Creating Smarter, Greener Buildings To Reduce Energy Waste

green office buildings

When it comes to saving the environment, there are lots of small steps that we can take as individuals. Personal habits, like carpooling, use public transportation and use less plastic, all help. Energy saving devices like LED light bulbs, robotic tools, smart appliances, or smart systems in our residences are popular too. But, we cannot let larger companies avoid their share of the responsibilities.

We play our part with residential measures to reduce energy waste and should encourage our bosses to follow our lead. Building developers and designers can create smart buildings with impressive energy savings. The new features ensure that staff works under a greener roof, and sometimes literally. Interconnected devices, smart sensors, and green materials help reduce energy waste. They ensure that the workplace is eco-friendly, cost-effective, and innovative.

The rise of new guidelines, the internet of things and competitive awards are all great steps forward. They are now essential for the growth of these smart green buildings. The issues and projects highlighted here showcase some great achievements. They can really make a difference worldwide in the fight against climate change and wasted energy. If more designers follow this trend, the results could be significant across the world.

How To Make The Change For A Greener Building?

Start by asking the right questions and having a good understanding of the industry. We discuss the following topics:

  1. Why are energy efficiency and energy savings such a big issue for commercial buildings?
  2. The introduction of greater standardization of measures
  3. The role of the internet of things in improved savings and smarter buildings
  4. Fundamentals of building design to ensure the best savings
  5. The smartest, greenest building in the world
  6. How combined measures have led to impressive eco-friendly, cost-effective public buildings.
  7. Green energy solutions to further improve the situation
  8. The threat of cyber security on national grid systems vs on-site systems

Why are Energy-Efficiency and Energy Savings such a Big Issue for Commercial Buildings?

Energy savings and efficient systems are a major concern in any home. The rise in sales of smart thermostats and home hubs highlights that need for greater control of heating, cooling, and lighting. Each homeowner feels responsible for their own energy use. A few settings on an app can optimize the temperature, turn out lights and highlight problem areas. This leads to massive savings on energy bills, as well as a greener conscience.

These issues of energy use and costs only increase when it comes to commercial buildings, such as office blocks, schools, and hospitals. These large buildings need plenty of power to provide the best possible indoor environment. An ineffective system can have an unfortunate impact on the atmosphere and the bank balance.

In fact, a recent study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) states that the savings could be astronomical. ACEEE states that commercial buildings could save as much as $60 billion with the right investments. Some companies may fear the cost and effort of these major upheavals. Yet, the report goes on to suggest that they only need as little as a 4% improvement to see the benefits.

energy efficient office building

Introducing A Greater Standardization of Measures

The next question is how can companies make sure that their buildings and renovations are truly up to standard. To more accurately measure energy use and saving, there has to be some form of standardization. The International performance measurement and verification protocol, or IPMVP, is a good starting point. This system works in 3 parts:

  • Create a framework of fundamental principles
  • Use a method of evaluating and measuring indoor environment quality
  • New guidelines on the construction of new builds.

Let’s take energy savings as a simple example here. Before, different companies could proclaim themselves as leaders in their area or industry. The problem was they did so with no concrete proof. Readings and ratings meant little as there wasn’t the standardization in the methods or the results. Also, those clear guidelines on new builds ensure that developers have a framework in place before they begin. This not only cuts down on time and effort at this early stage, it means that the finished building should be up to standard.

The Role of the Internet of Things

When we add in the Internet of Things this system becomes smarter and more effective. The IoT has great potential for energy savings within the average home. Residents see this in the more efficient use of lighting, heating and other energy needs around the home. Interconnected smart systems can ensure that light’s are only on as needed, or that the thermostat switches off in an unoccupied house. These small adaptations in energy use can add up to some bigger savings over time.

This concept also applies to larger commercial buildings. Building managers and developers simply need to scale up the system to reduce energy waste. The IoT in a commercial building can seem pretty complex. There is generally a series of different systems here. This includes lighting, building services, and environmental control. Smart sensors and controls on all levels allow for a more efficient use of energy. The building services system can look at the energy used in air conditioning, heating, and ventilation. Sensors can also determine room occupancy and handle the heating and lighting needs as required. Improved lighting controls ensure that each room is lit more efficiently. All these key systems share data at crucial points, allowing for that speedy communication of triggers and responses.

Fundamentals of Building Design to ensure the Best Savings

This increased reliance on the internet of things doesn’t mean that building designers can neglect other aspects of design. The fundamentals are still important. This means the following:

  1. Smart systems for heating and cooling that limit energy use.
  2. Energy-efficient devices for cleaning and lighting the home – much like the robots and LED lights at home
  3. Natural ventilation to lower the costs of maintaining air quality
  4. Daylight through plenty of windows and open spaces

Natural lighting plays a bigger part in smarter, energy efficient homes than many people realize. Windows aren’t simply there for a good view. They minimize the need for harsh light and provide access to healthy sunlight. There are some building designers that also turn to smart windows for an even better performance. This windows either lighten or darken in relation to sunlight levels. This can help to cool rooms on bright days or bring in light on colder days.

A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that companies could save between 19-26% on cooling costs. Furthermore, there was the potential for 48-67% on their lighting with these windows. It is also suggested that this more comfortable, effective building could lead to increased productivity. In turn, workers don’t have to stay so late and end up using even less energy in their day.

The Smartest, Greenest Building in the World

So what can designers really achieve when they set a goal to reduce energy waste and all work together?

A good eco-friendly smart building can mean small adjustments like new systems, smarter sensors, and natural areas. However, there are some designers that push the envelope out further to reduce energy waste. There is a little healthy competition to create the most effective, but also the most interesting designs with a green edge. One such building is actually called The Edge and earned the title of the smartest, greenest building in the world. This wasn’t some questionable public vote. This was an official rating from British rating agency BREEAM of 98.4 percent. This was a new record, so clearly it was a worthy title.

Source: Bloomberg

The Edge scored so highly because of the combination of streamlined solutions and an array of 28,000 sensors. The building monitors motion, light, temperature and more through a complex digital ceiling. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, but also a surprising amount of light and glass. Every workspace in the building is within 7 meters of a window for natural light, reducing energy needs further. If that wasn’t enough, there are even exercise stations in the on-site gym that send energy from a workout back into the building. It is all so impressive that there is only one question. What did they need to do to find that missing 1.6% on their score?

Combined Methods Lead to Impressive Eco-friendly & Cost-effective Public Buildings

There is often a focus on the smart solutions within company buildings and commercial headquarters. This is where businesses have the money to throw at energy saving solutions. It is also where brands can compete to stand out in yet another field. Yet, these smart, green solutions to reduce energy waste also apply to other institutions. University often lead the way with smart ideas for a greener campus. Schools can also benefit from similar ideas in busy districts. Then there are the smarter, greener hospitals.

Hospitals are one area where we might expect energy saving ventures to fail. Patient safety and health are the top priority over savings in this area. They need energy 24/7 for patient care, lighting, operating theaters and more. However, there are some impressive facilities that can do both. Providence Newberg Medical Center was the first LEED Certified Hospital in the U.S and still maintains a high standard. The developers have considered energy use and green spaces from many angles. Fresh air pumps through the hospital for better ventilation, while natural light pours in from the many windows. There are also occupancy sensors in rooms – much like in the smarter office blocks – to conserve energy more effectively.

There is often a knock-on effect here with these buildings. There is a similar concept to that of employee productivity and building occupancy with the hospitals. The use of natural light in every room and access to green spaces can help with health and well-being. This means that patients may recover faster, leading to a better flow of patients in and out of wards. As for schools and universities, students may perform better in natural spaces.

employees reduce energy waste

Additional Green Solutions Are Needed To Continue Improvement

Finally, there is an opportunity to furter reduce energy waste and improve energy costs and control usage further through on-site energy production. The exercise machine energy generators at The Edge are a little gimmicky. However, there are plenty of other ways to get a headquarters or office off the grid. Solar is the easiest option. Solar panels on walls and roofs, with an effective battery system, can cut costs on large urban buildings. Some companies may also make deals with neighbors to create a small neighborhood network. This means that everything related to energy generation, storage, and use is in the hands of the company.

The Threat of Cyber Security on National Grid Systems vs On-site Systems

There is one final issue to address here. It takes us back to the issues of on-site power production, personal responsibility and the internet of things. The threat of cyber attacks remains heavy on the minds of many companies and security experts. Data breaches are top of the list for many, but what about hacks into power supplies? A breach in the national grid could compromise the power and living standards of vast areas. Smart buildings with their own supply of energy, away from the grid are much safer. Therefore, it makes even more sense for new developers to turn to this localized approach.

There are lots of factors to consider when looking at measures to reduce energy waste.

Source: TEDxBerlin

Those that want to improve the green credentials of a business or commercial block need to follow the following steps for the best approach.

  1. Consider the fundamentals of energy-efficient devices, natural lighting, and insulation
  2. Look at bringing in a smart system of sensors and devices to streamline processes and solve problems.
  3. Use On-site renewable energy to power it all.

This 3 step plan might over-simplify the steps to reduce energy waste. There are lots of considerations at each point with the types of sensors used, the settings on the devices and the needs of the employees. It is also important to follow guidelines and recommendations for the best approach to reduce energy waste. But, improvements in standardization, technology, and attitudes mean that it is easier to create these buildings. These short-term costs can provide large long-term savings and reduce energy waste significantly!

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