This week was National Institute of Standards and Technology’s annual Global City Teams Challenge (known as NIST’s GCTC) and, for the first time, it was co-hosted with Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate as the Smart and Secure Cities and Communities Challenge (known as DHS’ SC3). Much more than a mouthful, this Washington, DC gathering was where theories and policies for smart cities are built.

Last year, we were part of the GCTC conference as part of the Kansas City, MO Smart City Cluster and this year we were there for the Smart Building Action Cluster (SBAC) kick-off.

With representatives from international, federal, state and local governments as well as solution providers and people who just wanted to see what it all was about, the SBAC conversations jumped from LEED certifications to connecting buildings with cities to design evolution and inhabitant requirements.

Then someone said that we don’t need to worry about the efficiency of future buildings because the evolution and improvement of design will negate any inefficiencies. I about jumped out of my seat.

As you probably know if you’re reading this, Site 1001 was born from construction. We know buildings are almost never built the way they were designed (which why, much to the angst of architects worldwide, “as-built drawings” exist), and even when the construction crews do stick to the design specifications, problems can still arise. Finally, as a company whose whole purpose is providing the tools that let building owners and operators run their structures with the same precision and efficiency with which they were originally engineered, we know first hand how much changes once the building is up and running.

This discussion was followed by a question: But how do we know how buildings are running?

Buildings are constantly talking to us by how they’re performing. Too hot? Something isn’t right. Leak in a wall? Something isn’t right. Your electricity bill go through the roof since last week? Something isn’t right. But when these symptoms are present, it’s already too late to prevent the problem, it’s already there. To ensure your building is performing as optimally as possible, you need to be listening to what’s going on 24/7 with real time data. You get this data from measurements given by sensors, building automation systems and more – but the most vital factor is if you’re listening.

The challenges of retrofitting buildings with technology to make them smarter weren’t up for debate but that’s not being done right either; remember the CES Blackout?

This is a very exciting time for the maturation of smart buildings and smart cities. As was touched on by this SBAC conversation, there’s a lot to figure out but there’s undeniably a foundation we cannot ignore: the future of truly smart buildings lies in building performance and operations and you simply cannot have smart cities without smart buildings.