Assure Reliable Systems and Spaces  

the WBDG Productive Committee


Reliability is a great concern for building occupants and organizations. Absence of reliability directly affects personal security and well-being, as well as mission critical work. As workplaces evolve in response to changes in organizational structure and work practices, reliability needs to take into consideration the multiplicity of spaces that support individual and group activities. This applies to all facilities whether public or private, institutional or commercial, large or small, regardless of location, circumstance, and/or purpose. Organizations and the occupants of their buildings are entitled to work places that enable them to remain productive and in-touch at all times. Further, there are financial implications of time lost when systems fail and the workspace is not conducive to occupant productivity. Down time does adversely affect the bottom line.

People increasingly expect work settings to fully support pursuit of individual, team, and organizational objectives without operational uncertainty. Building and information systems that disrupt workflow will not be tolerated. The workforce of the future will demand workspace and tools that amplify their abilities and help them do their best to compete effectively. This calls for systems that perform reliably with good maintenance support.

Building users must be able to rely on facility hardware and software for health, life, safety, power, data, and voice delivery systems (and related equipment and tools). These systems need to function consistently and be properly maintained. When the workplace is supported by high-performance systems that require appropriate levels of maintenance to minimize downtime and have back-up capabilities to ensure negligible loss of service, worker productivity can be improved or maintained.

Four people sitting around a glass conference table looking over plans


  • Employ an integrated design approach and integrated team process during the project planning, design, construction, commissioning and operations processes.
  • Provide freestanding (local) system alternatives for individual user access and control.
  • Maximize interoperability of different manufacturers' systems and products (including parts interchangeability).
  • Provide adequate training and resources to use and/or maintain systems.
  • Select systems based on optimum performance, interoperability, and intuitive operation and maintenance.
  • Consider dual-fuel back up and onsite renewable energy systems for critical building systems, including fire/emergency, HVAC, lighting, power, data, voice, etc.
  • Provide ease of access for maintenance and repair of systems.
  • See also WBDG Functional/Operational Branch.


  • Maximize conditioning through natural means/methods (e.g. operable windows, natural ventilation, building mass, etc.).
  • Consider displacement air supply system that are zoned appropriately for ventilation purposes (e.g., through raised floor system).
  • Provide systems with real-time monitoring capability to optimize interaction with building management/maintenance personnel for long-term, efficient operation.
  • Provide networked computerized building systems sensors to monitor and manage control of the following systems: HVAC, energy recovery, lighting, building access, security, fire suppression, and smoke alarm.
  • Provide building automation systems that are remotely accessible by facilities managers to determine problem locations and monitor environmental conditions without disturbing workers.


Interior of the Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis, MD

Workers at the Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis, Maryland, enjoy access to daylight and views from all areas of the building.

Power Supply

Bullitt Center roof-top photovoltaic array

The roof-top photovoltaic array at The Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington supports the Net-Zero goals of the project.
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Benschneider

Telecommunication Systems/Equipment (voice/data, media systems, connections)

Example of a card key system in use unlocking a door

Card key system


  • Provide identification/verification systems (such as card key, fingerprints, eye scans, etc.) to access and/or control IT, data, space, and property.
  • Provide hardwired smoke alarms with back-up battery power.
  • Provide low power usage emergency egress lights and LED illuminators with rechargeable battery.
  • Provide security systems with back-up capability for emergency signals and communication.
  • See also WBDG Secure/Safe Branch.

Related Issues

Increasing demands for renewable, energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible back-up power sources have lead to advancements in fuel cell technology, solar, wind, hydro, and biomass power systems.

Photo of a fuel cell power plant installation South County Hospital, Wakefield, RI
1.4MW Fuel Cell Power Plant Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT

Fuel cell power plant installation at South County Hospital, Wakefield, RI
Photo Credit: ClearEdge Power

1.4MW Fuel Cell Power Plant at Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT
Photo Credit: Fuel Cell Energy

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)—the integration of all departments and functions across an agency/company onto a single computer system that can serve all those different departments' particular needs.

Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM)—the concept of developing a maintenance scheme based on the reliability of the various components of the system or product in question. Implementing a preventative maintenance program using RCM can greatly reduce the cost of ownership of a product or system.

For most building owners and operators, reliability ranks almost as high as cost as a top "quality indicator" when selecting building systems and equipment. "Problem prone equipment," often selected due to lower first costs, reduces system reliability and is clearly a chief motivator for purchasing quality equipment.

Continuous Commissioning—an ongoing process to resolve operating problems, improve comfort, optimize energy use, and identify retrofits for existing buildings and central plant facilities. Continuous commissioning ensures that the building and systems operate optimally to meet the current requirements, which supports worker effectiveness.

Relevant Codes and Standards

ASTM Standard Classifications and Practices

Additional Resources