The prospect of reduced energy expenditure and increased compliance with net zero carbon emissions targets is of considerable interest. But there are relatively few comprehensive use cases to demonstrate the effect of the Building Internet of Things (B-IoT) on energy costs, sustainability, and safety, let alone the more ‘soft’ measurements that relate to occupant satisfaction and wellness.
Part of the problem is definitional: there is no agreed standard of smart or optimised buildings, and often the technologies that could have most impact when used together are used separately, siloed both in terms of design and in terms of operation. In order to truly optimise building performance, the connected devices installed in the building must, as we say, ‘talk to each other.’
In other words, sensors, actuators and modules must be able to share information and connect through a central control room: not merely a building management system in the traditional sense but an algorithm that learns and continually improves energy use based on, for example, room occupancy. B-IoT means that, in practice, building owners and operators can learn what spaces are in use, when they are in use, to what extent they are fully utilised, and make sure that lights are only on when they need to be, that heating is only on when it needs to be. In the long run, occupant behaviour can influence the design of future developments, or encourage developers to reconsider extant designs: occupancy sensors can determine if a cinema room is being used on a particular floor and, if not, it could be re-designed as a gym, or a games room, or a shared kitchen space.
These ideas are already current in build-to-rent, the higher end of the new-build residential market where occupant satisfaction is paramount. Utopi is involved in this market from the design stage through to the ongoing operational phase, so we are well placed to provide some much-needed use cases of B-IoT for developers and facilities managers.
We have recently published a white paper on occupant health and wellbeing, for example, in order to explain the measurements that constitute our wellness score: a list of parameters that include lighting, ventilation, temperature, humidity, and certain other related but arguably more case-specific measurements like total volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. Several more studies will follow in the coming weeks and months based on our work in the build-to-rent environment.
Broadly speaking though, IoT-enabled buildings will be more efficient, more personalised to the preferences of occupants, and safer. Consider occupancy detection again: fire safety compliance can be enhanced when building operators know, in real time, where workers and occupants are located throughout a building. Privacy concerns should perhaps make up the subject of a blog post on their own, but in brief, it is important to remember that occupancy detection does not imply the use of facial recognition, or any means of determining who the occupant is, or what they are doing. Especially in light of the recent Grenfell Enquiry, fire safety is a top concern of operators and occupants alike: in this respect, as in so many others, building optimisation is not a luxury but a necessity.