Transforming Buildings for a Sustainable Future: The Role of IoT and Wireless Sensor Technology

Facilities management

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly transforming the way we live and work, creating opportunities for businesses to become more efficient, productive, and sustainable. This is especially true in the case of buildings and offices, where IoT technology is being used to digitize and optimize building and the usage thereof, resulting in significant cost savings and reduced environmental impact. In this article, we will explore the role of IoT in building sustainability and how wireless and battery-free radio sensors are making buildings smarter, more energy-efficient, and flexible.

Author: Raoul Wijgergangs, CEO of EnOcean

Buildings are a serious contributor to worldwide CO2 emissions, with almost 40% of energy-related emissions coming from them. To reduce the CO2 footprint, there is a growing need for buildings to become more energy-efficient, using less energy while still maintaining a comfortable and productive environment. This is where IoT technology comes in, providing a range of solutions that can help reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions while improving building performance.

One of the most promising features of sustainable IoT solutions is the use of wireless and battery-free radio sensors. These sensors can be installed super easily through “peel & stick” and be used to monitor a range of factors, such as temperature, humidity, and occupancy, in real-time. This data can then be used to optimize building systems, such as lighting, HVAC, and security, to reduce energy waste and improve comfort levels.

How facility managers can benefit from sustainable IoT

IoT solutions can help facility managers to convert buildings to a more sustainable version of themselves. By installing IoT sensors and devices throughout a building, facility managers can gather real-time data on various aspects of the building’s performance, such as temperature, humidity, air quality, ventilation, energy consumption and occupancy. This data can be analyzed and used to make informed decisions about how to optimize the building’s performance, such as adjusting temperature and lighting settings, identifying and addressing maintenance issues, and improving energy efficiency. IoT can also help to identify patterns and trends over time, allowing facility managers to make more strategic decisions about long-term maintenance and upgrades. In addition, sensor-based solutions can provide facility managers with remote access to building controls and systems to monitor and adjust building performance from anywhere. This can help to improve response times to issues and reduce the need for onsite visits, saving time and money. Overall, facility managers have greater visibility and control over building performance, allowing them to optimize building operations, reduce costs, and improve occupant comfort and productivity.

Promising use cases

For example, in the case of lighting, wireless sensors can detect when a room is occupied and adjust the lighting levels accordingly, reducing energy consumption while also creating a more comfortable and productive working environment for employees. Similarly, in the case of HVAC systems, sensors can monitor temperature and humidity levels and adjust settings based on occupancy, reducing energy waste and improving air quality.

Another promising use case for sustainable IoT solutions is in new work models such as desk sharing. With more businesses adopting flexible working models, desk sharing has become a popular option. A recent study by McKinsey revealed that 58% of Americans can work from home at least one day a week and even 35% have the option to work from home five days a week.1 However, office buildings haven’t caught up with this trend yet. By using wireless sensors to monitor desk occupancy, businesses can ensure that office space is being used efficiently, reducing the need for additional office space. This, in turn, can help reduce building energy consumption and ultimately lower carbon emissions.

In addition to reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, sustainable IoT solutions can also provide businesses with valuable data insights that can be used to improve operations and make more informed decisions. For example, by analyzing occupancy data, businesses can identify areas of the building that are being underutilized, leading to potential cost savings.

Moreover, sustainable IoT solutions can also be used to improve building security, by using sensors to monitor and control access to the building, ensuring that only authorized personnel have access. This not only increases security but also reduces energy waste, as lights and HVAC systems can be automatically turned off when areas of the building are not in use.

Smart, smarter, smart server

Smart servers are revolutionizing the way buildings are managed, allowing for more efficient and effective control of HVAC and lighting systems. By directly interfacing with existing infrastructure, these servers offer a smooth integration into buildings without the need for extensive and costly retrofitting. Smart servers designed specifically for IoT applications are providing exceptional benefits to building managers looking to optimize their facilities. This system goes beyond simple reporting and dashboard functions because it actively manages buildings to reduce energy waste and improve overall performance. With the ability to automate lighting and HVAC controls in line with sensor data, building managers can achieve significant energy savings and improve the comfort of occupants.

A seamless roll-out

Even better, when the sensors and smart server seamlessly integrate into existing Wi-Fi networks, eliminating the need for additional gateways or infrastructure. This makes the roll-out process significantly smoother and more cost-effective, as there is no need to install new hardware or run additional cables. Instead, the system utilizes existing Wi-Fi access points to connect and communicate with the building’s lighting and HVAC systems. This innovative approach allows building managers to quickly and easily deploy the system, minimizing disruption to day-to-day operations. As a result, facilities can achieve the benefits of a smart building without the typical expense and time associated with a full-scale upgrade. This helps transform existing buildings into smarter, more sustainable facilities, without the need for major renovations or costly infrastructure upgrades.

Sustainable and cost-effective with Energy Harvesting

Why is it important to use self-powered sensors that don’t need cables or batteries for a sustainable IoT system? Both powering methods have a significant impact on our environment. The production of wires requires mining and processing of materials, which can cause environmental damage and pollution. The installation of wired sensors also requires significant resources and energy, particularly if it involves digging or excavation. The production and disposal of batteries releases harmful chemicals into the environment, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. These chemicals can contaminate soil and water, posing a threat to human health and wildlife. Additionally, batteries take a long time to decompose, adding to the growing problem of electronic waste. Furthermore, the energy required to manufacture and transport batteries also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Not to mention the high effort and cost of changing the batteries on a regular basis.

Wireless and battery-free sensors are not only a more sustainable solution, but they are also more cost-effective. They use energy harvesting to gain energy, which is the process of capturing and storing energy from the surrounding environment, such as light, temperature, or motion. This means that these sensors do not require batteries or wiring. Energy harvesting has a number of advantages over traditional battery-powered sensors. First, it eliminates the need for expensive and environmentally harmful batteries, reducing the overall cost and environmental impact of the sensors. Second, it allows the sensors to be more flexible and adaptable, as they can be placed in locations where it would be difficult or impossible to run power cables or replace batteries. Finally, it allows the sensors to operate indefinitely, reducing the need for maintenance and replacement over time.

A win all along the line

Sustainable IoT solutions are a win-win for businesses and the environment. By implementing solutions that use wireless and battery-free radio sensors, businesses can reduce their energy consumption and costs in a sustainable manner while also improving the working environment for employees. At the same time, they can contribute to a more sustainable future by reducing the carbon footprint of their buildings. With new work models like desk sharing on the rise, there has never been a better time to embrace sustainable IoT practices and create a more sustainable future.

Source:

1: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/real-estate/our-insights/americans-are-embracing-flexible-work-and-they-want-more-of-it

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