Smarter Buildings, Part 2: How to Close Gaps Between Design and Performance

Such a reporting requirement lends further support to the idea that the greatest opportunity to improve energy efficiency and building performance across the board in building stock lies with existing structures. Buildings consume about 40 percent of the energy and 70 percent of the electricity used in the U.S., and existing structures far outnumber new construction.

Initially with LEED, the market tended to focus on new buildings. But as Watson's annual Green Building Market and Impact Report shows, the fastest growing segment of LEED project registration is among existing buildings.

At one point in the discussion in DC, Gunther asked Watson, "What accounts for this gap between the plaque and operations?"

Watson offered a two-part response. "No. 1, when we were designing LEED, we started with the easiest thing new construction," Watson said. "Second, the fault lines between standards reflect the fault lines within the industry itself."

"We spent years, literally years, arguing about that line between design and operation," Watson continued. "And one of the reasons why LEED succeeded, in my opinion, is that we only graded people on things they'd have control over.

"There are numerous fault lines in the control and delivery process of buildings … initially our job (in developing LEED) was to make friends, not to be cops. Now that we've got people's attention, we can start moving the industry a little more. What I hope to see going forward is more integration of the design and operation issues. This is an evolutionary, a co-evolutionary, process."

Smart buildings are also the results of an evolutionary process  -- the development of increasingly sophisticated equipment to control buildings systems and technology to monitor and network those systems, collect data on building performance, analyze the information and help building operators maintain or plot new strategies for optimizing efficiency.

Asked to share his vision of smarter buildings, Bartlett said, "some of you may be wondering what is an IBM computer scientist doing sitting up here. But working with mechanical engineers, we realize there's an opportunity: Given the proliferation of smart sensor technology and the range of appliances and systems now available in buildings, there's an opportunity to collect data at a level that has never been done before."

Smarter buildings, Bartlett said, are about getting that wealth of data "into a warehouse, doing the sorting, the sifting, the correlation and applying rules to understand what needs to be done, so you can use real-time analytics and optimization."

"This is where companies like IBM make a lot of sense," Bartlett continued. "We've been in the business of data collection, warehousing and running analytics and providing analysis."

Wedding the firm's analytic might with robust data collection, building systems and energy management is at the heart of a growing line of business for IBM -- and for other companies that are vying for marketshare as the intersection between technology, the built environment, transportation and cars, and management of resources such as energy and water becomes more pronounced.

In what has become a hallmark for business strategy in this new arena, erstwhile competitors increasingly are collaborating to pool their strengths in carefully crafted partnerships. Last year, for example IBM announced a series of strategic partnerships with Johnson Controls, Schneider Electric, Eaton and other companies. Johnson Controls, Schneider Electric and Eaton also are members of the IBM-convened Green Sigma Coalition, which was formed to advance enterprise sustainability through projects that cut resource consumption, waste and greenhouse gas emissions.