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.
A small city on the border with Germany in southeast Netherlands decided in 2016 to construct a new municipal office that would promote the idea of healthy and sustainable buildings. It involved the installation of a 2,000 square meter green wall covered with vegetation to filter outdoor pollutants such as carbon dioxide, along with acting as insulation against cold, heat, and sound.
During the summer of 2020, the United Kingdom’s government responded to substantial pressure from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to prioritize energy efficiency in an effort to revive the economy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, the government committed £1 billion to retrofit public sector buildings. This “green recovery” not only provides much-needed infrastructure to increase energy efficiency, but is creating jobs throughout the UK, preparing buildings for low-carbon heating, and setting the country on a course to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
With climate change accelerating and built environments accounting for nearly 40% of energy use worldwide, energy efficiency has become a key objective for building management. Smart building technology offers tools for achieving optimal energy efficiency using IoT sensors that generate comprehensive data on equipment functionality and environmental conditions. With the assistance of automated building management systems (BMS), analytics software, and big data, energy consumption is more easily controlled and occupant comfort is improved.
Going green is a top-of-mind strategy for many facilities managers today, and for good reason. While it’s essential to hit and maintain standard business norms concerning occupant comfort, not to mention preserve status levels for electricity-dependent services of all kinds, it’s also essential to minimize energy costs. Without the right tools, finding a balance between these goals is far from easy.
A 2015 Rutgers University study looked at whether green building tax credits and compliance with certification programs contributed positively to improving indoor air quality in green buildings and its relation to occupant health. Over the course of five years, researchers measured indoor air quality at a residential high-rise complex, using an industrial hygiene contractor to conduct annual air quality assessments. It compared these measurements to conventionally-built residential buildings, following New York’s Green Building Tax Credit (GBTC) and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) requirements.
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 late 1980s saw a transformation in architecture, as a humble Kansas City architect named Bob Berkebile sought to convince the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to become more environmentally conscious. Wanting to move architects toward designing structures that reduced their impact on the environment, Berkebile approached the AIA’s board of directors about forming a committee to study how the industry could better address these issues.