Climate change has shaped our era. This is reflected not only through polarizing opinions but through several political initiatives worldwide.
The 2016 Paris agreement, UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the European Green Deal in the European Union (EU), the Climate Crises plan in the USA, as well as local regulatory activities (e.g., the 2020 New York City (NYC) Energy Code - everyone is coming together to lift some of the pressure off our planet & people.
Building and facilities managers have been challenged to contribute to ambitious sustainability targets by improving the environmental performance of their buildings and assets. Most buildings & facilities sustainability strategies aim at multiple complementary goals, including regulatory compliance, cost savings, energy efficiency, and brand image improvement. And technological innovation can be strategically placed at the center of these strategies.
Nowadays, buildings and facilities managers employ Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies to improve the sustainability performance of their real estate assets and processes. In this guide, we walk you through what a sustainable building can look like, and how IoT technology can help you reach your sustainability goals.
A sustainable (green) building, at its core, is a building that focuses on increasing the efficiency of the resources it uses, like energy, water, and materials. A sustainable building functions in relation to its occupants’ health & well-being and its environmental impact. It usually reduces its human and environmental impact by:
Sustainability is a key focus for this century’s buildings & facilities managers. That’s because they’re managing one of the world’s biggest pollutants. Buildings account for 35% of world resources, 50% of total energy use, and 50% of climate change gases, and should be at the forefront of sustainability efforts.
As the deadline for sustainability targets comes closer, facilities managers are striving to reach their net-zero targets. According to the 2020 report by Johnson Controls, in 2021:
How can you aim to reach these targets?
Predominantly, 75% of facilities will consider implementing Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to turn their buildings smart & sustainable. Through IoT, buildings & facilities managers can design, develop and deploy innovative business processes in areas like waste management, maintenance, and energy-efficient operations.
By using sensors to track occupancy, employers and office managers can understand employee working styles to accurately measure and allocate space capacity. That often leads to downsizing and better space allocation, which can shrink an office’s carbon footprint by 30%.
Insights into how people use the office or how frequently doors are opened and closed in restrooms also determine when and if cleaning is needed. This allows the cleaning staff to optimize their service, reducing the waste of cleaning supplies, which usually come in plastic containers and are difficult to recycle.
Facilities managers are currently confronted with the challenge of managing different types of waste, including:
Waste management operations must focus on reducing carbon emissions through minimizing waste production and maximizing waste recycling. In this direction, you should consider implementing 4 main strategies:
If you cannot measure your waste, you cannot optimize it. Sustainability managers must have accurate information about the waste generated by their real estate. To this end, you need to regularly perform waste audits towards documenting the processes that produce waste, how much waste they produce, what processes are in place to manage it, as well as how well these processes perform.
Emphasis should be put on understanding the composition of the produced waste, such as the amount of waste that can be reused or recycled. IoT technologies can contribute to measuring and tracking waste. For example, internet-connected weighing scales can enable the continuous documentation and tracking of office waste.
Based on the documentation of waste sources and waste management processes, building managers must take educated decisions to improve the ways they produce, store and transport waste. For instance, IoT sensors can provide insights into the use of restrooms (e.g., by tracking doors opening and closing) towards determining whether and when cleaning is needed.
This can help to reduce the waste of cleaning supplies and optimizing their recycling. In general, the improvement of waste management processes must put emphasis on both optimizing emissions and reducing the risks to human health and the environment.
Waste management optimization in smart buildings and facilities management must be a joint effort of tenants and facilities managers. Sustainability innovation managers must make provisions for raising awareness about waste management and for training tenants on waste management processes.
Further, you should incentivize tenants to engage in waste management activities like recycling. IoT technologies can be used to track tenants’ activities (e.g., their contribution to waste recycling) and to implement innovative “nudging” programs.
Facilities managers must track the performance of their waste management activities. To this end, you must establish and monitor relevant KPIs, like the amount of generated waste, the recycle levels achieved, and the different waste management methods employed.
Based on a combination of the above-listed strategies, you can put in place environmentally responsible and resource-efficient waste management strategies, which help you achieve ambitious green targets. Sensing and IoT technologies can play a key role in the implementation of the listed strategies, and cannot afford to be ignored.
The planning of maintenance, repair, and service operations is important for the status of buildings’ assets like equipment and machinery. Sooner or later, these assets wear out and lose their effectiveness, which increases the carbon footprint of their operation. To reach sustainability goals, you must optimize the maintenance of these assets towards improving their energy efficiency.
In this direction, you can implement condition-based maintenance approaches, rather than replacing assets whenever they go out of order. Condition-based maintenance strategies enable you to track the operational status of the assets, towards anticipating the points in time where specific assets need attention (e.g., service or repair).
Internet of Things technologies can play an instrumental role in realizing the shift from reactive maintenance approaches to condition-based maintenance strategies (e.g., predictive maintenance). Specifically, data about the condition of the assets can be collected by sensors and IoT devices, such as temperature sensors, power consumption probes, water sensors, humidity sensors, acoustic sensors, ultrasonic sensors, and thermal images. The analysis of this data enables the extraction of credible estimates about the Remaining Useful Life (RUL) and the End of Life (EoL) of the assets, which can be used to optimize maintenance and repair schedules. The latter optimizations help you avoid downtimes and reduce the CO2 emissions of the assets’ operation.
Sustainability managers must ensure that their buildings operate in the most energy-efficient way. In this direction, you must optimize the energy operations of HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems, which consume significant energy.
State-of-the-art IoT technologies enable you to track temperatures in rooms and other spaces of your buildings. In conjunction with statistical data processing and machine learning, they can also provide insights into the occupancy of the building. The latter can be used to optimize the operation of LED (Light Emitting Diode) and HVAC systems.
Likewise, IoT analytics enable the prediction of energy use towards scheduling precooling operations at times where energy prices are low while decreasing cooling at times of high prices. In these ways, they improve the sustainability and the cost efficiency of real estate assets.
IoT analytics can also facilitate space management and assets’ utilization in ways that achieve the best possible energy usage. For instance, the tracking of rooms’ and spaces’ occupancy can drive the implementation of optimal space management strategies that optimize energy usage in shared spaces.
Furthermore, machine learning techniques over sensor data can be used to stabilize room temperature. In this way, you can optimize energy usage at room level, while ensuring the best possible comfort for tenants. The provision of optimal temperatures at the various rooms contributes to the good health and safety of the customers.
Disruptive Technologies (DT) has created a system of tiny & powerful wireless sensors which enable the implementation of a rich set of sustainability use cases for smart buildings.
Here are some of the ways our technology can be used to make buildings smart and more sustainable:
Overall, IoT systems and technologies enable sustainability managers to implement a holistic, end-to-end approach that considers all the above-listed aspects. Specifically, different sensors and IoT devices can be integrated within IoT platforms that provide information and statistics about waste, asset, and space management through a single-entry point.
Similarly, they can implement integrated applications that track, aggregate, and manage sustainability KPIs across different processes. In this way, you can save tons of energy, reduce CO2 emissions, and audit compliance to sustainability regulations. Moreover, you can ensure that sustainability performance improvements come along with the provision of better services to tenants and customers.
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