More companies are developing an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy to meet the growing demand of young investors who want to place their dollars in businesses that match their values. As a result, many corporations are providing an ESG score in their annual reports to demonstrate their commitment to improving the environment and driving social change. Although ESG critics argue that investment decisions should only rely on financial performance, more investors are evaluating an organization’s contributions to creating a socially equitable and environmentally sustainable world.
As corporations pursue their ESG strategies, they are looking to technology to facilitate change. They are using the advances in the internet of things (IoT) technologies to make informed decisions on how to deploy their assets. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently published an article entitled Intelligent Assets: Unlocking the Circular Economy Potential that explores how IoT technologies can drive change.
What is a Smart Building?
Smart buildings incorporate technology to create an environmentally friendly space through sustainable use of resources. Technologies such as IoT and artificial intelligence provide real-time data that enables smarter building management. For example, Corning Optical Communications in Charlotte, North Carolina is a smart building that meets environmental building standards such as LEED and SPIRE. The building incorporates the following technologies to create a comfortable workplace that is environmentally friendly:
- Flexible fiber-optic networks for connectivity
- Environmental sensors to monitor air quality
- IoT devices to regulate energy use
- Integrated cybersecurity systems for cabling efficiencies
Using smart buildings will become more of a factor as organizations work to raise their ESG scores.
How do Office Buildings Impact the Environment?
According to the U.S. Green Building Council, office buildings are responsible for 73% of the country’s electricity consumption. They also contribute:
- 38% of all CO2 emissions during construction
- 13.6% of all potable water
- 61% of construction and demolition debris
Finding ways to construct and maintain buildings can make a significant impact on the environment.
Using IoT Technology in Smart Buildings
At the heart of a smart building is its ability to link multiple systems. System integration facilitates information sharing to fuel automated processes such as heating, ventilation, air quality, lighting, and security. Building management systems that combine sensor data with artificial intelligence can optimize resource use in real-time, making it possible to reduce energy consumption and improve air quality.
As more companies implement hybrid work environments, they no longer need to heat and cool the entire office space. Deploying IoT sensors allows building management systems to turn off lights and adjust temperatures in unoccupied spaces that vary from day to day. Integrated systems can lower or raise solar shades in conference or meeting rooms when not in use for better temperature control.
Given that office buildings consume over 70% of America’s energy, segmenting temperature controls reduces energy consumption. Instead of heating or cooling an entire laboratory floor, IoT technologies make it possible to adjust the temperature in select locations. For example, operating lab equipment can raise the ambient temperature in specific locations. With intelligent systems, the temperature can be adjusted in real-time to lower energy consumption.
Depending on their location, companies may find that building costs are second only to benefits and wages in annual expenditures. Optimizing space utilization can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. IoT devices can assess the occupancy of each space within a building making it possible for businesses to make the best use of their office space.
From the collected data, organizations can use occupancy analytics to determine the following:
- Are there enough meeting rooms?
- Are conference rooms the right size?
- Are communal spaces going unused?
- Are workspaces overcrowded?
Knowing workspaces are being used enables better building management. Companies may not need additional space; they may only need to reconfigure it for better use.
Buildings need maintenance. Weather and pollution can damage or weaken exteriors. People and equipment cause wear and tear inside a building. Deploying sensors to track how many people go through the lobby can indicate whether additional maintenance may be required. If most employees enter the building through a back entrance, the lobby may not receive as much foot traffic. Instead of focusing resources on lobby maintenance, it may be more cost-effective to focus on the back entrance.
Making IoT Work
Underlying the flexibility of IoT deployments is its connectivity. It doesn’t matter how much data a device collects, if they can’t send it to a centralized location it’s of little use. Unfortunately, wires, cables, and switches are not as easily moved. An occupancy sensor may indicate that a conference room is no longer in use; but unless there’s a network connection to tell the building management system to turn off the lights, lower the shades, and reduce the temperature, the information does not result in useful insights for informed decisions.
Part of a smart building’s effectiveness is its ability to adjust to a changing environment; however, traditional methods of wiring and cabling are not known for their flexibility. When IoT devices indicate a change in equipment placement would reduce costs, companies have to weigh the time and cost associated with relocating cabling and wiring. Sometimes, they may be unable to realize the cost benefits of IoT-directed changes because of infrastructure inflexibility.
Businesses can quickly capitalize on IoT solution investments by using innovative access flooring systems, like those provided by FreeAxez. Their Gridd® system provides a flexible flooring system that enables organizations to reconfigure their power and data cables quickly and cost-effectively. Gridd integrates its patented cable distribution technology into a building’s infrastructure to provide the flexibility that today’s environmentally conscious companies require.