Buildings Smarten Up

istock / teekid
istock / teekid
Published On
Mar 15, 2020

Catholic Charities, in Stockton, Calif., is a nonprofit, faith-based organization serving parts of Northern California. The organization, known for its social service, is also a good steward of its own resources, including the operating budget of its headquarters facility. Lately, it has upped its focus on resource conservation by finding ways to reduce heat, cooling, lighting bills and other building services with automation and intelligent systems.

Catholic Charities commissioned Portland, Ore.-based JouleSmart, an intelligent building solutions provider. JouleSmart, and many other automation companies like it, is leveraging the bonanza of intelligent building automation to save money and build efficiencies in commercial and residential facilities.

JouleSmart uses installed hardware—such as temperature sensors, real-time power meters, smart thermostats, intelligent HVAC monitoring controls, or intelligent lighting systems by wireless networks—and its Integrated Intelligence Gateway cloud-based, building-management system software. The software provides remote facility oversight, which prompts proactive, real-time management of comfort, indoor air quality and energy usage. By using these services, Catholic Charities has cut building operating costs by 38%.

For an electrical contractor, there’s a growing opportunity to roll up your sleeves, put on your tool belt and help facility owners like Catholic Charities boost operational efficiency and reduce operational cost.

This niche isn’t just for large commercial facilities and tall buildings. Medium-sized buildings and residential facilities are also adopting smart and intelligent control systems.

Rise in intelligence

Switches, controls and software are advancing so rapidly, “smart” is becoming a worn-out descriptor.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, Hogar Controls, a smart home and building automation company out of Sterling, Va., introduced its Prima Touch Switch. The switch enables users to dim lighting to their taste with a touch or a wave instead of a push or a click, can be configured to a smart scene in a home or commercial installation, and it can be installed quickly.

Smart device hardware continues to offer remarkable capabilities for home and facility owners. A “scene” can be preprogrammed, with the proper dimming and environmental conditions. The sophistication of building controls enables anyone to set a scene and program it to their likeness.

Austin, Texas-based Facilities Solutions Group (FSG) offers a diverse portfolio of facilities management services to building owners. The company has have 30 branches across the country and relationships with more than 1,000 electricians and installers. Now, it has built a separate group within the firm focused on smart building solutions.

“Over the last five years, we have been asked for more help beyond master systems integration, and the new division name better reflects our complete capabilities and how we help customers unlock the true potential and value of their buildings,” said Justin McCullough, FSG chief product and innovation officer.

Steady growth ahead?

At present, the market for smart automation is hefty and steady growth is expected. According to researcher Mordor Intelligence, the global market for building automation systems is $75 billion. It’s expected to grow by 11% each year to a projected $140 billion over the next five years or so.

Much of the growth is attributed to increased demand for smart automation in residential and commercial facilities. Users love technology solutions that improve our lives and reduce cost. Most of the market for facilities automation systems is in North America, and demand from Asia-Pacific nations is growing rapidly as their populations trend upward.

In the future, more companies are likely to enter the building and facility automation market to meet rising demand. For facilities such as Catholic Charities in Stockton, an electrician and installer will be needed to implement the new technology and make it work for the customer. This points to prosperous potential for electrical contractors that will likely become a critical link to the growth of the smart home, smart building and advanced automation technology permeating our world’s infrastructure.

About the Author

Jim Romeo

Freelance Writer

Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Va. He focuses on business and technology topics. Find him at

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