Buildings: A smarter, more sustainable future

March 25, 2019 by Pradyumna Pandit, VP of Digital Energy and Ireland at Schneider Electric
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Buildings: A smarter, more sustainable future

Pollution and power failures remain commonplace, even in the most advanced economies. Businesses and governments are beginning to wake up to the untapped potential of smart cities to drive real and substantiate. Already it is predicted that global spending will grow to £34.35bn by 2020, which is more than double the level of investment in smart cities in 2015.

Cities are a major drain on the energy. They have a detrimental impact on the environment which is paving the way for smart cities to become the solution. Buildings are demanding large quantities of energy, which is often wasted and there is only so much that the Government and central planning can do. Eventually, in order to provide a smart cities future, millions of businesses must upgrade and optimise their real estate in unison.  

Despite this, on top of all the benefits smart buildings can have on the environment, they also pay dividends for those who own and work in them. The savings, innovation and optimisation within organisations is enormous. Smart buildings represent a substantial return on investment which businesses cannot afford to dismiss.

The route to smarter cities

Smart buildings and smart cities have a lot in common. Specifically, they both rely on the Internet of Things (IoT) without it, neither would be possible. The true essence of IoT lies in its ability to integrate the various and complex components and IT systems that comprise any modern building. Fundamentally, it creates a cloud-based network where various devices can communicate and collaborate.

It should be noted that only through cross-system communication is real-time monitoring, optimisation and automation able to occur. As soon as building systems can ‘talk’ with each other without the need for complex interfaces, the resilience of the infrastructure as a whole will ultimately be strengthened. It provides access to a greater volume of intelligence, as well as a better use of building resource resources. Such a system augments an organisation’s pursuit of greater energy efficiency, where the rapid collection of and reaction to massive amounts of information are essential.

One key example to note is that by having IoT devices and sensors integrated with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, organisations will be able to collect real-time data on all their products and services. This will enable thousands of sensors to gather data which will then be analysed, whilst simultaneously communicating with the outside world. The data will include actionable data from outside the building itself, including electricity, utility and commodity prices. Then by understanding and organising this information, the system will enable organisations to take a fresh look at their current practices, generate business change and create efficiencies.

IoT’s accommodation of automation has allowed for this process to become a reality. Tools that visualise and report utility bills, monitor assets, detect and diagnose system faults through benchmarking and analysis and enable fixes and optimisation are nothing new. However, most solutions have tended to demand a considerable amount of human involvement, reducing speed and overall effectiveness.

There are many benefits to having an IoT network. The key benefit being the ability of devices to communicate with each other without the need for human intervention.  Adjustments can be immediately, as long as the right software is in place. By taking advantage of the IoT to better manage the day-to-day running of a building or facility means that an organisation can reallocate its human capital to tasks where creativity and decision making are more important.

The key to efficiency and sustainability

The benefits that this will have to an enterprise is shocking. There are various opportunities for greater efficiency and sustainability in an IoT-optimised environment. For example, take the everyday occurrence of an office that is minimally-staffed due to employees going out to lunch.

An occupancy sensor, integrated through the IoT to the building management system (BMS), will detect a reduction in the office’s CO2 levels and set off an immediate chain of actions.  It will communicate this data to the BMS, which will then switch off heating, ventilation and lighting systems and place the environment into a deep setback, low-power mode until the employees return.

Where this kind of system is absent energy is wasted, emissions produced, and money lost. Though relatively minor in isolation, the cost of, for example, leaving the air conditioning running on a cool day builds rapidly over time. Indeed, the energy efficiency potential of buildings stands at 82 per cent.  In the long term, the presence of a smart system saves energy and reduces waste, amounting to a substantial cost-saving.

The advantage of connected devices

It is important to note that smart buildings are also key drivers of superior maintenance. In particular, proactive and predictive asset maintenance practices require the capabilities of IoT-connected systems. As a result of these devices being connected, they have the ability to communicate with each other with ease whilst also enabling easier care of equipment.

There are many benefits of Smart Buildings. For example, it is incredibly difficult for malfunctions to go undetected as a BMS can rapidly identify faults and target them without the need for human intervention. Allowing workers to focus on more important tasks. Ultimately, it reduces the number of equipment failures and unforeseen repair work needs to go ahead.  

As seen on a daily basis in the news, climate change is a real problem. The effects that it is having has been noted by government and officials, as pollution and population dominates the headlines. Cities have become too large and as they continue to grow, they are consuming more than two-thirds of the world’s energy and generate 70 per cent of its emissions. If officials and everyday people are adamant on tackling these problems, then they need to start at the bottom. The solution in many instances may be to create more sustainable buildings that use less energy.

What has to be noted is that sustainability can be easily implemented. IoT adoption in factories has a massive economic benefit for retail settings, work sites, offices and homes as they can total as much as $6.3 trillion by 2025. Connected, intelligent equipment and systems have proven their ability to provide greater insight into performance and deliver a considerable, measurable return on investment.

By forming the foundation of tomorrow’s smart cities, energy waste and consumption can be reduced on an impressive scale. Making buildings smart is a smart decision, for both people and the planet.

 

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