Happy SMART Day Everyone!
In case you didn’t know, Thom and I have been real estate brokers for over 25 years. Never a good “salesperson,” I soon began writing about real estate rather than selling it. On the other hand, Thom specializes in investment and commercial properties with a big emphasis on properties that are “green” and sustainable. A recent aspect to the energy-efficient real estate industry is “smart technology” for buildings and now even cities. But even though there may be an advantage to such technology and focus—it leaves out a critical ingredient. In order for anything to be truly SMART—people and their motivations must be included in the equation.
What do most people mean when they refer to a smart building or a smart city? The standard definition is a building or city that integrates the construction materials along with technology and its energy systems. In other words, if you have a room with wiring and sensors that can detect when a person enters a room and automatically turns on the light—and then automatically turns it off when that person leaves, that is a smart room. Plus, if the temperature can be monitored so that shades close routinely if the sunlight enters the room, or the air-conditioning consistently adjusts during normal business hours, the building is smart. Or if the exterior landscaping has a satellite uplink that knows if it will rain that day, and turns off the sprinkler system, that too is considered smart. The multiple systems required to make a building anticipate energy and water needs and efficiencies can make a huge difference in energy consumption, resources and owner finances.
On a larger scale, a city that is wired to work efficiently and compatibly with technology to save energy, manage resources, connect buildings and individuals, and provide mobility is considered smart. Those who champion smart cities also attempt to provide participatory governance and quality of life characteristics. While all of these qualities have a benefit—what feels noticeably absent when reading about or discussing most smart buildings and smart cities is SMART people. (Remember SMART stands for sustainable, meaningful, artful, responsible and thankful.) Without the people, a smart building becomes little more than an interesting commodity—and that alone is not very smart.
About three years ago Thom and I started a website pulling together the green and sustainable ideas and resources located in our local community. We both wanted to learn about the latest technology and innovations that were sweeping across our country, and knew that there were lots for us to explore. We figured as we learned and got excited about all the changing possibilities we would help to educate and change others toward a more green and sustainable lifestyle. And yes, after writing about the green movement for three years, we did learn more than anticipated. However, two of the main things I learned is that unless people get excited and see the value, they will largely ignore the information. I also learned that writing about technology alone (green or any other) is flat, rather dull, and only a small part of a bigger puzzle. Sure, you can educate others about something, but until they find meaning and take responsibility, you can only go so far. That’s why SMART Living 365 includes sustainability—but its focus is the whole enchilada.
A recent article rated the Top 10 Smart Cities On the Planet and the only city in the US was New York City at #4. The article acknowledged the good technological infrastructure of the city, but admitted that its miserable 47th place for quality of life brought the score down. Again, that provides a clear example that even if all the material elements are in place to save energy and resources, if people resist living there then the entire point is moot. Plus, focusing all your efforts on buildings or infrastructure to saving energy and other resources is like putting a band-aid on a cancer melanoma. You might cover up the real problem for a while, but underlying crisis is still going to get worse.
The planet would likely be fine and beautiful without humans on it—so that may or may not be the issue. But going about life as we know it, constructing buildings and cities as though the people were incidental is not SMART. One thing that makes Thom so successful in his field is that he consistently puts the people he works with first, rather than the properties they are buying or selling. After all, when you focus on the relationships and the motivations behind the individuals involved, all the details—be they smart or not—will then take care of themselves. SMART living is all about integrating all the elements that make up a meaningful and happy life—remembering always that it takes everything to make up the whole.
“I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I am a dyed-in-the-wool possibilist! By this, I mean with an eco-mind, we see that everything’s connected and change is the only constant.” – Frances Moore Lappé
“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.” – Margaret J. Wheatley
Photo Credit: Karen Riley @ http://www.scrapgallery.org/
Hazel Owens says
You do a great job explaining what a smart city is. I like how you said that if something is to be smart, it needs to include people and their motivations in the equation. I think that’s a great point to make, because building a city in a vacuum is most likely going to lead to a sub-par result. If you don’t think about how people will play into and use your smart city, it won’t feel natural, and people won’t be as comfortable with it as they would be with a non-engineered city.
Ravi Kumar says
Thank you very much for sharing this nice and fabulous post. I have bookmarked your site and enjoy every post from you. The way you write, I really like it. Btw Thank you once again. Looking for……….
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Ravi! Thanks for your comment. I’m very glad you liked this post and SMART Living. ~Kathy
Donald Quixote says
I didn’t know that they had a term for buildings with the ability to do those things. To be completely honest I didn’t realize until reading this how much planning must go into the electrical work while the building is being constructed to do have them do those things. Pretty cool.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi again Donald! Thanks for digging through all my posts to find this one. I do think it is fascinating what is coming in terms of technology. And yes, there are lots of factors that need to be included when building or retrofitting a property to be able to handle all of these potentials. But again, I think it needs to be sensitive to the needs of the people first and foremost. Technology can be wonderful if it in service to us, not if we are in service to it! Thanks again for your thoughts. ~Kathy