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Best Practices in IOT for Green Building Management

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Laura Miller

Over the past half century, green building initiatives have transformed our approach to commercial properties. Today, those developing green buildings usually seek to comply with standards set forth by internationally recognized agencies to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. However, these standards tend to focus more on design and material rather than operations. Integrating Internet of Things (IoT) technology into green buildings goes beyond these certifications to allow for building management that supports sustainability on a daily basis.

Without centralized control, it’s difficult to adhere to the best practices that make buildings truly green. As such, an intelligent building management system (BMS) integrated with smart technologies is key to achieving eco-friendly management. Using machine learning, advanced analytics can mine data gathered by IoT devices to detect faults, find patterns, perform predictive operations, and assist with decision-making to make built structures more efficient. Operationalizing IoT for green building management blurs the line between smart and green until they become virtually synonymous. 

The Power of IoT for Green Building Management

Buildings consume 60 percent of global electricity. In the United States, that number approaches 70 percent. Because of the high percentage of electricity used by buildings, researchers have focused intensely on finding ways to reduce consumption through the use of technology. This has resulted in extraordinary innovations that expand building management system capabilities, including the introduction of smart technologies that enable efficiency-focused automation

For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that airflow in HVAC systems works constantly to provide sufficient ventilation. Without sensors, rooms must therefore be ventilated under the assumption that the maximum number of people are occupying a room. With occupancy sensors, however, ventilation can be adjusted according to occupancy in real time, reducing a building’s carbon footprint and its negative effect on the environment. Similar and even more complex automation strategies can be enacted for high-consumption building systems, resulting in significant energy savings.

But while optimizing energy efficiency has traditionally been the primary function of an automated BMS, smart technology can take you even further. Advanced analytics can allow for proactive maintenance, protect occupants’ health, and even enhance productivity. After all, green buildings are not just about conserving resources, but about making indoor environments safer and supporting people. 

A prime example of this is indoor air quality. Air quality sensors integrated with an analytics-driven BMS can continuously measure particulate matter (PM) concentrations and other airborne contaminants in the air. This data can then be used to determine the causes and effects of PM levels, and automation strategies can be designed to ensure occupant safety. In other words, when a simple IoT device is combined with a smart BMS, you can create healthier buildings. 

Green IoT Devices & Software

The rapid development of computing power via the cloud has made IoT a vital part of the green building movement. And in addition to making buildings greener, IoT technology is in itself becoming greener. A number of technological innovations and new operational approaches have helped advance the idea of green IoT (GIoT). Best practices include:

  • Adjusting transmission power at nodes.
  • Energy-efficient routing techniques for wireless sensors. 
  • Implementing activity scheduling and energy harvesting at data centers powered via renewable energy. 
  • Minimizing the size of data sent by sensors to use less energy. 
  • Optimizing radio transmissions.
  • Reducing the size of IoT devices to decrease the amount of non-biodegradable material used.
  • Using low-power sleep modes when inactive. 

All these contribute to lower energy usage and greener buildings. 

Considering Costs

Some building owners are hesitant to commit to green buildings due to the cost of environmentally friendly materials. But green construction may be more affordable than you think. A 2019 study found that the additional expense was generally small, only raising the price of a commercial building project by about 1.58 percent. The exact number depends on the specific building, but in general, the study shows you can expect construction cost increases of:

  • Banks: 2-3%
  • Libraries, laboratories, or university classrooms: 0%
  • Office buildings or schools: 0.66-6.5%
  • Residential: 10.77%

More importantly, the increased construction costs were easily balanced by the significant utility savings—particularly energy and water—that come from ongoing green building management. This means that even middle-graded certification of buildings can offer great benefits for investors in addition to environmental advantages.

But green buildings don’t have to be new buildings. Installing an automated BMS with IoT sensors and a powerful analytics application can make existing buildings more energy efficient and effectively greener. In fact, introducing smart technologies in buildings with legacy systems can have an oversized impact, as subpar performance of older equipment has the potential for significantly more waste than more advanced versions.

Certification and Incentives

While certification is not necessary for a building to be green, it can be a valuable tool to guide building design and operations as well as increase prestige. Whether you are seeking WELL Building, BREEAM, LEED, or Energy Star certifications, using IoT for green building management can help a structure gain and maintain its certification. By offering continuous oversight, IoT devices and analytics allow facilities managers to quickly become aware of any issues that would hamper a building’s certification status and provide for objective assessment of sustainability.  

In addition to national and international certification bodies, state and local organizations throughout the United States provide assistance for building owners who want to use an intelligent BMS and IoT for green building management. For example, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Real Time Energy Management (RTEM) program assists New York building owners who wish to install, integrate, and operate an automated BMS to optimize energy management. The program helps with technical expertise, analyses, objective information, and financial support for up to 30 percent of the cost for such projects. 

Such public/private partnerships can help make buildings greener. But even from a financial perspective, the use of automation and IoT for managing green buildings can offer monetary incentives. Research from Costar data shows that LEED-certified buildings charge an average of 5 percent more rent, while Energy Star certified buildings charge 4 percent more. Additionally, sale prices were 25 percent higher and 26 percent higher for LEED and Energy Star certified buildings respectively. This is strong evidence that making a building both smart and green can increase operating income and property values across the board. 

A Trusted Partner

Using an intelligent BMS and IoT for green building management requires deep domain knowledge and technical expertise. From system architecture to software development to installation, Buildings IOT has a full suite of services and products to create efficient, functional green buildings and streamline day-to-day operations. With Buildings IOT as your partner, you can realize your vision and optimize your return on investment.

Buildings IOT offers state-of-the-art solutions to use IoT for green building management. Contact our team of experts to learn more about what we can do for you.

 

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