U.S. Smart technologies can reduce a building's energy use by almost a fifth and produce additional benefits, such as increased worker productivity, according to a new report "Smart buildings: deeper immersion in market segments", conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Until now, large showcase buildings with robust budgets have been the first to adopt smart technologies. However, to achieve substantial energy savings in the commercial construction sector, others will need to adopt them as well. The report estimates that smart technologies will save approximately 8% and 18% of total energy consumption in sub-sectors that include class B offices, retail and independent chains, mid-level franchised hotels and regional non-teaching hospitals. Of course, the actual savings will depend on a variety of factors; Estimates of average expected savings were made based on publicly available information and data from the energy consumption survey for commercial buildings of EIA.
The four subsectors studied (office, retail, hotels and hospitals) already show notable differences in the use of smart technologies. For example, almost three quarters of the healthcare sector uses a building automation system, while less than 40% of hotels contain them. Some subsectors can save more energy than others, but given the wide variety of emerging technologies, everyone can benefit. Below is a snapshot of each sub-sector, including its estimated average energy savings from the adoption of smart technologies.
Offices (18% average savings) come in all shapes and sizes, and technology is drastically changing the way employees use these buildings. Improved audio and video technology means that office workers telecommute more often. Smart technologies such as occupancy sensors, intelligent thermostats, and lighting and HVAC controls can help reduce energy consumption in unoccupied offices, conference rooms and other spaces. It has been shown that smart systems improve worker productivity and even increase the value of the property.
Retail stores (14% of average savings) are undergoing their own transformations to stay competitive with online retailers, often focusing on a better customer experience and commitment. Intelligent power management systems, thermostats and lights can help reduce energy consumption and create a more comfortable and attractive environment for customers. Certain types of occupancy sensors, such as indoor positioning systems, can also provide the retailer with valuable data about customer behavior in the store.
Hotels (8% average savings) have adopted technologies such as guest management systems and mobile registration. These technologies can work hand in hand with smart energy-saving technologies that control the HVAC systems of guest rooms and the shading of windows. Smart controls can also help reduce lighting and HVAC energy in conference areas and pumps in pool and spa areas. Smart hotels use applications and other technologies to provide guests with a more personalized experience, which in turn can improve hotel revenues.
Hospitals (14% of average savings) increasingly use technology to ensure patient safety, from electronic health care management systems to portable health monitors. Because hospitals generally operate the 24 hours of the day, the 7 days of the week and rely on important mechanical equipment to maintain the health and comfort of the patient, they are also the type of commercial building with the highest energy consumption. Smart technologies can help address long hours of operation and high equipment loads. For example, intelligent lighting systems can reduce energy use and increase patient comfort by better linking light output to occupancy and user needs. Without wasting energy, intelligent sensors and ventilation controls can maintain the necessary ventilation to prevent the spread of diseases.