How software can drive sustainability

Sustainability is becoming the critical issue of our times, as the impact of the damage we have done to the planet becomes increasingly clear. How we respond to this so we can reverse current trends and limit our future environmental impact is coming into sharper focus. We need to act now.

More and more businesses are focusing on sustainability in visible and impactful ways. They are committing to targets to reduce their carbon footprint, actively reducing energy consumption, adhering to better environmental practices and getting involved in high-profile initiatives. It’s also becoming a factor in core organizational processes. According to the latest KPMG survey on sustainability reporting, 80% of companies around the world now report on sustainability, rising to 96% across the 250 largest businesses in the world. Around three quarters of this 250 have targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Corporate interest in sustainability is not only emerging because it’s the “right thing to do”; there are solid business reasons for sustainable engagement. The environmental credentials of a brand are considered important by customers, employees and suppliers, and can even be a market differentiator. This kind of sentiment may have actually increased during the pandemic; a 2020 survey from BCG found that 87% of consumers believe businesses need to do more to “integrate environmental concerns” into their “products, services and operations”.

Going forward, organizational practices that relate to sustainability are likely to come under the microscope. Surveys from McKinsey suggest that while 57% percent of C-suite and investment professionals believe corporate environmental and social programs create shareholder value right now, 83% believe that the value of these will be even greater in five years’ time.

The great opportunity

Optimizing the energy-use in buildings is one of the most tangible ways that companies are actively creating a more sustainable future. The fact that this also significantly reduces the costs of managing a building makes it an attractive area where companies can make a difference relatively quickly.

Buildings have a very significant impact on the environment. According to the World Green Building Council, the operational emissions from buildings involved in heating and lighting make up 28% of all the carbon emissions in the world. Of these, the contribution of commercial buildings is the most significant. According to the Carbon Trust, commercial and non-residential buildings comprise approximately 18% of the UK’s total carbon emissions.

Thankfully, new commercial buildings are built to be far more energy efficient. However, the vast majority are having a higher environmental impact than is necessary. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is actually wasted.

The time is now

As we emerge from the pandemic, there has never been a better time to act and improve sustainability. We believe there is an unprecedented opportunity to create a more sustainable future through optimizing energy consumption in commercial buildings and eliminating wasted energy. You could call it a “perfect storm” of heightened awareness, a renewed focus on building optimization as staff contemplate their return to the office, and opportunities created by software such as Ambiant’s platform.

We see four key emerging trends:

  1. Sustainability is becoming more important: The focus on sustainability and the environment is only going to become more prominent on the corporate agenda, reflecting the views of customers, employees and suppliers.
  2. Office optimization is a current focus: After COVID-19, organizations are rethinking how they use offices, and are looking to create a more hybrid workplace. Optimizing the building is now at the top of the agenda to support the return to the office, but real estate functions are looking at this issue holistically, and we’re increasingly seeing sustainability as part of that conversation too.
  3. Greater digitilization in buildings is creating big data: The increased use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, BIM systems and digital solutions in building management is creating huge amounts of data that has the potential to provide intelligence to reduce energy consumption and costs in your building. By monitoring and analyzing the data about the internal climate, the use of your building systems and employee working patterns, the era of the “smart office” really is finally here.
  4. Smart platforms are emerging: Advances in technology are enabling offerings such as Ambiant’s platform that can provide an easy and cost-effective way to leverage big data, combining AI-powered insights, reporting and automation to make energy optimization happen. The barrier to entry is low – you can get started quickly and make a difference fast.

How does software contribute to your sustainability?

So how can software help you to achieve your sustainability goals? Our platform, which was recently nominated for Energyforum Denmark’s innovation prize, helps in five ways:

  1. Smart energy optimization
  2. Creating the self-learning building
  3. Reducing and optimizing office space
  4. Enabling remote work
  5. Helping drive the right mindset

Let’s explore each of these in turn.

Smart energy optimization

Optimizing the energy consumption in your building starts with big data. Ambiant’s IoT platform seamlessly collects data from your Building Management System, sensors and other IoT devices deployed throughout your office. Data on the internal climate - including temperature, CO2 levels, humidity, noise and more - is collected and stored, along with data on heating, lighting, air conditioning, desk utilization, meeting room utilization, movement around the building, sound masking and more. In the background, an AI-powered engine analyzes the data, constantly spotting opportunities to save energy in your building and identifying patterns and trends.

Our IoT Smart Office product suite then provides you with tools that can help put those insights into action through reporting and automation. For example, our Indoor Climate Control module visualizes your data to support decision-making, while our Smart Energy Optimizer can control the thermostats in your building so energy consumption is optimized for every floor and room, while also ensuring the temperature is right for employee wellbeing and productivity.

To get started on this journey, try a free month-long trial of our Ambiant Energy+ offering. This will give you a smart visual overview of data collected, including your exact energy consumption as well as automatic temperature regulation. This is an excellent way to kickstart efforts to reach your sustainability goals; our aim is to help save up to 20% on your energy usage.

Creating the self-learning building

Where Ambiant’s platform starts to become truly transformational is when the AI and machine learning-powered engine gets to work and uncovers the deeper, hidden trends, insights, patterns and correlations that lie within your data. We expose these and make them actionable, identifying and enacting finer adjustments to how you manage your building based on the way your employees actually use and experience your office.

For example, the platform can optimize heating and other environmental controls based on the number of people that are scheduled to be in your building and where they will be located. Perhaps on a Friday, for example, it may know from past analysis that about a third of people booked in don’t actually turn up, and that around half of all employees have left the building by 2:30pm. It also might know that at lunchtime, more staff congregate by the bank of desks near the staff restaurant. Armed with this data, you can optimize your energy consumption even further, again leading to considerable reductions in your carbon footprint across the year.

As you collate more data from different inputs, your office effectively gets smarter and becomes a “self-learning building”, fine-turning approaches to energy consumption that deliver reduced footprint and costs without compromising on employee wellbeing. Additionally, because Ambiant’s SaaS offering is an open platform, you can continually add more devices with ease as the use of your building and the way you manage it evolves.

Reducing and optimizing office space

The longer-term goal for many organizations in reaching more ambitious sustainability goals is to make the very best use of the office space they have, with a view to permanently reducing the space required. When you reduce two buildings into one, for example, you can effectively halve your carbon footprint. Organizations also want to ensure every square meter is used in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

It’s critical to take a data-driven approach to decision-making in this area, and here, Ambiant’s platform can help deliver the insights you require. By combining energy consumption information with data relating to the movement of people, desk utilization rates, meeting room utilization rates and even parking usage, all backed up with AI identifying those deeper, hidden trends, you can plan your office space strategy so it is fully aligned with your sustainability strategy and related commitments.

Enabling remote working

Of course, space optimization needs to be carried out in conjunction with strategies to enable remote working across your workforce. Creating hybrid workplaces which support remote work effectively reduces the need to commute, leading to a further reduction in your carbon footprint caused by travel.

As we enter a new age of hybrid working in a post-pandemic world, this issue has never been more important. Employees experienced many challenges from working from home, but there were also unexpected positives for many, including boosted productivity and improved wellbeing. Going forward, many employees expect some element of working from home as part of their role, and it’s no wonder organizations are looking to drive a hybrid workplace which helps to attract and retain talent, enables space optimization to reduce costs and supports sustainability.

Recognizing this, the Ambiant platform includes tools that help enable remote working for the long-term, including a free meeting concierge service that supports desk booking and workflows, a virtual parking valet that allows members to book parking spaces ahead of time and a people counter to ensure you comply with safety regulations. When employees have the right data and systems, they will have the confidence to work remotely as part of their weekly routines, allowing you to reduce the carbon footprint caused by travelling to work.

Helping drive the right mindset

Sustainability is as much about mindset as it is about implementing operational changes; it requires leaders, managers and employees to prioritize sustainability above other matters, think about how their actions impact the environment, make relative changes in behaviour and encourage those around them to follow suit.

Of course, software like Ambiant doesn’t change behaviours, but it can influence them. It delivers tangible improvements to reduce your carbon footprint in a straightforward way and shows sustainability in action. When you can demonstrate early success, it proves you are serious about your environmental commitments, and galvanizes others across your organization into making further changes to improve sustainability.

Our platform also exposes data which can easily be dropped into PowerBI dashboards and viewed by your stakeholders, especially due to Ambiant’s seamless integration with Microsoft 365. Seth Godin once said that “if you measure it, it will improve”; when you start to make data about energy consumption more easily available, it focuses both minds and hearts to take the necessary action.

Want to get started on the journey? Get in touch!

Software like the Ambiant platform can contribute to your sustainability goals (and reduce your costs). Ready to get started on the journey? Then get in touch to discuss how Ambiant can help.

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Published: September 11th 2021