Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
April, 29th 2010

In the past 12 months alone, New York City office workers have spent the equivalent of 22.5 YEARS either waiting for an elevator or stuck in one, according to a new IBM survey. Why? Because office buildings have failed to keep pace with the revolution in automation that pervades modern life.

Buildings_IBM Elevator Bubble Chart - FINAL

Architects have become experts at designing for green. They are envisioning more environmentally sustainable designs on how buildings should be situated, what materials should be used, how to meet LEED specifications, etc. But the reality is, while they use data and modeling to design buildings that will perform efficiently, they never really know in the end how things will turn out. Because its not just up to them.

Consider the players when it comes to building a building:

  • There are the architects, as stated.
  • Then there are the engineering design & construction firms who take the design from the architect and build it. They can conceivably make a lot of changes to the design of a building along the way. Think: “Hey Joe, the wall doesn’t fit!” “Just move it till it fits!” (By the way these changes aren’t always documented.)
  • There are the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) contractors. They manage the cabling and plumbing of the building. Oh and by the way, they may have to make some changes along the way too. (And did I mention they use different types of design tools than the architects?)
  • There are the engineering subsystem companies that manage different parts of the building, like the HVAC systems, the elevators, etc.
  • The metering and sensing companies handle meters outside of the building that monitor utilities, and meters inside the building to check out the temperature, CO2 emissions, pH of the water, etc.
  • Then of course there integrated building management system companies that gather a lot of data from the building.
  • And the owner operators

But here’s the deal: These guys are all experts in their field, and they work well together in theory. But they all are making changes along the way that may not be captured and shared. By the time a building gets built, the owner operator may not have the real view of the building design because its changed so much from the original architects’ view. And think about the MEP contractors who come back three to six months after the buildings been built, to see how it’s performing. They may realize the building is using 20 percent more energy than originally planned, but they missed the boat over the last few months because they weren’t keeping track of changes along the way and maintaining building equipment accordingly.

The fact of the matter is buildings can and should be retrofitted. But a real view of the how the building is designed and operating is needed to make better sense of the changes that need to be made. Just think if you were monitoring your weight regularly, you’d know if you gained 5 lbs that its time to start exercising, instead of waiting till you gain 30 to figure it out. Same goes for buildings: if we can help the experts that design and build, view integrated energy management and maintenance information in real-time, we all could spend a little less time in elevators.

What about Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas?

  • Los Angeles: 16% of LA respondents say they have been stuck in an elevator in their office building in the last 12 months, with 16% of that group stuck for 20 minutes or more (versus the national average of 9%).
  • Atlanta: 14% of those who work in buildings with elevators have been stuck in an elevator in the last 12 months, spending the equivalent of 6.2 YEARS either waiting for an elevator or stuck in one.
  • Dallas: In the past 12 months, Dallas/Fort Worth office workers have spent the equivalent of 7.9 YEARS either waiting for an elevator or stuck in one. 13% of Dallas/Fort Worth office workers who work in elevator buildings say they’ve been stuck in an elevator in the last 12 months. Of those, 19% say they were stuck longer than 20 minutes, the high for the survey. 36% were stuck for longer than 10 minutes, also the high for the survey.

To see what’s happening with buildings in your city, check out the IBM Smarter Buildings Survey for more info on how cities stack up…

Survey Methodology: IBM conducted an online survey of 6,486 adults working full- or part-time in office buildings in 16 major US cities from March 30 – April 12, 2010. The survey was conducted to gauge how “intelligent,” automated and Green office buildings are in the country. The survey looks at a number of key factors, including building security, office temperature, use of alternative energy sources and other environmental and conservation issues, and elevator reliability. The survey had a city by city margin of error of 5%.

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May 17, 2010
11:22 am

Is the number of hours spent by NYC employees so much more because NYC is so much more a vertical city than the other ones surveyed? Perhaps a better metric is a per capita measure of the average office worker’s time stuck in, or waiting for, an elevator. Or corrected for “verticality” (perhaps by population density during the workday) so that you can actually compare the relative irritation-inducing state of elevators in that city with other cities.

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Posted by: amd
April 29, 2010
4:43 pm

I think the survey should control for those who were stuck in the elevator not to be over represented in the survey – having the tendency to be vocal about their bad experience!!!

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September 22, 2011
6:08 am

[...] More data on how wireless sensor networking technology can make old buildings”smarter” and help us all become more productive. [...]

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April 30, 2010
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This post was mentioned on Twitter by smarterplanet: Care to guess which U.S. city has the smartest buildings? Or where you’ll wait longest for an elevator? Survey results:

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