How pandemics affect automation, controls in building design

COVID-19 affected engineers and building professionals’ designs in many ways, including building automation systems and controls

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer July 6, 2021


  • Matt Goss, PE, PMP, CEM, CEA, CDSM, LEEP AP, Senior Vice President – MEP/Energy Practice Leader, CDM Smith, Latham, N.Y.
  • Richard Heim, PE, LEED AP, Project Manager, RMF Engineering, Baltimore
  • Sean Lawler, PE, LEED AP, Principal, Project Manager, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Seattle
  • RA McNutt, PE, Mechanical Engineer, Lockwood Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN) Dallas
  • Kevin Miller, PE, LEED AP, Principal, Certus Consulting Engineers, Carrollton, Texas

Is your team using building information modeling in conjunction with the architects, trades and owner to design a project?

Matt Goss: Yes, but we’re also an integrated design and design/build firm.

Richard Heim: Yes, a majority of our projects do use BIM, frequently in coordination with other disciplines. 

RA McNutt: Yes, as these programs get quicker and more user-friendly, we find more and more that we want to look at a 3D model of the system in the proposed space to make sure we have looked at all aspects of how the piping, duct and air handler will fit in the space and be installed. Thanks to BIM, we have become better at finding conflicts between disciplines and preventing change orders at even the 50% design stage. BIM has become a very valuable tool for all parties involved in the construction of a building. Contractors seem to breathe easier when they find out that the design is in BIM instead of a 2D CAD system. 

In what way is the need for more smart technology and features affecting your work on these projects?

Matt Goss: Clients are asking for more smart technology to gain better insights in system performance and operations to promote facilities’ well-being. 

How has COVID-19 increased or enhanced automation or technology in any facilities? 

Matt Goss: It has increased as owners are looking to do monitoring and verification of systems to ensure performance and identify and resolve issues promptly

RA McNutt: It has stressed the importance of no-touch technologies from doors to credit cards. 

What smart devices are owners requesting and how are you meeting these needs? 

RA McNutt: Touchless faucets and doors have become common requests from building owners, even in maintenance spaces where touchless is not required. The owners say that their personnel have these demands. 

Do you find building owners requesting more building automation systems and controls due to COVID-19? 

Matt Goss: Owners in general are requesting more automation and controls, but not necessarily related to COVID-19. They are more related to increases in connectivity.