Are Smart Buildings the Future of Energy Efficiency?

Sep 21, 2022

Let’s start with a question – how many steps have you taken in order to track and manage your organisational energy consumption?

Chances are you’ve implemented recycling initiatives and perhaps some other small-scale efforts.

Don’t worry, we get it – it’s seriously hard work being an eco-conscious business, but what if we told you that there was another way?

Smart buildings are revolutionising how businesses approach their workspace energy consumption, but are they really the future, or just a passing fad? In this article, we’ll address these questions and more, running through what smart buildings are, and what features you can implement into your building to help improve your energy efficiency in the long term.

What are smart buildings?

We see the prefix ‘smart’ a lot these days, especially when it comes to our mobile devices, so smart buildings are seen by many to be a natural progression of the modern workspace.

A smart building can:

● Manage tech ( turning projectors on when a certain person enters a room)
● Detect movement
● Measure the amount of light
● Monitor and adjust temperatures
● Efficiently manage your air conditioning
● Activate kitchen appliances
● Automatically send lifts to the required floor
● Gather data about how your space is used

And much, much more; this is by no means an exhaustive list. The point is that smart buildings are designed to ensure two things: that your employees have the most efficient working environment possible, and that your energy consumption is kept to a minimum at all times.

They also provide crucial usage data that can be used to inform any future office refurbishments.
See exactly how your employees use the space provided and optimise it accordingly; the more efficient your space, the more efficient your people.

How can smart buildings bolster energy efficiency?

Smart buildings are the future of workplace energy efficiency for several key reasons.

At the start of the pandemic, the average office headcount dropped by around 80%, but energy consumption only dropped by roughly 6%. Logic suggests that the energy consumption should match the number of people using the building, but this isn’t the case due to several key reasons.

Energy Efficient Smart Buildings Rhino Interiors Group

Temperature monitoring

Humans are endothermic animals, meaning that we generate our own heat. We lose a fairly large percentage of that heat, naturally emitting around 10MJ of heat per day, or about 120W.

Therefore, having lots of people in a room will naturally warm it. When you lose 80% of the people in your office, all of a sudden, your heating system has to work overtime to fill in the gaps.

A smart building will do something, well, very smart in situations like these. By monitoring how many people are using a room, smart heating technology can use the exact amount of energy required to achieve the desired temperatures in a room, taking into consideration the heat that the occupants are emitting.

As soon as everyone leaves the room, your smart building acknowledges this by turning the heating off as it’s no longer required. If a room is booked for a specific time, your building can ensure that it’s up to temperature just as everyone arrives for their meeting.

This reactive system of temperature management means that temperatures are intelligently managed – no more heaters running all day in every room, or air conditioning units chilling rooms that are vacant. This saves building owners and tenants thousands of pounds over long periods, especially as energy costs rise.

Adequate temperature monitoring has grown increasingly important as many people adopt a hybrid approach to work, as the amount of people in your workspace can fluctuate substantially from day to day – there’s no point fully heating a mostly empty office!

Device management

We’ve all experienced the pre-presentation fumbling with wires, flicking to the wrong HDMI channels and other technical frustrations.

Now imagine that you walk into a pre-booked room, everything turns on and your presentation is ready and on screen. Smart buildings can preload and turn on everything you’re going to need.

While this is both impressive for your clients and convenient for everyone else, it also helps to improve your energy efficiency, as devices are only on when they’re needed, and are always powered down when not in use.

Intelligent lighting

Globally, lighting contributes around 20% of office energy use

The simple act of forgetting to turn the lights off in a room can cost you quite a bit in the long run, so automating lighting is the logical solution.

Now, you may already use rudimentary motion sensors to detect movement and turn the lights on, but these are usually timer based, meaning that they often stay on longer than they’re actually required.

Imagine a security guard patrolling your building. As they walk, they activate lights which stay on for five minutes before turning off. This means that simply by walking through corridors, they’re activating lights and causing unnecessary usage.

The same security guard in a smart building has a significantly lower impact, as the smart building can learn their route and activate the lights in advance when it senses them coming, turning them off immediately once the guard has passed.

Smart buildings will intelligently activate and deactivate lights exactly when they’re needed, meaning that there’s no waste, dramatically reducing your consumption.

Is it worth switching to a smart building now?

As smart building technology matures, it will naturally grow in prevalence. We believe that we’ll start to see widespread adoption over the next few years.

This poses one key question – is it worth it for you to switch now?

The answer isn’t simple and depends on a variety of factors. Smart buildings come with fairly significant costs, being more than a standard office (prices can be hard to estimate because technology costs change so rapidly).

However, you should consider smart tech as an investment, just like you would something like solar panels. Over an extended period of time, you’ll see a return, as your energy bills will be significantly less.

This means that, if you’re planning on staying in your existing building for a long time, then we highly recommend investing sooner rather than later.

If you’re looking to move relatively soon (in the next five-ten years), then it may not be in your best interests right now, and you might want to integrate smart technology into your brand-new offices down the line instead.

Bespoke smart workspaces from Rhino

Smart buildings are the future, we’re confident of that.
If you’ve got any questions about smart buildings, and how you can improve your existing or new workspace, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts at Rhino.

We’re on hand to answer any questions you have and to advise whether integrating smart technology into your building is the right choice for you.

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