Three Drivers Making Our Buildings Smarter and Cleaner
By Bill Roth
Buildings, our homes and offices, are the dumbest things in our lives. In fact they are deaf, dumb and blind to us.
By comparison, we can talk to our smartphones. The responses give us driving directions, answers to questions and music. None of us would ever think about buying something in a store without first getting on our smart phone to survey Amazon, Ebay or Google. With innovations like Apple Pay our smart phones might replace our very dumb wallets.
Our cars are smarter than our buildings. Today’s cars are more defined by their computing power than horsepower. There are over a hundred microprocessors in every new car. They enable our engines, brakes, dashboards, climate controls and smart device connectivity. An increasing number of our cars can park themselves. Soon they will be driving themselves.
Our buildings are the last frontier for smart technologies. Unlike my car I have to insert a key to open a door. My smartphone pushes me information all the time. My house just sets there, speechless.
All of this is about to change!
Top three drivers that will make your building smarter
Every technology breakthrough requires a “killer app” to gain mass consumer adoption. Up until now there has been no compelling reason to make our buildings smarter. But now there are three. They are:
- LED lights’ connectivity Trojan Horse. Consumers are mass purchasing energy efficient LEDs to reduce electric bills. This benefit pales to what LEDs will do to make our buildings smarter. LED lights can be wired using ethernet cable. Companies like Lunera are launching plug and play LED bulbs that connect to wireless networks. You install LED lightings to save money and you get a Trojan Horse of building connectivity.
- Cheap sensor prices. Falling sensor prices now make using a building’s “free” LED connectivity affordable. There are cheap sensors for adjusting a room to your desired comfort level without you ever looking at the thermostat, light switch or entertainment system. Imagine your business building with a sensor every 8 feet where you have a ceiling LED light fixture. They can be programmed to alert. Imagine a medical emergency and a building’s ceiling lights flashing overhead of the stricken individual to enable EMT response time. There are sensors that can respond to real time occupancy. Imagine the cost and emissions savings if rooms were heated or cooled based on real time occupancy. More people, more cooling in that room. No people and the smart system reduces heating or cooling. Imagine no more. Continuous sensor cost decline will make smart buildings the affordable norm.
- Millennials. Who’s going to be the early adopters of smart buildings? Millennials love connectivity. They will light their urban lofts with LEDs and use the connectivity to run their lives. They will connect their smart phones and wearables to their smart homes. They will expect this smart connectivity at where they work and shop. The following is an HR Director alert. Get engaged with your company’s property manager. This will quickly move from a millennial job recruitment competitive advantage to a “must have.” If you are not a millennial, no fears. Think about keyless cars. How hard was that? Smart homes will not be hard. They will be easy to use and you will wonder how you ever lived with such dumb buildings.
Smart buildings will become ZNE buildings
Smart buildings will enable Zero Net Energy (ZNE) buildings. ZNE buildings annually consume no more than what they produce from renewable energy. The guaranteed lower electric bills is the ZNE building’s killer app. ZNE buildings will use less energy while achieving targeted comfort levels. That reduces emissions and electric bills.
ZNE buildings will achieve guaranteed lower electric bills because renewable energy is now cheaper than most utilities’ retail prices. Adding onsite solar plus energy efficiency will deliver guaranteed lower electric bills. This is happening today in states that allow net metering. The competing solar companies offer contractually guaranteed lower electric bills with ZERO DOWN financing!
Batteries will be the final technology breakthrough that frees buildings from high bills and emissions. Imagine a smart ZNE building that can arbitrage based on price and emissions between self generation, buying from a local distributed generation supplier or buying from the utility. That is what batteries plus a smart building will empower. Batteries will allow a building to store cleaner and cheaper electricity for use when the grid is selling higher priced and/or dirtier power.
Battery prices are still too high to make this happen today. But battery prices are declining by approximately 5% annually. It is estimated that in five years, definitely within ten years, batteries will become a cost competitive component for a smart building.
Look at your dumb buildings. They can’t listen to you right now. But go ahead and tell them that in ten years it will be impractical and costly to not be a smart ZNE buildings. To get started ask Siri or Alexa to find a company selling LED lighting. And then hang on!
Bill Roth, Founder of Earth 2017
This is the first of a series of articles I will be posting with Caelus. These articles will focus on how businesses and communities are achieving triple bottom line success.
I founded Earth 2017 to capture case studies and video interviews on how business and community leaders are achieving sustainable results. The Earth 2017 website, and the YouTube channel Earth 2017 TV, are free resource that hosts hundreds of business case studies and video interviews.
I have also published two books. The Secret Green Sauce is my best selling book that profiles how actual businesses are using sustainable best practices to win customers and grow profits.
The Boomer Generation Diet is my newest book. Think CSR meets HR. This books is a lifestyle blue print for achieving sustained weight loss, having fun and living more+. It also explains the concepts of sustainability with humor and a personal story. For the CSR director it is a tool that will engage work associates on sustainability. For the HR director it is a tool for enabling sustained weight loss among work associates that can lower health care costs and enhance work associate productivity.