Why Smart Buildings are the key to sustainability

Buildings are responsible to over a third of the UK’s energy consumption. Operating buildings in a more efficient manner is, therefore, key to achieving the nation’s sustainability goals. Could making our buildings smarter be the key to improved sustainability?

Buildings are responsible for around 30 percent of the world’s carbon footprint. In the UK, this proportion is even higher. Researchers estimate the built environment’s contribution to the national carbon footprint is closer to 40 percent here in the UK.

This is a huge proportion of our national carbon footprint. At the same time, it is also a huge opportunity. There is a great deal of scope to make reductions to this overall carbon contribution.

Are smart buildings the key to sustainability?

How can building managers realise the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of their buildings? 

The first step is to understand the total carbon footprint of the building. What are the biggest consumers of energy? How does energy use change through the day, week and year? Where can efficiencies be made? 

To understand this, building managers need to supplement their existing metering data with additional information. Metrics about energy use per consumer, footfall and occupancy in the building, temperature and environmental data needs to be captured and presented in a way so that it can be clearly understood. This is the first step towards making your building smarter.

Is smarter necessarily greener?

Smarter is only greener if the technology and the data it captures is used to drive improvement programmes. The information in your smart building system should be used to focus activity where it can deliver most return.

Yes, it’s easy to install motion activation on your lighting systems. But the energy consumption of LED bulbs is low. A small reduction in the use of your HVAC system will deliver much greater returns and reduce your carbon footprint much more dramatically.

Detailed, continued monitoring enables building managers to plot the results of their actions to see which actions deliver the most sustainable outcomes – and then double down on them. By keeping a close eye on your data, and continuing to add sensors and meters to gain ever more granular understanding, you can continue to drive improvement in the sustainable operation of your building.

Any building can be a smart building

One of the problems we face in the UK is that the nation has a great deal of old housing stock. It can be inefficient and poorly insulated, resulting in a higher carbon footprint. 

However, there is no reason why smart building technologies cannot be retrofitted. Today’s sensors and metering technologies can be connected easily and wirelessly. There is no need for us to shy away from applying smart building thinking to older properties.

Building managers can start small, adding sensors and metering to the areas with the highest consumption. Go for the low hanging fruit so that the cost savings resulting from the energy savings can be used to power further investment in smart building technologies. In this way, building managers can gradually grow the system while continuing to deliver sustainability returns.

Why Smart Buildings are the key to sustainability

Making our buildings smarter is a proven route to making their operation more efficient. 

Given the contribution that the built environment makes to our national carbon emissions, smart buildings are key to improving sustainability and achieving our national net zero and sustainability targets.

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