3 Ways IoT Helps Improve Workplace Sustainability

by Glenn Hicks on November 21, 2017

The emphasis on environmental friendliness and sustainability has been around for decades. Ever since Nixon signed the executive order that created the EPA in 1970, business leaders have been encouraged (and in many cases, mandated) to reduce their environmental impact, decrease waste and improve energy conservation.

What has changed is the availability of tools and technologies that make these initiatives substantially easier — specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT).

The IoT and smart technology offer organizations ways to improve workplace sustainability that companies in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s couldn’t even fathom. And really, these tools couldn’t have come at a better time. JLL’s report The Changing Face of Smart Buildings: The Op-Ex Advantage introduced a pretty shocking statistic: energy consumption in the U.S. commercial real estate sector totals almost $180 billion every year. What makes this figure even more worrisome is that 30 percent of this energy is wasted.

But here’s some good news: the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that if intelligent efficiency measures — such as advanced commercial lighting design and controls, advanced commercial rooftop units and comprehensive commercial retrofits — were applied to just 35 percent of eligible commercial floor area in buildings with 50,000 or more square feet, then the United States could save 50 billion kWh by 2030.

Here are three ways businesses can use the IoT and smart technology to improve workplace sustainability.

By utilizing IoT sensors, workplace leaders can create a preventative maintenance schedule, reducing unexpected asset breakdowns.Smart Maintenance

Failing to keep the tires on your car properly inflated has a slew of negative, costly consequences — lower MPG (since the vehicle must use more fuel to get the car moving and keep it in motion), reduced tread life and uneven wear. On top of the inconvenience to you, improper inflation also leads to increased emissions because (as previously mentioned) the increased energy required to get the car in motion results in an increase in exhaust fumes. Plus, you’ll have to refuel more regularly.

Similarly, in order to lengthen the life of your assets and decrease the environmental impact of running industrial equipment, you need to monitor the condition of building assets and proactively maintenance them. For example, just as under-inflated tires increase fuel consumption, an improperly functioning AC unit will use a larger amount of refrigerant and more electricity to sufficiently cool a space. While an AC unit that is working correctly has a lower risk of releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, a damaged or incorrectly operating AC will.

Smart sensors connected to the IoT enable workplace leaders to practice intelligent asset maintenance — a proactive approach to maintenance that prevents unexpected and expensive asset breakdown. IoT sensors can automatically detect increased vibrations, abnormal noise levels or elevated temperatures, all of which are indicators of possible equipment failure. With the insight offered by smart IoT sensors, the facilities team can reduce the organization’s carbon footprint and increase the eco-friendliness of the business.

Smart Lighting

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting is the largest source of electricity consumption in commercial buildings in the U.S.

While most business leaders are already familiar with the basic benefits of smart lighting — i.e., the ability to automatically control lights based on occupancy and time of day — but a connected lighting system (CLS) offer a revolutionary new way to help the environment: data-driven energy management.

Connected lighting products can self-measure and report on energy use, allowing workplace leaders to set benchmarks for the amount of electricity used by lights. By knowing the baseline energy consumption of their organization and how it compares to the consumption of comparably-sized companies and/or industry standards, workplace leaders can identify floors or buildings that are utilizing more electricity than is necessary. With the insight offered by the CLS, workplace leaders can make data-driven decisions about how the organization can better manage its electricity use.

Smart Water Meters

According to the U.S. Information Energy Administration’s latest Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, the average water usage in large commercial buildings greater than 200,000ft2 totaled between 426 and 554 million gallons per day.

Rather than watch the company’s money go down the drain, workplace leaders can take advantage of cloud-based smart water metering, which allows them to monitor water use by building. With this data, workplace leaders can develop a comprehensive smart water management plan.

A smart water management plan empowers workplace leaders to Find opportunities to decrease excessive water consumption and increase efficiency by …

  • Helping them understand how a facility uses water
  • Identify leaks and waste
  • Find systems or equipment that have above-average water consumption levels

There will undoubtedly be new applications for the Internet of Things in terms of eco-friendliness and workplace sustainability in the coming years. But as for now, we recommend trying one (or all) of the applications above. It will make your industry predecessors proud.

How else can you use technology to improve your workplace? Download our free guide Transforming Your Office Into a Workplace of the Future to learn more.


Glenn Hicks

A member of the Business Development team, Glenn has years of experience with business process improvement on the Commercial Real Estate and Facilities Management sides.

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