Sustainable Smart Building Innovation in Legacy Buildings

Disruptive Technologies
Smart Building sustainability
Illustration: © IoT For All

Internet of Things (IoT) technologies have disrupted the real estate and facilities management industry. Wireless IoT sensors help key stakeholders monitor and manage building assets regardless of when and where they are. Sensors also enable different functionalities that save costs, improve tenant comfort and wellbeing, and boost environmental performance. Functionalities include predictive maintenance, data-driven asset management, smart resource allocation, and HVAC optimization.

Because of these benefits, new construction projects now account for the installation of numerous sensors to empower state-of-the-art Building Management Systems (BMS). In legacy buildings, however, there is a need to retrofit a proper set of sensors to build intelligence digitally. Deploying these sensors in one building is straightforward. But sometimes, sensors must be installed across hundreds of buildings and thousands of assets.

Infogrid deployed thousands of temperature asset performance, space utilization, and water leak sensors into hundreds of locations worldwide within a few weeks in a recent project. Because of this effort, the project was awarded a Verdantix Smart Building Innovation Award.

Scalability Challenges During COVID-19

The goal was to digitally transform the real estate into a technology-enabled sustainable workplace that economized on maintenance and energy costs, promoted employee well-being and performed well environmentally. COVID-19 introduced new working patterns (e.g., work from home at scale), which increased the importance of remote management of building assets and empty buildings. The project demanded the rapid integration and deployment of a complex set of different technologies. Sensor deployment, software development, project planning, and change management had to be coordinated and completed in a short timeframe and across multiple buildings worldwide.

Tackling The Challenge

The company was able to deploy thousands of wireless sensors into hundreds of locations across 4 continents within a few weeks.

The sensors reported data on temperature, humidity, usage, water leaks, and the IoT solution harnesses this data to ensure efficient and sustainable operations and safe and secure spaces for employees and customers. This digitization makes way for predictive maintenance, reduced time to repair assets, data-enriched asset management, greater energy efficiency, increased sustainability, improved resource planning and allocation, and a rich set of employee wellbeing functionalities. 

The company can now:

  • Remotely and proactively identify issues that could cause property and asset damage. This was made possible by sensing the status of assets, including information on temperature and humidity.
  • Ensure the health and proper operation of critical building infrastructures. Sensors can identify leaks, as well as abnormal temperature and humidity conditions.
  • Have visibility on property usage and occupancy to improve efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Density monitoring and plant operations functionalities were deployed. 
  • Plan resources around space allocation and workplace maintenance personnel. Sensor counts and analytics were employed.
  • Automate alert notifications in case of problems. Facility managers, tenants, and other stakeholders get notifications in case of anomalies and act accordingly.
  • Monitor property vacancy due to COVID-19. Dynamic occupancy monitoring functionalities can derive insights into the changing work patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Monitor progress of Return-to-Work patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Occupancy maps of specific offices can reflect the rate of employees working at the office and how this rate changes over time.
  • Enhance employee experience while ensuring a healthy office environment thanks to the optimal configuration of temperature and HVAC parameters.
  • Safeguard security, privacy, and protection for corporate data and employees’ private data. Various network-level and application-level functionalities were implemented.

Sustainable Benefits in Digitized Buildings 

The solution results in several business benefits, including: 

  • Ability to obtain a real-time, full remote overview of the status of its assets, including information on which assets need more attention (e.g., maintenance).  
  • Fast and dynamic adaptation to changing requirements such as needs for offices of specific sizes. This is particularly useful in the COVID19 era, where relevant requirements change in a short time.
  • Predictive maintenance of equipment, which facilitates the fixing of problems before major faults occur. This reduces equipment downtime and extends the useful life of building infrastructure.
  • Door status monitoring and optimized usage of space based on an understanding of door traffic.
  • Significant optimizations of cleaning services through washroom usage counting. Furthermore, the solution tracks space usage and enables demand-based cleaning. Specifically, cleaning takes place when and where is needed without wasting time or cleaning products.
  • Improved energy efficiency and sustainability, as the solution provides full visibility into temperature, occupancy, open doors and windows, building use, and water waste.
  • A significant boost of employee health and safety, based on proper visibility on space occupancy and the proper planning of cleaning tasks.
  • Prevention of building mishaps thanks to the use of humidity and water sensors that facilitate understanding of risks and timely reaction to emergencies.

Prevention of Equipment Failure

During a summer heatwave, one data room reached a very high temperature. Thanks to the deployed solution, the Facilities team was alerted and able to identify a failure in the AC system. In response to this failure, the team applied supplementary cooling. This averted a forced equipment shutdown, consequential downtime, and expensive hardware replacement.

Tangible Energy Savings

The deployed temperature sensors have helped monitor operations and ensure that the central AC was off in darkened buildings. This translated into reduced energy bills, improved operational efficiency, and reduced carbon emissions.

Operational Efficiency

Using indoor navigation apps, the staff can understand which assets (e.g., meeting rooms) are available in real-time. This saves significant amounts of wasted time that might have been spent when searching for space. 

Furthermore, the data can be used by the cleaning teams as part of a demand-based cleaning approach. Cleaning staff can focus efforts on assets that have been used instead of wasting them.

Improved Workplace Experience

The solution provides one-touch ticketing, which allows staff to report workplace issues quickly and anonymously. This is particularly important for problematic assets that require consumables, like jammed printers or broken coffee machines. In such cases, our solution enables a much faster response to problems and, therefore, a better employee experience. 

The data produced by these reports is also used to pinpoint high failure devices. It is also used to identify changes that may be needed in the operational working patterns to prevent failures. 

Disruptive Technologies
Disruptive Technologies
Disruptive Technologies (DT) is a Norwegian tech company and the award-winning developer of the world’s smallest wireless sensors and IoT infrastructure. These tiny, robust, affordable, and adaptable sensors are the best in the world and are desig...
Disruptive Technologies (DT) is a Norwegian tech company and the award-winning developer of the world’s smallest wireless sensors and IoT infrastructure. These tiny, robust, affordable, and adaptable sensors are the best in the world and are desig...