IoT and the Sustainable Building

Andy Slote - Director of Customer Success for ObjectSpectrum

October 1, 2023

Sustainable buildings strive to reduce environmental impact, improve cost efficiency, and create occupant-friendly climates. The design and construction of many new buildings use sustainable practices and enable ongoing effectiveness, while strategies for existing structures aim to reduce their current negative impacts in pursuit of these goals. There are many Internet of Things (IoT) construction use cases. Today, we focus on implementations contributing to improving the sustainability of current buildings by collecting data, turning it into useful information, and introducing automation.

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Energy Reduction

Reducing energy use is one of the priorities. Installing IoT sensors on any electric-powered device or system combined with remote or automated controls to turn things on or off and adjust levels improves efficiency. Spikes in usage present opportunities for performing maintenance and repair before costs grow excessively. Lighting systems, HVAC, and refrigeration units are examples where bringing attention to energy use at a detailed level with the ability to make timely changes to lower utilization makes an impact.

Water Conservation

Conserving water through effective water management is another important objective. Examples of IoT water management solutions include leak detection, sub-metering, and smart irrigation. On a larger scale, adding sensors to monitor a plumbing system’s temperature, pressure, and flow provides a comprehensive view of water usage. Response to plumbing problems is usually reactive, increasing cost, time to repair, and occupant dissatisfaction. Adding remotely operable “smart” valves enables a quick response to leaks, prevents costly damage, avoids tenant displacement, and decreases waste. And when water damage is sizeable, remediation produces trash, creating another sustainability problem.

Indoor Environmental Monitoring

Comfortable, safe, and productive indoor environments have clean air, sufficient lighting, and low noise levels. For indoor air, high levels of CO2 can be a productivity drain, while Particulate Matter (PM) and some Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) cause health problems, both acute and long-term. And high noise levels create distractions and discomfort. The first step for addressing these issues is knowing they exist. IoT sensors with supporting applications make this possible, leading to actions to improve the situation, while seeing the results of actions taken in real-time.

Waste Management

Effectively managing waste is a significant sustainability concern. Detecting waste and recycle bin levels and sending alerts to take action instead of following a regular schedule for emptying containers reduces expenses and keeps the surrounding areas cleaner and healthier.

Pest Control

Infestations of pests create damage and can degrade the environmental conditions in any building if allowed to multiply. Connected traps are available, generating alerts when pests are trapped. Implementations include a map showing trap locations, a display of current statuses, and a means to confirm they are functioning correctly.

Safety and Security Monitoring

Another basic IoT application contributing to sustainability is using open/close monitors for doors and windows. When open, they increase HVAC costs and present security and safety issues. By overlaying sensor locations and statuses on building schematics, as well as expected schedules for normal use, these devices provide an easy way to monitor the site for safety and security.

The Ultimate Goal

Some of these use cases are candidates for Machine Learning (ML), where identifying activity patterns, trending environmental conditions, etc., leads to automated responses instead of purely human decision-making. A building should be one hundred percent sustainable, and while that objective may be difficult to achieve, IoT and supporting technologies help make the journey possible and measurable.