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One of the greenest buildings in the world is The Edge. Located in Amsterdam, it uses natural and LED lighting, resulting in 70% less electricity usage than comparable office buildings. Oriented along the sun’s path and using solar panels covering much of its roof and south-facing walls, the building produces more energy than it consumes, providing power for the entire property. Deep wells pump warm water into an aquifer that stores thermal energy, pumping it back up in winter to provide radiant heating, while air ventilated through the roof keeps it cool in summer. Additionally, the building collects rainwater in big barrels for toilets and drip irrigation in a garden that includes beehives and a habitat for bats.
The Edge goes beyond being green; it integrates smart technology to increase versatility and efficiency. A digital lighting control system with sensors monitoring occupancy, temperature, and movement allow for better management of energy consumption. When fewer employees are present, whole parts of the building can go on standby for energy conservation. With no permanent desks, employees choose workspaces that best suit their needs. Smartphone apps help employees find parking spots, available desks or colleagues, while also noting each person’s preferred lighting and temperature to adjust the environment accordingly.
This extraordinary example shows how smart technology can improve energy efficiency in green buildings and make built environments more comfortable and healthier for occupants. But accomplishing these goals doesn’t just mean integrating these technologies during construction or retrofitting; it means strategically using and maintaining them in everyday life.
While most green buildings do not have as many amenities as The Edge, any existing structure can be made more sustainable. Through the use of smart technology, even existing buildings can become more eco-friendly and energy-efficient. In green buildings, it is not just about construction and design, but getting creative with how to implement Building Energy Management programs that better use and conserve energy.
Factors that make buildings green include:
Building owners can make offices, apartment buildings, schools, single-family residences, medical facilities, warehouses, factories, or any other structure green. Though there is no one foolproof plan for creating a sustainable built environment; there are roadmaps that can be developed to help you get there. Local factors like climate, age and type of buildings, regional cultural traditions, and myriad other factors should all be taken into account, along with economic and social priorities.
The future of ecological sustainability in built environments relies on thoughtful deployment of eco-friendly and smart technologies for robust energy management. This involves using cutting-edge technology like the Internet of Things (IoT) to minimize environmental impact by helping to identify and reduce waste and increase efficiency while simultaneously improving safety, comfort, and security.
At its heart, IoT technology is remarkably simple: Internet-connected devices such as smart sensors, locks, speakers, thermostats, or smoke detectors share data with a central system that collects and uses it to highlight issues and suggest areas for ongoing improvements. Building owners or occupants can customize these integrated systems, which can then operate without human interference, using artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize energy efficiency in green buildings.
Some key ways integrated systems, analytics, and the IoT broadly can improve energy efficiency include:
Installing smart technology to monitor a building’s environment does not necessarily equate to huge additional expenses. In fact, deploying an analytics-driven building management system to improve energy efficiency in green buildings can make these buildings less expensive to maintain over time.
When basic maintenance is supported by network-connected IoT devices and smart building systems, greater efficiency can be achieved without requiring a great deal of investment. For example:
HVAC systems often operate inefficiently, and relatively minor problems such as poorly maintained or blocked filters, dirty cooling coils, and insufficient insulation can drastically reduce their lifespan. Data-driven maintenance of HVAC systems can help prevent major issues. Smart HVAC systems can also operate according to seasonal conditions and reduce heating or cooling of unoccupied areas, decreasing energy use.
Advanced control strategies can be applied to most HVAC systems to optimize their performance and reduce energy consumption. Such improvements are some of the most cost effective approaches to improving energy efficiency in existing buildings.
Reduce electricity usage by installing more efficient lighting, including exterior solar-powered lighting or LED light bulbs to increase energy efficiency in green buildings. Automatically dimming or turning off lights when natural light is sufficient or when building occupancy is limited helps reduce energy use.
Water heating is another major source of energy use, especially in residential buildings. By adding insulation around water heating systems and installing sensors to control the heating mechanism, energy consumption can be reduced without affecting users. Linking these to a central smart system that gathers usage data can also identify times when hot water use is high, helping determine when a leak may be present. .
Exteriors and roofing areas often contribute to energy loss. These should be closely monitored, particularly in climates where extreme temperatures and weather are common. Analysis of sensor data can help identify points where energy waste occurs to justify upgrades to more energy-efficient roofing materials or direct clean-up efforts as needed..
Basic maintenance measures to make exteriors greener:
Roofs and sun-facing surfaces are also good spots for installing solar panels, and smart devices incorporated into buildings’ exteriors can help maximize energy production. Sensors can also determine temperature differentials to identify areas where inadequate insulation or leaking systems contribute to energy waste.
IoT is a transformative and ever-evolving technology that encourages the connection of all devices to networks. When deployed in a building, the IoT can be instrumental in helping your operations team reduce energy consumption and improve comfort for building occupants because network connectivity makes the data from IoT sensors available to humans and machines for analysis and troubleshooting.
Master system integrators (MSI) play a critical role in ensuring building owners can realize the benefits of these technologies. With deep domain expertise, they can deploy advanced software layers to integrate communicating devices, systems or third-party applications into a unified front-end with intuitive user interfaces that make it easy for all types of users to manage, monitor and maintain their green buildings.
Jon Schoenfeld, PE is Buildings IOT's Vice President of Energy & Building Technology. He's been developing advanced algorithms for building automation applications for more than a decade and he applies his tremendous building expertise as he oversees the team of building scientists creating the onPoint platform.