Energy savings a hallmark of smart office

Energy savings a hallmark of smart office
Running offices has become a more and more expensive proposition. According to a recent whitepaper by Siemens, a workplace in London already costs up to 27,000 euros per employee per year. Making matters worse, the paper said, employees are also finding themselves having less space to work from. “In response to the exorbitant costs, businesses are cutting back on the amount of space assigned to each employee. The result is that employees in open-plan offices have on average 11.5 square meters of space compared to 46.5 square meters in conventional workplaces,” the paper said.
 
Amid this trend, striking a balance between cost-saving and delivering a comfortable workspace has become a daunting challenge for enterprises, many of which have turned to smart office solutions that make the office environment more automated and intelligent. Sensors that are attached to trash bins and connected to the backend system can, for example, send alerts when a particular bin is about to be full so the user can act accordingly. Sensors attached to workstations, desks and chairs can also give insights on which areas of the office are less occupied or which meeting rooms are not in use. Increased efficiency and productivity, then, will be a byproduct of this kind of automation.
 

Energy conservation

 
Nowhere are the benefits of smart office solutions more noticeable than in the area of energy savings, achieved through automation that appeals to modern office workers. “The users often feel detached from the management of systems such as temperature and lighting, and are thus less motivated to intervene to save energy,” said John Tan, Key Account Manager at ABB. “A comprehensive automation system can overcome this disinterest.”
 
“It’s very often that people will forget to turn off the lights and AC, or close the door when they leave. By using a smart system you don’t need to think about it anymore,” said Jack He, International Marketing Director at HDL. “System will do this for you and will check the status of devices in a specific time period based on the logic settings.”
 
Typically the automation of HVAC and lights relies on sensors that “sense” the present conditions of the office. “We offer a wide range of smart sensors technology, from presence detectors with in-built lux sensors to outdoor weather sensors for the office space to be automatically self-managed and achieve the maximum energy efficiency without sacrificing on comfort,” Tan said. “These sensors will enable the office to automatically adjust its settings such as lights, HVAC, automated blinds, windows and outdoor façade according to the changes in the environment.”
 
“The amount of ambient light coming into a building throughout the day differs by the time of the day. Already we see solutions where lights will fade automatically as you get closer to the windows, and they will adjust dynamically throughout the day,” said Ryan Martin, Principal Analyst at ABI Research.
 
Taking a step further, sensors can interact with an employee’s wearable device to make the necessary adjustments. “Think of a large enterprise where folks are outfitted with wearable devices as part of an office health and wellness program. Those devices could have the ability to monitor temperature,” Martin said. “One of those inputs could be how it feels on an individual. Maybe 75 degrees Fahrenheit is hot for one person and cool for another, and at a particular point of the day one of us is in office, so if the building were to know that automatically or in advance, it could adjust ahead of time to accommodate the fact that the person who prefers cooler temperatures is not in the office. This kind of automation can have a big impact on operating cost.”
 
While investing in these solutions may be more expensive in the beginning, the energy cost saved can justify the investment. “Although the initial startup cost may seem relatively more than a conventional system, the monthly cost saving can be significant,” Tan said. “Case studies have shown that a smart system such as our KNX system has led to an almost 70 percent reduction in energy usage, which is another pull factor for companies and workers to turn to smart offices.”


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