The built environment can make a major contribution to lowering emissions and lowering resource use. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is impossible to meet sustainability goals without using smart technology to improve the built environment. Examples include:
Reducing energy waste. Most buildings can save 10% to 30% on energy just by installing an intelligent building management system to manage devices such as occupancy sensors, light dimmers and smart thermostats. There are many other ways a smart building can reduce overall costs too. For instance, buildings with smart meters or smart thermostats can participate in utility demand response programs. By briefly reducing consumption during peak times they allow the utility to make do with fewer expensive standby power plants. (See the Energy chapter for details.)
Reducing water waste. In the same way that ICT helps smart buildings save energy, it helps them save water too. Operational optimization helps smart buildings manage water resources with precise efficiency, eliminating waste and reducing cost for owners and occupants. Sometimes it’s just a matter of better scheduling. For instance, scheduling pumping and irrigation at night when power is cheaper.
Reducing carbon emissions. Smart buildings use less energy and less water – important because water requires large amounts of energy to pump and treat. As a result, carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions are lower in smart cities.
Reducing the frequency and cost of repairs. Today’s building management systems can monitor key equipment to notice problems as soon as they arrive -- or, in some cases, predict problems before they occur. They can prioritize work orders so the maintenance crew always works on the most important problem first. And since they can keep equipment fine-tuned, it operates at maximum efficiency.
Enabling distributed generation. Not only can ICT reduce energy waste, it can help buildings produce their own energy via on-site solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells and the like. Distributed generation won’t replace power plants outright. But together with energy storage and demand response, it can reduce the number of peaker power plants. (Peaker plants run only when there is high demand for power and sit idle the rest of the time and And since most peaker plants run on fossil fuels, avoiding their use provides carbon reduction benefits.) Distributed generation also helps reduce the environmental costs associated with transmitting energy over long distances, particularly important for more remote villages in developing countries.
Providing ROI for building owners. Smart buildings are a win for building owners. Operational optimization delivers both cost savings and enhanced value per square foot.