Be sustainable, be smart: How buildings are changing

The evolution of building design has been driven by the changing future of work and accelerated by the pandemic. Now, building managers need to ask themselves, is the workplace or public space I run is safe to return to? How am I going to ensure the health of its users? And how sustainable and efficient are its systems, even when the building is at low capacity?

Smart buildings hold the answers to some of these questions. With smart technology, building managers can monitor safety and efficiency, reducing overheads and safeguarding the well-being of users. As a direct result, the building is more sustainable – which is better for people and the planet. Here, we explain how. 

Why smart is sustainable

Here are some fairly astonishing statistics: 36% of global energy usage and 39% of carbon emissions are produced by buildings. This is why making buildings more sustainable is key to a greener, cleaner future. Smart technologies are integral to this goal.

This is because smart applications and systems monitor a building’s energy consumption through intelligent controls, sometimes, yielding as much as a 30% reduction. Moreover, this information incentivises users to change their individual behaviour to contribute to these savings.

Smart buildings can also interact with our increasingly smart energy grid. Smart buildings are set to play a significant role in demand-side response, where power stations supply the grid according to peaks and troughs. Smart buildings can work with infrastructure companies to lower demand and balance the grid more intelligently. 

Confidence in building safety

Furthermore, these tools instil confidence in building users. According to research conducted by tech giants Siemans, 54% of employees are hesitant to return to offices in the future. However, with apps monitoring key metrics like air quality – such as the one developed by Rejuvenair – users have access to the hard data that proves the building is safe.

However, if the future of work really is from home, then lower occupancy will inevitably create challenges when it comes to sustainability. For instance, how can building owners and managers justify lighting and heating unoccupied spaces?

Smart technologies provide insights into users’ behaviour patterns. This gives them the data they need to know when an area should be lit, heated and ventilated for optimum performance. This could account for significant savings in energy, not to mention savings on the bill.

Deploying technology for a green built environment

The future of work, our built environment and the planet are deeply intertwined. This also has an important link to our personal well-being; with a cleaner environment, we can be more productive, efficient, and most importantly, healthier. The key to making this vision a reality is rethinking how we design and manage our buildings.

Smart buildings will play an integral role in realising this vision. With the ability to monitor building occupancy, electricity usage, and air quality, we can optimise systems to save energy and improve the environment. And this isn’t only from the perspective of our own health – it’s for the health and longevity of our planet too.