Robert Smith, technical director at Pressac Communications looks at how making just a part of a building talk with smart technology can reduce energy consumption and improve wellbeing.

“With 36% of global energy demand and 40% of direct and indirect CO2 emissions coming from buildings and the construction sector, it is vital to find ways of making existing buildings smarter and more efficient.

“IoT and smart technologies make the headlines regularly, but we have a long way to go in changing our existing building infrastructure and implementing a smart ethos. Research shows that buildings built as recently as 2012 have been fitted with old technology and that the control of these systems are already considered simple and out of date. However, there needs to be tangible incentives to adopt a smart approach, such as cost benefits, improvements in wellbeing, significant energy savings.

Retrofitting functionality

“We’ve been working on a number of smart solutions that can be easily retrofitted into existing buildings. A recent project with an energy engineering consultancy we met at the Smart Buildings Show has found us helping London’s top commercial building operators and estate managers to develop intelligent offices within existing buildings.

“Looking to retrofit technology into some of the most prestigious buildings in the city, they wanted to achieve energy efficiency, improve employee wellbeing and provide an intelligent approach to give property managers a competitive edge in attracting global blue-chip business.

Assessing the situation

“The Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), created an opportunity to investigate energy flow and workspace environments within part of the property portfolio.

“In depth audits provided a study of each building’s system in real time via building energy and workspace data. The deep dive revealed that the base build ventilation system was not effective in CO2 reduction.

“The heating, cooling and ventilation systems were controlled at a central point. The air conditioning would kick in at 7am and be on all day, at the same level. If it was hot outside, it would run the coolers, if it was cold outside, it would run the boilers. However, this did not take into account the occupancy of the building, the internal temperature or factor in issues with heat retention that are associated with high rise glass structures and thermal values.

Technology that makes buildings talk

“By addressing indoor air quality, it was found that the objective of lowering energy could be achieved while controlling air quality at the same time. Installing Pressac’s combined CO2, humidity and temperature sensor onto 10 floors of a building gave the option to monitor CO2 levels and ambient temperature in each zone.

“The wireless solar powered sensors were easy to install as they simply stick to the wall. They provide CO2 measurement accuracy within 125ppm, feeding data into an intelligent control system for smart ventilation, temperature zoning and real time controls that are relevant for the requirements of the people, the building and its occupancy levels. It also gives 24/7 visibility of the environment for facility management teams.

Tangible Results

“Moving to a demand led system rather than a top hat approach resulted in a 42% reduction in energy use overall.

“The Air Handling Unit (AHU) energy usage dropped by over 1500 kWh per week, or 49%. The system is also reducing the heating and cooling demand by a reduction in fresh air to condition - a February day with similar OAT profiles showing a reduction of 15% in gas usage. The reduction in KW/h shows as peaks and troughs in building usage, with inevitable dips as occupants arrive at and leave the workplace environment throughout the day.

“The pilot project has also been shortlisted in the CIBSE Building Performance Awards 2018 and is being rolled out into a new intelligent floor-by-floor HVAC control system.

Partially Smart buildings

“This example just looks at one area of a building, but has implemented significant savings but using CO2, temperature and humidity data. It demonstrates though, how it can be applied in other existing buildings to make them smarter and more intelligent. There is no need to do everything at once.

“You need to be clear on your objective from the outset, but with the option to retrofit the technology in a simple to install, wireless way, it is possible to test proof of concept, test ‘Smart Zones’ before investing in a full overhaul of your smart building capability.”

For more information on Pressac’s smart building and connected technology solutions visit