Is ‘Smart’ the Right Term?

May 20, 2013
Bullitt Center exterior

Seattle’s Bullitt Center is going for a “Living Building” designation, but it’s really a “smart” building that combines efficient passive design and renewable energy sources with energy-efficiency intelligence on the inside. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider

I attended a green conference last week and during a round-table discussion, an industry professional said she didn’t like the term “smart building.” It seemed she didn’t like “smart” because it implied intelligent technology, and … well … a building can be green without that.

A smart building for example, could employ passive design principles such as a southern face to collect solar gain in the winter or an east-west axis to promote natural ventilation. And it’s super-smart to design a building that way.

I completely agree. And I believe it’s another reason we should use the term smart—as mush as possible.

Finally, a Smart Marketing Term?

Smart may be the best marketing term the green industry has come up with. Already we have smart buildings, smart homes, smart cars, smart charging, smart cities, a smart grid and smart appliances—and they can all be operated by smartphones, which are great tools for selling green tech and efficiency. We have a whole emerging smart infrastructure—and when you talk about smart anything, green and technology and energy efficiency are almost always a part of equation.

That’s why I love the smart prefix. It works. It works as a phrase people understand and don’t associate negatively with green and Al Gore and hippy-dippy environmentalists telling them what to do. It works as a keyword for SEO and Google Analytics. And this is perhaps the key(word) selling point, because if it works for search engine optimization, that means people are using it to search. On Google!

Simply put, smart works. And who doesn’t want to be smart? After years of trying to find an alternative to the negativity associated with “green”—if you ask me, the greenies ruined a perfectly good color—and the ambiguous awkwardness of “sustainable” and “sustainability,” something really smart was staring us in the face.

Let’s not ditch the one good term we have. Let’s embrace smart as the moniker of all things green and techy. Smart works. Smart is efficient. Smart is renewable. Smart is sustainable. Smart is … well … it’s really smart.


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