At the start of the pandemic, global lock-downs resulted in demand for oil plummeting and the price hitting a 20-year low (at less than €25 per barrel) - the same was true for natural gas. Fast forward two years, and approaching the end of the pandemic tunnel, record inflation and sanctions on the Russian Federation for their brutal invasion of the Ukraine are sending energy prices skyrocketing – the open market price for natural gas in the EU peaked at over €180 per MWh in March 2022; a 10-fold increase in the price from March 2020.
From our current vantage point, these factors are not going to be resolved quickly and we should all be prepared for elevated energy prices for years to come. For business, this is important as the second largest overhead (next to staff) is the cost of utilities, and soaring energy costs should be a concern for all sectors in the coming years.
Businesses have been pursuing Sustainable Energy strategies to combat Climate Change for many years and strides have been made to invest in renewables, seek out waste and decrease energy consumption but how can "Smart Building Enablement" help business to further decrease utility spend in these turbulent times?
What is a Smart Building?
A Smart Building is a facility that has been designed, engineered or retrofitted with advanced building monitoring and management systems to optimise its performance and energy utilisation.
Smart Buildings can “understand” how they are is being utilised by using an array of occupancy data sources. Site access control systems and Wi-Fi networks can provide a well-rounded picture of site occupancy - supplement this with sensor technology, e.g. thermometers, humidity sensors, and Occupancy Sensors, and office planning technologies like room and Desk Booking Systems and site utilisation comes into a very sharp focus indeed.
This means that while some buildings are designed to be smart, older buildings can easily leverage the abundance of data they already generate to initiate their own Smart Building Enablement programs.
How do Smart Buildings Save Energy?
One side of a Smart Buildings "smartness" is it's ability to understand how it is being used, the other is how it reacts to this knowledge.
Most buildings do not understand and react to their level of occupancy but rather have pre-programmed settings for lighting, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) control - much like your home central heating, it switches on and off at preset times. Of course, those settings can be modified but more or less, they are fixed. This means that buildings can quite often have the lights on and areas heated and comfortable even though they might be empty or close to empty - imagine the waste of energy and the cost of that waste!
"Buildings can quite often have the lights on and areas heated and comfortable, even though they might be empty or close to empty"
Most large buildings modify their environmental controls (heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and lighting) through the Building Management System* (BMS) to ensure to improve occupant comfort and safety. In simple terms, the smart building can control or inform the BMS system to optimise the environmental controls to ensure that occupants enjoy a comfortable environment - but when the space is unoccupied the BMS switches into energy saving mode.
Alternatively, in some scenarios, rather than heating an entire sparsely-populated building, a smart building might implement localised environmental controls and the organisation could encourage occupants to utilise that space where possible.
Many organisations have been leveraging the power of Smart Buildings for years to pursue Sustainable Energy (energy consumption reduction) Programs for environmental and cost reasons and it is growing in popularity.
*It should be noted that not all buildings have this type of automated BMS, but there are software platforms that can be integrated directly with Building Management Systems (BMS) to enable this type of control or alternatively, the BMS can be configured based on the analysis provided by these sophisticated platforms to perform more efficiently.
Data-driven Decision-making Using Smart Buildings
There is much to be said for responsive or automatic adjustment of environmental controls to moderate utilities spend but it can also be said that knowledge of how a building, site or campus is used can also inform the larger strategic discussion about (corporate) real estate management.
Many organisations feel they understand about how their property is being utilised, but most don’t have any data to backup those feelings. And when it comes to strategic real estate direction (e.g. buy, build, sell or lease) many leadership teams are making decisions in the dark.
For example, imagine a university with a large real estate portfolio constructing a brand-new building, full of lecture rooms and halls, when their cross-campus utilisation is less than 20% - this happens more often than you might think! Moreover, a cross-campus analysis could provide an accurate profile of exactly how rooms, buildings and libraries are used so that the leadership teams can seek to optimise utilisation and proactively optimise their both their energy footprint and real estate portfolio.
Aside from the global drive to lower dependency on fossil fuels and energy sustainability, energy prices are skyrocketing and it’s likely that elevated prices will challenge businesses indefinitely.
Smart Building Enablement is an important step in promoting and realising Energy Sustainability. Smart Buildings can save energy by monitoring site utilisation and controlling environmental control systems (and hence energy usage).
Buildings can be engineered (or made) smart by using readily available sensor technology and the existing data generated by modern buildings if it can be aggregated on a sophisticated Site Utilisation Analytics software platform. These platforms can be integrated directly with Building Management Systems or at least be used to configure them to behave in a more sustainable way.
Finally, gathering and analysing site utilisation data can also support real estate portfolio optimisation programs to ensure that leaders and decision-makers are fully informed.
If your business is pursuing an Energy Sustainability program perhaps Smart Building Enablement is a logical step to support your goals.
SiteIQ is a pioneering Irish systems integrator and managed service provider. We design, develop, sell and manage technology platforms and cutting-edge hardware that deliver significant cost savings to our clients.
We deploy Hybrid Workplace technology to clients all around Ireland. Our Workplace Analytics Technology (HubStar) is a state-of-the-art solution that can be used to aggregate any type of site occupancy sensor data and enable Smart Building programs.
Feel free to get in touch with our Sales team to learn more;
t: 021 234 8387