Can IoT reduce energy consumption in buildings?

In the EU, the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. Buildings significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, as almost 75% of the EU’s building stock is currently energy inefficient. In an inefficient building, much energy is wasted; it goes up in smoke. The figure is also high globally, with up to 40% of energy consumption related to buildings.

EU’s overall target is a 55% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. To reach that goal, the building sector will have to reduce its emissions by 60%, a challenging figure.

How do we make buildings more energy efficient?

Improving existing buildings can lead to fewer energy losses. But smart solutions can also help enormously. To meet climate and energy targets, the current rate of renovation of facilities across the EU should also at least double. The EU recently introduced ambitious new policies to help Member States move towards better energy efficiency in buildings. But better building materials alone will not get us there in time.

Mineral wool insulation or IoT?

For example, the EU is investing in grants and loans to promote new technologies in the building sector. In particular, it highlights smart meters, better building materials and digital tools as contributing to energy efficiency, providing better control over energy consumption and the opportunity to save money. IoT and digitalisation can address these significant challenges. Smart sensors and control systems can collect invaluable data in real-time. Sensors can either be permanently mounted on-premises or temporarily installed to create learning in new and older buildings. We call this retrofit IoT; you’re embellishing something that wasn’t so smart with IoT.

IoT for energy efficiency

IoT provides deeper insights into indoor climate, where the premises are cold and where it is perceived as cold. In the process, you can map air quality and weather conditions outside the building. Smart sensors can measure humidity, temperature, air quality, and other essential parameters.

If the building has a control system and wired sensors, it can be a smorgasbord for those who want to analyse energy consumption, ventilation system efficiency or heating system performance; this can provide valuable insights into energy performance.

Regardless of how you collect data, IoT can control the heating system to optimise the building’s energy consumption. This can be done at many different levels. At the lowest level, smart sensors can directly regulate the temperature at the network’s edges near the problem. At the next level, the control system can regulate the temperature in near real-time. At the third level, AI can be used to analyse more thoroughly, for example, based on how many people are on the premises at each given time, but this technology is still emerging.

Difficult to digitise the industry

Buildings change hands, and property portfolios may have a varying degree of digitalisation. Because of the change of owners, no open standards, and the lifespan of a building automation system, building owners often find themselves with a mix of control systems or with slightly older systems. Still, it pays to equip old buildings with new technology.

Control the air

It’s easy to be tempted to reduce ventilation rates. It’s important to remember that indoor air quality is essential for us humans. Indoor air quality is one of the most critical components of our well-being. Moreover, as we spend most of our time indoors, we need to be sure that we breathe healthy air. Excessive concentrations of CO2 can lead to headaches and nausea, and in the worst case, vomiting. At low concentrations, CO2 is odourless and tasteless, so measuring and monitoring these levels is important. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also gas at room temperature. There are thousands of VOCs, and several VOCs co-occur. Reducing ventilation too much increases the risk of spreading these in the air. You can easily measure air quality at a fixed cost with our packages.

Our office in Stockholm

At our office in Stockholm, we have been measuring indoor air quality, temperature and humidity for quite some time. Our landlord has updated the ventilation system and heating in the building, which required a lot of tuning. Thanks to IoT and our portal, our landlord and their subcontractors can log in and see the temperature in different rooms. This has saved trips, increased responsiveness and led to an optimal indoor climate. Of course, we will continue to measure on our premises, but in theory, we can pack up the equipment and send it to another office. All connection relies on mobile networks, so we don’t need to consider any infrastructure or local network to get started at the next location.