Getting smart about building energy

 —  Article by JLL Staff Reporter
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The Internet of Things and Big Data are bringing about the convergence of building energy efficiency and the workplace to dramatic effect.

The technology revolution is changing the way we manage and operate buildings—and keeping up with the latest technologies and developments is no small task.

Real Views sat down with JLL’s Darlene Pope, Senior Vice President, Energy and Sustainability Services, JLL, to discuss key trends in real estate and technology that were on the agenda at the 2016 Building Energy Summit.

The conversation around smart building technologies is typically focused on energy efficiency, but are there other advantages?

We are seeing an influx of new, disruptive building technologies enabling real-time data, operational analytics, integrated applications and truly “smart” buildings delivering a real estate trifecta: greater energy efficiency, lower operations and maintenance costs, and higher worker productivity. Saving energy is an important advantage—but it is only part of a bigger picture.

Where does the Internet of Things fit into the smart buildings picture?

The Internet of Things—or the IoT, as we call it—refers to the billions of devices that interact with each other via the Internet. It is quickly becoming a “mega-trend,” with significant implications for almost every aspect of building operating management and the occupant experience.

We’re already seeing the IoT at work in buildings with the use of wireless sensors that “talk” to other devices. Behind the scenes, a smart building management platform can use sensors and artificial intelligence to monitor and adjust operations continuously, including hearing, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting, without human intervention

The IoT makes this possible. And, devices generate huge amounts of data that we now are able to capture and analyze to see where buildings are operating inefficiently and how a company can use its facilities more productively.

How do smart buildings affect the workplace experience?

We are seeing a transition away from focusing solely on energy cost-reductions and incremental operational efficiencies to using smarter building systems to engage people working in the building. Leading organizations are looking to the workplace as a way to enhance employee productivity, often combining smart building technologies with sustainability initiatives.

Beyond energy savings, research is showing an exponential return on investment in smart, sustainable offices in terms of improved worker productivity and employee satisfaction. The more you can fine-tune factors such as air quality, air temperature and lighting levels in response to occupancy levels and environmental conditions, the more comfortable and productive employees will be. Smart building systems can also power interactive services and amenities for tenants, along with enhanced safety and security.

In the eyes of corporate occupiers, owners or investors, do the benefits of these new technologies outweigh the cost?

Ubiquitous internet availability and significant price reductions on IT components such as wireless sensors have made smart-building technologies much more affordable. A strategic retrofit of an older building with modern systems, combined with a smart building management platform, can pay for itself in less than two years, and that presents a compelling business case for owners and investors. And when you add the benefit of improved worker productivity due to enhanced comfort and convenience, the payback is exponential.

Furthermore, high-performing buildings are proven to have lower operating expenses than legacy buildings, with higher resale values, rental and occupancy rates. For instance, a smart building management system might detect that a fan is running at a higher speed than it should be, and automatically diagnose and address the issue before the fan completely breaks down.

Building occupants don’t see this “continuous commissioning” at work, but owners and investors see it in the bottom line. Beyond the energy savings, smart systems provide for better capital planning because you can clearly see when pieces of equipment will need repair or replacement, and you can extend equipment life through better maintenance.

By allowing for better management of building equipment, smart systems also reduce operational risks and improve overall building performance—and improve the value of the building. In addition, a smart building management system can automatically calculate carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions to support corporate sustainability reporting.

Smart building technologies are already being used to help organizations create more productive and sustainable buildings—and they will influence workplace design in the future. We are only at the beginning of the journey.

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