The growing power of IoT in building sustainability

IoT in building sustainability

The Internet revolutionised the way we do business. Now its cousin, the Internet of Things, is set to revolutionise the places we do business, too. 

Piles of snail mail landing at reception at eight o’clock in the morning, destined for distribution via the post room. Labyrinthine warehouses of paper files and documents, all the space it took to store them, and the time it took to find them. Flicking through the Rolodex to see which client is next in line for the lavish lunch. These once-common workplace practices are all but obliviated, thanks to the Internet, and its revolutionary impact on the way we do business.

Now its cousin, the Internet of Things (IoT), is about to revolutionise the places we do business, as buildings become smarter, safer and more sustainable. It’s set to have a dramatic effect on businesses looking to save time, money and resources. And it has a fast-growing role in building sustainability, a critical movement supporting net zero targets worldwide.

The fact is, the Internet of Things is already all around us. One definition states it is “the interconnection via the internet of electronic devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data”. Have you got a smartwatch? Then you’re connected to 100 apps, via the IoT. Forget to pay your toll on the motorway? The IoT will remind you, in the form of a swiftly delivered fine. Be it smart fridges, smart heating controls or smart security systems, IoT technology is all around us in the home, and now it’s coming to a commercial building near you.

Data requirements for sustainability programmes

This revolution is driven by a number of factors, such as the growing realisation that smart buildings are more sustainable buildings in a time when sustainability is rightly attached to everything we do in life. But the principle driving factor is a requirement for data and accurate reporting across a series of evolving operations.

For years, people have been gathering data for building sustainability certification from organisations such as RESET, GRESB, BREEAM and LEED. The data is often gathered by a man with a clipboard – a slow, manual process which delivers stale data, is prone to inaccuracy and a practice which itself contributes to the carbon footprint. IoT technology gives building managers the power to get real-time information on, say, electricity usage, and 360-degree visibility on how much was used, by who and when, down to a single meter.

IoT building sustainability

Also in the mix today are Carbon Reporting mechanisms, across the Scope 1, 2 and 3. Scope 1 emissions relate to emissions coming directly from buildings, such as burning oil and gas. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions, primarily produced by electricity consumption. And Scope 3 emissions cover practically every other carbon emission produced in the course of doing business, meaning they are incredibly difficult to measure. 

Building data are also sought for burgeoning ESG reporting, as they provide the basis for accurate, actionable ESG activity. ESG practitioners are widening the data requirements beyond energy, gas and water usage, to things such as indoor air quality.

And the big beast coming down the tracks is EU taxonomy, which is likely to surpass ESG as the Chief Sustainability Concern in the C-Suite. This is because EU Taxonomy is regulation – and the regulation stretches to some 2,000 pages. It will directly impact 50,000 companies within the EU, but it will indirectly impact any business that supplies services to them, too.

So, for all these reasons, there’s a drive to extract quality data from every relevant source. Yes, we’ve been gathering building parameter data since the days of post rooms, file stores and Rolodexes, but we’ve been doing so manually, and inefficiently. Enter the Internet of Things, and whole new world of quality data.

IoT in building sustainability

Factors behind quality sustainability data

Quality sustainability data broadly falls under four key headings: it must be consistent, accessible, auditable and timely.

A reliable and constant stream of data is crucial to achieving consistency. Data must be readily accessible by the people who need it. For instance, EU Taxonomy law requires all data to be in ‘Machine Readable Format’. Regulatory requirements require that all data is auditable. And real-time data has major benefits over stale data in driving improved sustainability outcomes.

And thanks to the IoT, it is now possible to do all this and much more, in a far more cost-effective way than traditional data gathering methods. Innovations in IoT have dramatically reduced the cost and increased the efficiency of getting data out of the basements of buildings, into the cloud, and into the right formats, achieving the best reports and insights for those concerned with building sustainability.

Four important factors when selecting IoT

But be warned: As with any new field of technology, there’s been a flood of activity in recent years, with new firms mushrooming across the globe, offering a massive range of products and services to get data out of buildings, with great variations in quality, functionality and efficacy. Here are four important factors to consider when selecting your IoT systems.

1.     Power consumption

Some technologies (e.g. mobile phone technology) are very power hungry. And devices requiring mains power make installation difficult and expensive. Look for an ultra-low power device that runs on a long-life battery, or better still, is solar powered.

2.     Connectivity

Many meters and critical data collection points are contained within basements or other concealed locations, meaning that the technology needs to be able to penetrate steel and concrete. Radio communication with deep indoor penetration is the best choice here.

3.     Independent network

Given the sensitivity of data in most corporate workplaces today, the worst option here is an IoT solution that connects to your internal WiFi or network systems. Always look for an IoT solution that is dedicated to an independent network, such as Sigfox or LoRa. This will keep any data transmission completely separate from your corporate systems and protect them from jamming and hacking.

4.     Data storage

Finally – data storage is a critical consideration. Whether manually or digitally gathered, data stored locally in a building is of limited use. When gathered via IoT devices, and extracted to the cloud, it can be configured into tailored reports and sent to anyone who needs it at the click of a mouse. 

ZiggyTec can measure and monitor sustainability data covering indoor air quality, electricity, water and gas, desk occupancy, safety equipment such as defibrillators and water temperature in taps and pipes – a critical activity in Legionella control.

Consider these examples of the power of IoT in building sustainability.

ZiggyTec helped company reduce HVAC power bills by 1.5 hours a day 

Client A – a large financial services company – was running a powerful HVAC at a significant, but worthwhile, cost, to keep staff safe in a well-ventilated environment at optimum temperatures. The building manager powered up the system at 6 am every morning, to ensure that the temperature and VOC levels were appropriate by the time staff arrived at 9 am. 

By running some tests using our indoor air quality monitoring service, they found that the same good air quality could be achieved by powering up the system at 7.30 am – saving 1.5 hours of energy every day.

ZiggyTec helped identify and fix major water leak in building

Client B – a property manager at a real estate services company – detected a major leak within a building’s water system, through our Smart Utility Services. During a routine review of the ZiggyTec dashboard displaying the building’s water usage, it was noticed that high volumes of water were being consumed at the weekends – when the building was unoccupied.

The property manager subsequently conducted an investigation, found the source of a leak, had it fixed, and then ongoing monitoring showed that the problem had been resolved.

ZiggyTec helped company optimise occupancy levels and keep staff safe and well 

Client C – a global financial services company – acted on a suggestion made by ZiggyTec’s customer care team, following a review of their monthly indoor air quality report. Every ZiggyTec indoor air quality client gets one of these at month end, giving a summary of air quality factors throughout the month, and, a notification if issues are detected.

The ZiggyTec team noticed a regular spike in CO2 levels in a particular room at around 2 pm, and reported this to the facilities manager. It turned out that this room was used for a 9 am call with the US headquarters. Facilities resolved the issue by managing occupancy levels during the call, creating a safe and healthy environment for all concerned.

These three brief examples represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of IoT capabilities in building sustainability today, and the tip of the tip of tomorrow’s. Just as the capabilities of the Internet rapidly surged past basic email, awful-looking websites and rudimentary search engines in business, so too will ongoing innovation and application within IoT technology deliver ever-more useful ways of making buildings smarter, safer and more sustainable. ZiggyTec is here to support you on your journey.

Would you like to explore how the growing power of IoT in building sustainability might be able to solve problems in your workplace by making it smarter, safer and more sustainable? Get in touch with us today.

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