter the lighting within a facility so that lights are cooler above the nurses’ station, but warmer within patient recovery rooms. There have been also been studies that show benefits within classrooms and to student engagement.

In regards to smart building technology specifically, what products or solutions do you think will dominate the space?

In addition to lighting solutions, I’d say graphic user interfaces and having multiple applications housed within one interface will be more popular this year. Instead of having multiple switches or multiple applications that users have to weed through to turn on a light, these interfaces will make it easier to find the control needed, and the settings desired.

These solutions will also make harder-to-understand concepts more relatable. Again, think of how we use our smartphones: We’ll start seeing the touchscreens we use on a day-to-day basis incorporated into walls, podiums, boards, etc. to make information and tools easier to access, understand and work with.

With an influx of the IoT and these smart solutions, what role will security play?

The security of these technologies largely depends on how secure a building’s internet is, or the security of what the technology/solutions run on. For example, Crestron solutions typically run on facility Ethernet backbone or their internal systems. The more secure the system is, the more secure our solutions will be.

There’s also the element of human error to consider. As with any device or system, it can only take one person to accidentally override a setting that can cause a user preference issue or downtime. There are, however, preventative solutions and measures companies can take. Crestron, for example, incorporates levels of security through passwords. So for example, the front desk could have access to one level of building control with their specific password, while the CEO could be given access to all levels of building control with his/hers.

What else should facility managers, and those purchasing smart building products and services on the market, be considering as they set plans and budgets for 2017?

With all of the great technologies and solutions coming to the marketplace this year, facility managers should try to institute a sort of single dashboard of control or maintenance for their buildings. While technologies like tunable white lighting and adjustable blinds are great and can have a positive impact on a workspace, they can also be a nightmare to maintain if they’re housed on separate places of control. Aside from the costs associated with training employees to use multiple systems, multiple control points also allow for a high possibility of human error, getting back to that security concern.

By combining all of smart building technology and solutions into one central point of control or dashboard, facility managers can cut down on training costs, reduce the chances of human error and better visualize the ROI of the technologies/solutions they implement.

Anything else?

I think the last thing that’s important for facility managers to know is that smart building technologies and solutions aren’t as scarily expensive as some think they are. There overall tends to be an assumption that technology like smart lighting control is expensive because it’s new and affects large areas of a building. In reality, technology like this is more cost-effective than upgrades we see every day, like installing new carpet. It can also have a greater positive impact on the individuals within the facility. When making budgets heading into the New Year, facility managers just need to prioritize what will have the most positive impact on the most individuals vs. focusing on a price tag.

smart buildingsAndrew Gross is National Design Manager for Crestron. Crestron creates and manages custom smart building solutions that help increase collaboration and reduce inefficiencies within the workplace and home. Its automation and control solutions let people control and manage entire environments with the push of a button, integrating systems such as AV, lighting, shading, security, BMS and HVAC to provide greater comfort, convenience and security.


  1. Why not use solar collectors, which could be simple mirrors or shaped like reflecting telescopes, to focus natural light for transmission into buildings.

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