3 minute read
How smart buildings can solve today’s biggest challenges
Energy savings, optimising space within premises and maintaining a productive workforce are some of the top challenges facing organisations today. A holistic view of the buildings in your estate not only helps identify cost and efficiency saving opportunities, it also gives you detailed insight on how to optimise the use of your buildings based on your business needs.
This is where a smart building solution can help. But what is a smart building solution and what benefits can it give you?
Smart buildings solutions – IoT technology that measures, analyses and manages built environments more efficiently – have been around for a while. But given how effectively they can help organisations tackle current urgent issues such as energy costs and buildings occupancy, on a single consolidated platform, the benefits smart buildings solutions offer have never been more relevant.
Tackle energy costs
Business’s energy bills have quadrupled since early 2021.1 Smart buildings sensors are now able to measure how buildings consume gas, electricity and water in forensic detail, at any level, from a single school or office up to a global organisation.
Once buildings data is captured and analysed, organisations can actively apply energy saving measures based on these insights. If you know your office kitchens are barely used at certain times of day, for example, you can automate rules to put appliances on standby, and conserve heating and lighting for busy periods like lunchtimes.
Bringing several sets of data together gives you a more comprehensive view that can yield deeper efficiencies. By linking desk and meeting room bookings and energy controls, for example, you can avoid heating a room or floor no-one is using, but then use real-time data to avoid wasting energy if a room is booked but not used. Conversely, you can intelligently control which desks people are permitted to book to use space more efficiently, and therefore drive down HVAC and lighting costs.
With up to 60% of businesses2 seeing an increase in hybrid working since the pandemic, under-occupancy of commercial premises is a headache for organisations in both the public and private sectors. And with 50% of job applicants expecting flexibility on where they can work, a return to pre-pandemic working patterns looks unlikely any time soon.3
New era, new rules
Smart buildings solutions enable organisations to make evidence-based decisions on occupancy and usage rates, and then develop sensible and energy efficient hybrid working policies. For example, your organisation can avoid heating and lighting entire floors for just a handful of employees, and over time identify your least used locations as candidates to sell or lease.
But smart buildings also help you understand if office space is being used as intended. Do you need fewer boardroom-style meeting spaces and more smaller huddle zones? More places for private conversations, or collaborative spaces? By analysing who has interacted with different environments, you’ll be able to right-size with confidence.
Given that 30-40% of desk space is wasted4 and yet staff struggle to find meeting spaces despite only 50%-60% meeting room utilisation,5 it’s clear there’re abundant opportunities for improvement.
Create more welcoming spaces
If you’ve ever sat next to someone who spends hours each day on video calls, you may share the view that offices are getting louder. It’s proven that people naturally talk more loudly on calls than they do when chatting face-to-face across a desk.
Smart buildings solutions can measure volume levels around buildings and identify noisy ‘hot spots’ where people may struggle to concentrate and work productively. With more people spending some of their working week at home, perfecting their own optimum working environment, returning to the office can feel loud and unproductive. Broadcasting a quiet backdrop of white noise is a great way to prevent sound carrying, reducing distractions for teams that need to focus.
Power up productivity
The white noise example is just one area where smart buildings data can shift the role of the workplace from an inert space into a productivity tool.
Many of us have experienced a post-lunch slump when we struggle to get going in the afternoon, but it does in fact have a scientific basis rooted in air quality. As offices increasingly keep their windows closed to conserve heat, the level of CO2 in the environment increases as the same air circulates round your building.
Evidence shows that employees’ productivity improves as levels of CO2 fall. In one of the buildings included in the study, people worked 60% faster in reduced CO2 environments, completing tests in a mean time of 8.2 minutes, compared with 13.3 minutes in rooms with higher than average CO2 in the atmosphere.6 While another study uncovered that better lighting, ventilation and temperature control is projected to increase productivity by up to 23%.7 By measuring these factors in your own environment using a smart buildings solution, you’ll be ideally placed to realise these gains.
The value of a holistic approach
What these examples show is how closely interconnected smart buildings capabilities have become. Rather than creating more data siloes with products that focus on one aspect of the smart buildings jigsaw, there’s real value in looking strategically at this topic. Then you can bring all your facilities and utilities data together in a consolidated smart buildings solution.
Not only is this a more future-proof approach, it’ll also help you protect against cyber-attacks that target IoT endpoints, while real-time analytics and controls are beneficial for cutting energy bills.
To learn more about smart buildings solutions from Vodafone, including IoT.nxt and Vodafone Office Spaces, contact your Vodafone Account Manager.
- Vodafone Future Ready Business Report 2021