Going smart on three levels

Originally published on Energy in Buildings and Industry (EiBI), if you would like to view the original article click here.

Brand, people and facility – those are the three levels that can gain from smart buildings. Cian Duggan examines how smart can go well beyond a better working environment and help attract top-level staff

There’s a real buzz growing around smart buildings as they continue to bring big benefits to a business through improved energy efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. But value doesn’t just come at a facility level, smart buildings can also bring significant value to a brand and a company’s people.

A Smart building attracts staff and improves the brand position of the business, as a responsible employer.

It enables increased productivity at a lower operating cost and pays for these benefits from savings on energy and maintenance. These buildings should gather and analyse the data that already exists from sources such as building management systems, lighting systems, occupancy systems, room booking systems and lift control systems, as well as create data from new sources like the myriad of loT sensors and mobile devices. The better the data, the more informed an energy manager and building occupant will be to use this insight to make smarter decisions that drive value at the three levels of the business – the brand, the people and a facilities level.

At a brand level:

We are attracted to good stories, stories of companies doing great things, companies who are making a positive difference. Smart buildings, which are using AI enabled platforms and crunching lots of data to create actionable insights and verifiable impact, have good stories.

The stories must be based in data and the claims must be demonstrable and auditable and not greenwash. We know the negative impact of bad sustainability stories, just remember the hit that the VW share price took over its emissions scandal. We know intuitively that good stories are made around buildings that improve the lives of people who work in them or buildings that are running efficiently and using fewer resources. Look at the proliferation of stories about the Edge building in Amsterdam, one of the relatively few famous smart buildings in Europe.

The Edge building: Amsterdam

With intangible assets now providing over 80 per cent of the overall value of many corporate balance sheets, the value smart buildings bring to a company’s brand reputation and business is over 10 times greater than the impact at the next level down – the people.

At a people level:

Simplistically, buildings exist and engineering systems consume vast amounts of energy globally in the built environment just so people can come to work and be productive in a well-lit, well ventilated, well-temperature ­controlled environment. Unfortunately, all too often those three basic elements are absent from many places of work. For decades, the two main complaints about the built environment are that it is either too hot or too cold. For hotels, the common complaint is that bedrooms are too hot and too noisy. For public spaces such as theaters and lecture halls the air is frequently described as stuffy. Smart buildings, well implemented, can fix these issues.

Smart buildings shouldn’t just be about the technology- or indeed about the building. It should be about the relationships between the various people involved in owning, running, and occupying them. Buildings are complex, with many stakeholders holding a part of the knowledge and a part of the solution – the data and insights from these smart buildings can provide the glue and the ‘one version of the truth’ to enable the buildings to work better.

Buildings also need a breath of fresh air, both metaphorically and in reality. For example, by assessing air quality data ( done quickly and cost effectively using well proven wireless sensors and secure gateways to extract data) and identifying practical opportunities for improvement, the wellbeing, comfort and productivity of occupants can be significantly improved. Proving this is valuable for both the building occupants and building managers.

Given that energy is often little more than 1 per cent of an organisation’s costs, but people are upwards of 90 per cent of the operating costs for many businesses, the value for improving peoples’ productivity and wellbeing is approximately 10 times more than at a facility level.

At a facility level:

With smart building technologies and processes, we can reduce energy costs, increase space utilisations and enhance operational efficiency.

Many of us in the built environment have been doing exactly this for years. For example, one of our clients, Village Hotel Club with 30 hotels across the UK has, to date, saved over £1m from a smart building programme that began in 2017. At a facility level, smart buildings are easier to operate for the facilities managers, engineers and managing agents. Knowledge about how the building is truly being used drives value for all in more efficient spaces and leads to lower operating costs. This is value worth extracting certainly but by no means the only value. If you focus on the value that operating a smart building can have at a brand and people level then the benefits at a facilities level will come naturally.

Over 50 per cent of the workforce will be millennials by 2020. They are increasingly vocal about their desire to work in pleasant, productive spaces, and for companies demonstrating corporate social responsibility. While not every organisation can, or needs to be a Facebook or Google type office environment, we can be practical. By wiring up your buildings so that you have quality insight on energy usage across your whole portfolio, organisations can make what they have, much better and work much smarter – which is the essence of sustainability.

 

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If you would like a member of our team to work with your business on how to optimise your buildings, please get in touch info@carboncredentials.com