UL and TIA programme assesses smart buildings

  • October 5, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Safety certification company UL, formerly Underwriters Laboratories, and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) have launched the Spire programme to provide objective assessment and ratings for smart buildings.

Spire provides an assessment of connected technologies within buildings, delivering insights, benchmarks and roadmaps to help lower costs, mitigate risks, create brand differentiation and enhance overall asset value.

Assessment criteria were developed with the input of a TIA industry working group of more than 60 commercial real estate, real estate investment trust, asset management, technology and telecommunications industry specialists.

The programme consists of two key components: the online Spire self-assessment and a UL verified assessment and rating. The self-assessment, available now in version 1.0, is the first step for assessing a building or space that allows users to gain initial insights into six distinctive criteria that describe the current state of their smart building. These criteria are life and property safety, health and well-being, connectivity, power and energy, cyber security, and sustainability.

The verified assessment and rating, coming early next year, entail an in-depth audit by UL. The objective, evidence-based assessment uses the six criteria. A successful assessment results in a UL Verified mark, a plaque and a building performance score based on the six criteria of the Spire smart building assessment framework.

For both the self-assessment and the verified assessment and rating, Spire provides a structured means to assess the outcomes of design for and adoption of smart building technologies.

“The integration of all building systems is now technically possible and is becoming a necessity for success in a very competitive market,” said David Stehlin, CEO of the TIA. “Fully integrated systems are enabling advanced building automation that helps increase efficiency, optimise operations and enhance overall occupant productivity and wellbeing. By assessing, validating and rating key building elements that take into consideration the entirety of a smart building, Spire can simultaneously help improve asset performance, RoI and tenant relations.”

Originally conceived as part of an overall initiative between the TIA and UL to share commercial, technical and standardisation insights to further their work in the smart buildings ecosystem, the Spire programme was developed over the past two years and included a collaboration with Corning Optical Communications, the programme’s first pilot partner, to test the overall assessment approach.

“Corning is proud to be one of the founding members and pilot partners of the Spire smart building programme,” said Brian Davis, Corning’s director of global market development for in-building networks. “When we developed our new optical communications headquarters building in Charlotte, we used our industry-leading technology to create a facility that can serve as a model for future smart buildings as we help move the industry forward. After completion, the TIA and UL helped evaluate and verify that we were meeting or exceeding performance levels in each of the six smart building criteria.”

The Spire assessment provided insight into how Corning’s power- and fibre-to-the-edge network and ubiquitous wireless coverage impacted bandwidth availability and connectivity reliability, safe power and centralised backups, safety surveillance and network cyber security, and lower energy consumption.

The programme comes at a time when businesses are grappling with the extent, complexity and reach of Covid-19 and its impact on building assets. A better understanding of operations efficiency, overall costs and risk mitigation of their building portfolios in light of the pandemic has become a top priority of commercial real estate companies, building owners, managers and tenants.

“Those overseeing smart building assets are looking for guidance to help better align performance strategies, planning tactics and operational efficiencies,” said Rachna Stegall, vice president and Spire lead at UL. “The Spire smart building programme does just that by providing insight to smart building technologies and outcomes while helping to empower informed investment decisions about where to focus technology, building enhancements and business optimisations.”

The TIA represents more than 400 global companies that enable high-speed communications networks and accelerate ICT innovation.