A to Z of Smart Buildings

E: Efficiency

Posted by The Comfy Team on May 24, 2016

Typically, when the word efficiency arises in the conversation about buildings, it is used within the construct of energy efficiency. But, when considering the variety of ways in which we interact with buildings, the value of efficiency extends far beyond the notion of energy alone. In fact, implementing strategies and technologies to optimize a building’s systems and processes can have a significant effect on a company’s bottom line. Here are five ways buildings can operate smarter and enhance their overall efficiency.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency isn’t just a trend. It is both a value and a necessity. In recent years, new voluntary standards, like LEED, the Net Zero Building Challenge, and the WELL Building Standard, have grown in popularity. These standards, in addition to new regulatory policies, have prompted owners and operators to find ways to lower the amount of energy their buildings require for daily operation. Thankfully, there now exists a host of opportunities to optimize energy use via high-tech monitoring tools, modified consumption, and updated or upgraded building appliances (HVAC systems, boilers, lighting).

Energy Star reports that, on average, 30 percent of the energy consumed in commercial buildings is wasted. Energy efficiency eliminates this waste, reduce emissions, and saves money.

Space Efficiency

In an effort to reduce rising real estate costs and create more opportunities for spontaneous collaboration, the average square footage of office space for each employee has been cut in half, compared to just a few decades ago. Workplace designers are compelled to find new ways to fit more people, comfortably, in less space. From open office layouts to hot desking to activity-based seating, the days of personal corner offices—even for managers and executives—are becoming a thing of the past. New space utilization tools in smart buildings are helping workplace designers and corporate real estate teams make informed decisions on how to keep employees comfortable and productive, while maintaining a lean real estate footprint.

According to a 2011 Knoll white paper on Distributed Work, the average square footage per person, over the last 10 years, has steadily declined from about 225 to 135 square feet.

Human Efficiency

Buildings are made for people, and people—as it turns out—are very expensive. Salaries and benefits typically account for 90% of operating costs, so it makes sense that companies are paying increasingly more attention to office environment and amenities. Smart building tech and productivity tools, like conference room booking software as well as smart lighting and HVAC, help buildings, and the people who inhabit them, operate more efficiently. Though sometimes considered office “perks,” investments that improve employees’ health, wellness, and state of mind have a considerable effect on worker productivity and a business’ bottom line.

JLL has cited productivity gains of 20%+ from workplace greening, and Fast Company reports 8% increase in productivity from worksite wellness programs.

Operational Efficiency

There are entire departments dedicated to how buildings and organizations operate on a daily basis. Improved operational efficiency is a critical benefit of smart buildings, enabling a building and its tenants to run like a well-oiled machine. A smart building management system (BMS) can improve operational efficiency by integrating work-order management applications or by pulling performance analytics, equipment repair, and maintenance data to determine which projects will keep the building running optimally. Smart building systems can even detect and resolve building issues before they become disastrous equipment failures.

According to a 2013 Greentech Media post, smart building technology investments typically pay for themselves within one or two years by delivering energy savings and maintenance efficiencies.

Financial Efficiency

When it comes to a company’s bottom line, efficiency is about finding the investments with the greatest savings potential and greatest return. From a tenant’s perspective, real estate and talent are two of the most significant expenses they will incur, with talent exponentially outweighing other expenses. A typical organization spends $3 per square foot on annual utilities, $30 on real estate, and $300 on payroll.

Considering return on investments (upfront cost, benefit, and pay-off times) provides a more meaningful approach to financial efficiency. Smart building technologies—like smart lighting, conference room booking systems, and work-order management systems—play quadruple-duty by addressing several levels of efficiency. For example, smart lighting provides energy efficiency, human efficiency, and operational efficiency, which ultimately translates into financial efficiency.

Optimizing the way we use our buildings has significant implications for both our well-being and our bottom line. Afterall, we typically spend more waking hours in the office than we do in our own homes. So, while energy efficiency is, and should be, a major consideration, we must remember that efficiency takes several forms. Fortunately, smart buildings enable us to ensure that buildings are efficient in terms of: energy, space utilization, employee productivity, mechanical operation, and of course, finances.


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