The key to hyper-efficient buildings of the future

Kas Mohammed, VP at Schneider Electric, examines how Internet of Things energy management systems can be used to create sustainable commercial buildings of the future.

Whilst sustainable technology is on the rise, a net-zero society must be the end goal we are all working towards. An entirely sustainable country or city sounds daunting, but like any seemingly impossible task we must first break it down and tackle the major issues, starting with buildings. In buildings, we must address the way we use and manage our electrical infrastructure and set KPIs to reduce consumption, particularly within those which are large and critical. 

Electrical infrastructures in buildings are complex by nature and require some level of intelligence to function efficiently. In order to monitor and maintain this infrastructure within large and critical facilities, an energy management system, ranging from high level metering to more comprehensive solutions, is necessary. The Internet of Things (IoT) – the network of physical devices which are embedded with sensing, software and other technologies which enable them to communicate and exchange digital data – is fundamental to effective, sustainable building management.

Harnessing the benefits of the IoT

With an increase in data and comprehensive analytics, there is now an opportunity for energy management systems to drive hyper-efficiency, empowering facility owners with choices that benefit both their facilities and the environment. 

The new generation of energy management systems harnesses the benefits of connected technology. This is achieved through connecting IoT enabled devices to provide greater visibility into the entire infrastructure from a web interface. The volume and variety of data points collected allows for in-depth, holistic analysis of an entire electrical infrastructure, rather than individual assets or isolated systems, driving better decision making and ultimately cutting energy usage.

Using trends, heat maps, benchmarking and forecasting, amongst other methods, to analyse this data gives full visibility into system performance and opportunities for optimisation. Real-time monitoring and tracking not only provides event alarms related to benchmarking and compliance but also the trends leading up to these events, allowing for predictability in the case of recurrence. If an alarm is identified on a particular system, it is also possible to look at a virtual single line diagram inclusive of data readings to determine the causes upstream and consequences downstream of the event.  

Decentralised Monitoring 

With the current needs for decentralisation and remote working, it is not just logical, but necessary to be able to effectively monitor electrical infrastructure regardless of proximity. With IoT energy management systems it is possible to monitor and/or control assets and systems from a cyber secure digital interface, removing the need for physical intervention and on-site presence.

If an event has occurred on a system, it can be located and isolated through the web platform. This allows a maintenance team to fix the issue more efficiently, potentially reducing consumption through preventing malfunctions such as overheating by minimising the time to interact with the system. 

Building Resilience

Large facilities will usually contain a range of vital assets – servers, medical equipment, CCTV, lifts, fire systems, lab equipment and many more. These tend to be power intensive and sensitive to power quality disturbances. 

Power quality disturbances affect the sustainability of a building, not solely by the unnecessary increased in power consumption, but also the lowering of design life, which can result in premature failure and replacement of equipment leading to an increase of electrical waste in landfill.

With advanced reporting options one can see a clear summary of system performance and if events have likely occurred due to issues within or outside of the facility. In the case of an internal cause it is easy to see the source of the disturbance and its financial and operational impacts. 

The journey to Net Zero

With cities accounting for 80% of the world’s energy consumption, and buildings, being the largest contributor, it is clear that we need to decarbonise our urban environments on more than an individual scale. Commercial and industrial scale change is needed urgently in order to mitigate these risks.

Energy management system hold the key to the hyper-efficient buildings of the future. They have the potential to empower governments, businesses and individuals to make the choices that benefit both their bottom-lines and the environment. As we look to build back better, our buildings and their efficiency must be a priority.