Climate change and lessons from the coronavirus pandemic will figure into and reshape construction of smart buildings, says Chris Collins, vice president of systems transformation for digital energy at Schneider Electric. Collins lays out essentials for future building under the headings of sustainable, resilient, hyperefficient and peoplecentric.



As 2020 draws to a close, everyone is naturally thinking about the future and what the next year will bring. For building owners and facility managers, that means reevaluating their building portfolio to determine whether it’s equipped with the technology to meet the challenges of the future while simultaneously ensuring the health of occupants and the environment.

Because as Chris Collins, VP Systems Transformation, Digital Energy Division at Schneider Electric, noted during his presentation at IFMA’s World Workplace virtual conference, our environment is in crisis. While the COVID-19 pandemic prompted 5% lower global CO2 emissions, it was a short-term reprieve from the status quo. What is needed now is a proactive, long-term commitment to sustainability.

There are a number of challenges in tackling climate change, particularly in the built environment, which is responsible for 40% of the world’s emissions. “The future of building design and operations is where we win or lose the fight on climate change,” Collins says. He points out that efficiency, resiliency and human-centric design also need to be addressed in buildings to ensure they are optimized for the future.

The global pandemic is accelerating the digitization trend, he says, and that “the COVID-19 crisis has changed what it means for buildings to be smart.” He points to a clear need to embrace smart technology and to use data captured by IoT devices to help achieve greater efficiency. As such, Collins suggests in order to meet sustainability goals for the future, our buildings need an “all-electric, all-digital philosophy,” that is balanced by a human-centric mindset.