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Can smart monitoring make buildings more sustainable?

Last updated: 02-24-2021

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Can smart monitoring make buildings more sustainable?

Uwe Klatt, vice president of sales at Disruptive Technologies, asks does smart monitoring provide the solution for sustainability in buildings management?

Since 2016’s Paris Agreement treaty on climate change, there has been increasing pressure to integrate sustainable practices in all business models. With the emphasis on reducing waste and energy consumption, buildings management has a significant role to play, with operational emissions – heating, lighting, cooling – currently accounting for 28% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. While ecological construction processes and the incorporation of more efficient heating, lighting and water systems can be used to ensure the sustainability of new builds, the vast majority of the UK’s building stock is considerably more difficult to manage. So, what can facilities managers do to ensure the efficiency of older properties and how can smart technology help?

Until relatively recently, the only option open to facilities managers looking to improve the efficiency of the properties in their care was to modify by adding insulation, replacing windows, installing water use reducing equipment in bathrooms, lavatories and kitchens. While this approach still makes sense, in many cases it can lead to unnecessary expense and offers no insights into how assets are being used, relying on guesswork to determine what is wasteful and is contributing to energy and resource expenses. That’s where smart technology comes in.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has disrupted all areas of business, with associated technologies gathering data and automating processes from manufacturing to healthcare. In buildings management, the scope for IoT technology is varied, assisting with sustainability targets such as energy efficiency, asset lifetime and building health. Streamlining services, reducing costs, and building sustainability into all processes but vitally, the application of these devices is not limited to new builds. The development of small scale, wireless IoT sensors with long-life batteries and wireless communication, which allow building assets to be monitored and controlled from anywhere in the world, make the sustainable management of older buildings possible too without the need to replace any of the legacy assets.

If you’re going to effectively manage any asset, you need to understand it. With tiny sensors providing real-time data on a wide range of features – energy consumption, asset temperature & humidity, airflow, heating, occupancy, water use, water systems cleaning compliance – managers are empowered to make informed decisions. Not only to reduce energy consumption and waste, but to improve occupant comfort and protect occupant health, all managed and monitored remotely.

Maintenance can be expensive and time-consuming and it’s easy to invest in areas that render little benefit, either in terms of cost reduction or sustainability. Smart monitoring enables predictive maintenance, providing data on critical building infrastructures and delivering automatic problem notification, so that potential issues can be dealt with before they produce any significant environmental impact – or unnecessary service interruption or cost. The remote nature of the monitoring also means more efficient use of resources, saving on unnecessary journeys and reducing carbon emissions.

This aspect is as useful in resource allocation and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) optimisation, as it is in answering the larger questions. With the right data at hand, managers can create the optimal working – or living – conditions for a building’s occupants. Highlighting which redesigns might suit tenant needs based on occupancy data. Reducing energy consumption by ensuring that spaces are not being over-used. Reducing waste by only flushing water systems that have not already achieved the requisite water flow - particularly important for managing legionella compliance in the most sustainable way - and managing temperature, through daily use and through the avoidance of building temperature fluctuations, with the maintenance of a continuously comfortable environment.

With multiple compliance issues to contend with, from monitoring water safety to resolving security faults, facilities managers need to provide an incontrovertible audit trail. Smart monitoring can assist with this. Showing when problems were identified, when action was taken, and what information led to specific decisions being made across use cases such as legionella compliance, cold storage, and cleaning compliance. Smart monitoring can also feed into objectives such as ESG goals, local energy efficiency and net carbon zero initiatives and sustainability compliance.

IoT technology has advanced at an unprecedented rate in the last year. Rapid adoption and development across sectors have been driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, as businesses have sought new solutions to issues previously managed by direct human interface. However because the technology is still in its early stages, its potential to deliver infinitely scalable solutions for large-scale deployments has only partly been revealed. In the coming years, the scope of IoT tech within facilities management can only increase. Bringing cost-effective sustainability within the reach of building managers everywhere.


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