Environmental and Energy Management

How smart are your buildings?

You may be familiar with the term “Smart Buildings”, but what does it really mean? According to Verdantix Research, a smart Building is one that leverages technology to minimize environmental impact and promote workplace health and security. Furthermore, it strives for energy efficiencies and reduction in consumption, of electricity, water and waste heat.

In these post-pandemic times, the ‘Workplace Experience’ is paramount in attracting employees back to the office. Prioritizing workplace maintenance and employee comfort can be a ‘win win’ for companies who want to both to be healthful employers and responsible building managers. Buildings consume energy and employees contribute to that consumption in various ways, but what’s mandatory is measuring, to understand the opportunities for improvement. Without a system for measuring, any decisions on remediation are perhaps arbitrary, or even inconsequential.

Buildings are a complex assembly of systems, almost like an organism. They need energy, inputs and above all, management. Buildings need to be constantly monitored, in terms of their ‘health’ and whether they are meeting the needs of their occupants – the primary reason for their existence. Facility Managers know this, and their task is to maintain a balance between comfort and economy. Comfortable workers are more productive, thus it is imperative to establish a welcoming and desirable experience. Regardless of other factors, such as remuneration or benefits, people who are not comfortable in the workplace are going to be less productive and possibly resign.

What are the possibilities?

The factors to consider are many and this brief is only an introduction to the variables. If you, as a Facilities Manager, are mandated to find opportunities for saving energy, reducing emissions and curating the employee experience then consider the following:

  • Switching to LED lighting
  • Pervasive wireless accessibility
  • Building Control Systems – most prevalent these days
  • Indoor wayfinding technologies – on mobile devices
  • Active Solar electricity generation – with grid tie and on-site storage batteries
  • Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to shut down lighting in unoccupied spaces
  • Smart Elevators – that position themselves at peak periods
  • Electric Vehicle charging stations
  • Rainwater harvesting for irrigation
  • Passive Solar heating – architectural design
  • Geothermal heating / cooling
  • Heat recovery from thermal operations
  • Natural gas generators to mitigate grid power interruptions
If your business does not own or manage the building that you occupy, these options are limited, but tenants can lobby building owners to evaluate these options, to improve the employee experience for all and to collectively participate in energy efficient practices.

It almost goes without saying but building managers need to deploy a preventive maintenance regimen to keep all systems operating at peak performance. Simple actions such as regularly replacing air and water filters can reduce energy consumption. But with so many daily, weekly and quarterly tasks, it can get literally unmanageable if there isn’t a system in place. In the past 20 years, especially with the maturity of internet and wireless communications, many organizations have deployed Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) to organize maintenance necessities. These systems send daily work orders to the mobile phones and tablets held by field technicians. Not only does this technology keep systems running, the data produced by the IWMS provides opportunity for analysis as well as confirming adherence to warranty obligations. If an asset fails due to lack of regular maintenance, the warranty is voided and the cost of replacement or repair is borne by the organization, not the manufacturer.

In sum, energy conservation, environmental responsibilities, occupancy comfort and sustainability are an attainable objective with the right system in place. Importantly, an IWMS implementation is most successful when an experienced firm is selected to be your partner in this transition. eCIFM is that valuable partner, having a team of talented professionals guide your organization to the goal of being the best possible workplace.