Skip to content
How to create efficient spaces

How to create efficient spaces | According to the experts

Buildings can be extremely inefficient and expensive to run – they’re responsible for a massive 40% of global energy consumption and 33% of greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the good news is that improving building efficiency isn’t actually as difficult or expensive as you might think. 

Once companies implement technology and start collecting accurate data, it’s easy to make small changes that drive cost efficiency, operational efficiency and energy efficiency.

As part of our annual magazine, The Measure, we spoke to industry experts from the likes of Akridge, Avanade, Microsoft and Accenture about how we can make the buildings around us more efficient in every way.


‘We need to stop running buildings without a speedometer’: How technology can drive building efficiency

Tommy Russo, SVP of Technology and Engineering at Akridge

Tommy Russo 1

Tommy Russo is a nationally recognized leader in technology advancement, innovation, cybersecurity and the Internet of Things (IoT). Under Tommy’s supervision, the Akridge technology team works closely with development, property management, and building engineering to provide state-of-the-art knowledge and expertise to ensure the most efficient and cost effective support and enhancement of all building systems. 

Can you imagine driving a car down the road without a speedometer? You'd get pulled over by the police and you'd get a ticket. The vast majority of buildings out there are basically running without a speedometer – key stakeholders have absolutely no clue how much energy is being used on a day-to-day basis, they’re just waiting to be hit with the bill at the end of the month. 

Monitoring all utilities – gas, electricity and water – in real time is such low- hanging fruit. It’s so easy and it’s so economical, you can immediately understand if energy is being used unnecessarily and take steps to reduce costs. 

Another easy way to drive efficiency is to implement predictive maintenance – what's the point in just waiting for something to break? Being more proactive about maintenance makes end user experience so much better for everyone involved. You need to start with accurate data about all the equipment in your building and monitor performance, until you have historical data, trends start forming and you can predict failures.

It’s all about using data to inform decision making. In a lot of buildings, air filters are changed every six months. This might have been okay back when MERV 10 filters were really inexpensive, but now you've got MERV 13 or 15 filters, it's a much bigger cost. We need to start monitoring the equipment and finding out when the chains go through. There’s no point just blindly waiting six months – it could be three months, it could be nine – we just need to monitor the system and the airflow to make an informed decision about the changing filter.

When you consider how beneficial solutions like energy monitoring and predictive maintenance are, it’s hard to see why more people aren’t adopting this technology. I think one of the biggest challenges surrounding this is passthrough. Building owners don’t want to pay for the technology as they don’t want their common area maintenance (CAM) costs to be too high and they realize it’s their clients who are going to benefit. Let’s say an owner spends money on an energy monitoring system – it’s the client that’s going to end up saving money on their bills at the end of the day.

However, things are definitely changing. In recent years, energy has been so inexpensive in the US that there hasn’t been an urgent need to reduce consumption. Now energy rates are rising, in some cases up 50%, people are frantically working out how to lower their costs. It’s a whole new game – clients are actively seeking energy efficient buildings so there’s more pressure on building owners to provide sustainable spaces.

There’s also the impact of regulations – in Washington DC we have a thing called Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS). Every building is rated and if you don't score well, you can be fined up to millions of dollars, so owners are realizing they need to improve efficiency in their buildings or risk being hit with a fine. 

Another big change is that we've become much better at predicting cost savings. Before, there were a lot of rough figures and guesswork – now we can actually predict what a VFD or an LED change out is going to save. This makes a big difference, as you can actually go to an owner and say, look, this VFD is going to take four months to pay back but by month five, you're going to start saving money, and so will the clients in the building. It's a real ROI, and for far too long, it’s been close to real, but not actually real. 

It’s time to stop running buildings without a speedometer, and start using data and technology to drive building efficiency – by doing so, we can save money, improve user experience, and protect the planet.

Efficient buildings

Ready for the industrial metaverse? How real-time data is progressing predictive maintenance and soothing first-time fix problems

Nancie Calder, Global Digital Sales & Service (D365) Center of Excellence Executive at Avanade

Nancie Calder 1 (2)

Real-time data advances field service operations by allowing service providers to step deeper into optimization. While historical data triumphs in trend mapping, real-time data affords an ability to predict and respond to mechanical and system failures – by providing exactly the right support, at exactly the right time. Nancie Calder talks us through technological evolutions in field service operations and how they’re transforming the way we maintain buildings.

The biggest challenge that field service management faces is the war on talent 

This is presented by the silver tsunami – the growing exit of highly skilled personnel across the labor force as they retire. If you want to attract younger, digitally cognizant generations, you need to have the latest technology in place. Our customers want to attract the brightest engineering graduates, but this workforce wants to feel like they’re part of a higher-level organization with leading technology.

Right now, there’s a trend towards providing a hyper-convenient white-glove service that brings extra value for customers and ensures outcome-based service levels. And this is where we hit a sweet spot – by getting an asset to actually talk to the organization that’s servicing it, you ensure its optimal performance.

To start with the basics, monitoring assets in real-time optimizes site visits and saves money 

White vans are prevalent on roads, and we can help the technicians inside them make far fewer trips per job. One trip replaces many as IoT informs service centers about exactly what needs fixing, what part is needed, and where to find the part locally – all before an engineer is dispatched. 

By reducing unnecessary and expensive truck rolls, we create savings for both the customer and the organization. And as being sustainable is so vital to companies today, reducing truck roll not only improves operational efficiency and customer satisfaction but also reduces carbon footprint – a huge additional benefit. The enhanced communication that this technology brings also improves maintenance success rates and helps to direct talent across a service center’s workstream more effectively.

Real-time data is simply the next step in predictive field service 

Organizations are fixated on achieving their first-time fix rate but too often don’t yield the right result. It’s all too common to send the wrong person to do the job without a full understanding of the issue at hand. 

If you don't have machines remotely monitored then you're relying on a person to notice that there’s a problem. While you may catch problems during routine preventative maintenance, real-time monitoring is the next level up, as it reveals the unforeseen – before it becomes a bigger, more expensive problem. Accurately monitored machinery informs of problems that could escalate, while machinery that’s well-serviced always lasts longer.

Real-time data

The importance of personalization

I often say to customers, ‘Imagine you had a car that was streaming all of its data to the cloud and showed you how your engine was running, with your usage, your speed – truly personalized to how you use your car’. The dealership would then know everything that’s going on with your car and could automate its smooth running. 

This type of value offering brings better customer satisfaction and the dealer could create white-glove experiences for customers – perhaps by servicing the car on-demand at your home or business. This moves service-providing beyond its traditional prescribed timeline to a more precise, seamless, and efficient process for everyone.

If we leverage cloud technology for building operations, we would know that a particular building has been experiencing more sunlight and doesn't turn its HVAC and boilers on as frequently, so we can optimize its maintenance operations and delay a visit until it’s truly needed. In the meantime, service resources could be directed to more pressing problems.

Apart from an uptick in truck roll efficiency, optimizing maintenance visits contribute to a range of benefits. The technology that we’ve created uses rules and alerts to remotely direct technicians to a malfunction in a complicated building layout – this is called Situational Awareness. 

We have a function that works with headsets and brings incredible levels of collaboration in the realm of mixed reality. Two separately located technicians can see the same thing and annotate or draw in 3D and real-time. You can walk through standard operating procedures with schematics, or a video, and you can use 3D object overlays. Connecting with Metrikus has enabled us to deliver higher-level capabilities and enable an industrial metaverse.

IoT can be a daunting prospect for people 

I often say to clients that we can start this journey from anywhere: if they’re using clipboards, there are many things we can do in the short term that will help them build towards these bigger, broader plans to reduce truck rolls and improve sustainability and talent. We can start with core IoT functionality and begin to get data that actions field service operations and start to gain insights. 

At the highest end of the spectrum, you can use mixed reality. However, my first move would be to do away with pens and paper and make sure your technicians have digital tools that keep and attract them and then look at IoT – because as a technician you don’t want to arrive, and be surprised, and have to deal with an irate client. Equipping technicians with a mobile tool they can use to see and diagnose problems would be a really good starting point.

We’re moving toward a future where factories and facilities could have robots being run through 3D scenarios remotely by technicians, saving the need to drive there themselves and also perform hazardous tasks. That’s ‘way out there’ but automotive manufacturers are starting to conceptualize this already. 

Adding value to your vertical – From financial services to manufacturing, IoT reveals vast building inefficiencies while powering better experiences

James Lockyer, Director of IoT Sales for Microsoft and James Palmer, Head of Energy and Building Sustainability at Metrikus

James Lockyer 1

IoT sensors are used to improve operational efficiency in buildings by connecting to a building management system (BMS) and pulling data to accurately inform stakeholders about a building’s use and energy consumption. James Lockyer, Director of IoT Sales at Microsoft, and James Palmer, Head of Energy and Building Sustainability at Metrikus, tell us exactly what you can save.

James Palmer: Buildings account for 32% of final total global energy use, making up 19% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and approximately one-third of black carbon emissions. Reducing emissions in buildings is critical for a low-carbon future. 

James Lockyer: It’s true that there are some striking statistics: 25% of the total operating costs of offices are spent on energy and water, while 25-30% of water consumed in buildings is wasted. We’ve designed solutions with our partners which enable us to reduce those figures significantly – which obviously has huge environmental gains as well. 

When you consider a building’s HVAC system heating and cooling a building, the same rules apply in terms of being able to monitor and optimize those HVAC systems for energy efficiency, whether it’s a manufacturing plant or a commercial office building.

Typically we see anywhere between a 15-30% reduction in a building's energy usage through the deployment of energy management solutions. And that has a brilliant knock-on effect because it's actually helping organizations to reduce their energy costs as a result. 

Financial services are our biggest smart buildings vertical and these organizations tend to own most of their Real Estate, but we've seen wins across every industry that invests in smart buildings. Property owners and operators are looking at cost savings, operational efficiencies, and their net new revenue. And then you've got the tenants and occupants and the differentiated workspace element. 

A well-managed workspace with a really cool occupant experience is a huge plus for organizations looking to hire and retain talent. 

Building efficiency

James Palmer: It was genuinely difficult to convince financial institutions to invest in PropTech before energy prices rose. They could get much better returns by re-investing their own money in the various markets they built their core business on. These days, the scale of the returns on offer, allied with the need to report on ESG, means that this argument is a lot easier to make. Some of our biggest recent successes have been in the financial sector – you could say they saw the ROI potential immediately.

Manufacturing primarily operates in large, open spaces, which simplifies installations. Wiring runs become a cinch and radio signals get line-of-sight signal strength. We don’t have to worry so much about the aesthetics of sensors on walls – and the wins are often easier to spot. When correctly deployed and analyzed, IoT can save you a lot of money.

We have seen some incredible energy-reduction outcomes from the engagements that we've had, and the payback on these projects is impressive. We have seen consistently that projects are paying for themselves, with payback varying anywhere between 6-12 months. This is translating into annual cost savings and reduction in energy usage which we are seeing reported as gigawatt-hour (GWh) reductions in our customer’s sustainability annual reports. Meeting many different goals for customers across energy, occupant experience, and facilities management makes the argument for IoT-driven smart buildings pretty pervasive.

James Lockyer: The digital twin of a building is something that we see more interest in. By modeling the physical world in a digital environment, you can simulate changes and see what impact they have on building operations and then implement the successes. Machine learning helps optimize energy use and building health using fault rules, predictive maintenance, and command or control – these are all underpinned by AI. 

And now we can start to look at how to optimize energy use for grid services. And I think that gets really interesting because then we enter a world of grid-interactive buildings which I think is a really cool topic. You could have rooftop solar connected to EV charging points or external lighting, or use the energy to further decarbonize building operations. If anything, I think the opportunity is to drive more awareness around what is possible, particularly when you consider both the energy crisis and climate crisis.

Want to get more content like this? Check out ‘The Measure – Sizing Up PropTech, Commercial Real Estate and the Modern Workplace’, where these articles were originally printed.


Book a demo

Book a demo