Navigant Research Blog

Going Zero Waste

— January 4, 2018

Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which took place in Boston during November 2017, had something for everyone in the realm of green buildings—education sessions with topics ranging from human health and net zero energy to innovation and technology. It also had an expo hall with roughly 700 vendors and impressive speakers such as former President Bill Clinton, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the US Green Building Council (USGBC) President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam. Greenbuild is the world’s largest conference and expo devoted to green building. It is owned by Informa Exhibitions and is presented by USGBC.

Zero Waste Events and Goals

Throughout the event, one thing that struck me was the commitment of the conference organizers to waste diversion. There were dozens of three-container bins split for recycling, composting, and trash. Each segment was marked with images to minimize confusion. In addition to the signage, a volunteer was stationed at each receptacle to ensure attendees put waste in the correct compartment. This strategy to reduce waste at Greenbuild was implemented in 2016 when the conference was held in Los Angeles, California, and it resulted in the highest diversion rate ever for Greenbuild. The collaboration of Informa Exhibitions, USGBC, the Los Angeles Convention Center, local haulers, and other partners led to a 90% waste diversion rate and an 18% increase over the convention center’s baseline conversion rate. Data on waste diversion from the 2017 Greenbuild conference is not yet available.

On September 16, 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA)—in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12announced the first US-based goal to reduce food loss and waste by half by the year 2030. Since the 1990s, cities have slowly started to set zero waste goals, with San Francisco, California and Oakland, California being two of many cities to set zero waste targets with the goal of having zero waste by 2020. Zero waste events can help cities reach waste reduction and zero waste goals, and this type of event might be required by some cities. Additionally, a zero waste event can attract sponsors that share the priority of reducing waste. Many companies, including Subaru, Sierra Nevada, Toyota, and Microsoft, among a growing list of others, have set zero waste goals.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The efforts of Greenbuild are impressive for a conference of its size. If every large conference prioritized waste reduction as much as this event, the amount of waste diverted from landfills would be significant. Beyond diverting waste from landfills, creating less waste initially—or reusing items—creates less waste that needs diverting. I watched as the booths were taken down and I was struck by the pure amount of materials it took to fill an expo hall of that size: banners, giveaways, tables, extension cords, yards of carpet, and more. While some things can be reused at future events and this is a component of a zero waste event, not all materials are reused.

According to the EPA, Americans produce an average of 4.4 pounds of waste per person per day. Reducing the overall materials needed at conferences or in daily lives can help the total waste that will end up in a landfill. All items, even those recycled and composted, require materials to make them and energy to break them down. Following the first of the R guidelines, reduce, can have an overall effect on the materials to be reused and recycled by lessening the materials to be reused and recycled. Reducing society’s overall consumption and working toward zero waste in events and in the average consumer’s daily life will not happen overnight, but are ultimately achievable with time and practice.

 

IoT: Building Awareness – Part 1

— December 12, 2017

Marcus Aurelius once said, “That which is not good for the beehive is not good for the bees.” Conversely, what is good for the bee is good for the hive—a metaphor not lost on Internet of Things (IoT) and smart building integration. A paradigm surrounding the building automation space is developing as businesses begin to focus more on occupant experience. Smart building technologies are widening the building investment landscape to include tenant engagement and satisfaction. Value-generating technologies, like IoT-enabled devices, make it easier to manage energy and businesses. Building owners are able to leverage existing communication platforms, capitalize on energy efficiency, and promote healthier lives with healthier buildings.

Better Building, Better Business

Building automation systems with IoT-enabled sensors can not only increase energy efficiency, but also improve worker efficiency, leading to more productive businesses. Research finds that comfortable work environments enhance business productivity by improving the health and satisfaction of its workers. Advanced sensors, like those in Amsterdam’s building superstar The Edge, have given building managers better information on how building space is being utilized by monitoring occupant behavior. This is important because the more we know about occupant behavior, the more we are capable of creating environments that will optimize worker performance. Studies on the effect of building systems in schools also found that indoor air quality and thermal comfort have a direct effect on concentration. Classrooms that are thermally comfortable with lower levels of pollutants increase student learning, resulting in higher levels of student performance.

Show Me the Money

The advantage of investing in smart building technology is twofold, as these systems are not only more sustainable and energy efficient, but potentially more lucrative as well. Businesses operating within these smart systems are better positioned to make financial gains, as employees are more productive. Reports like JLL’s 3-30-300 rule suggest that prioritizing tenant satisfaction and well-being creates larger payoffs for building owners and investors—more so than savings on monthly utility bills would alone. The study finds that “a 2% energy efficiency improvement would result in savings of $.06 per square foot, but a 2% improvement in productivity would result in $6 per square foot through increased employee performance.”

Work Smarter, Not Harder

The argument stands that smarter buildings make better workers. Smart buildings are attractive from a business perspective, as these technologies enable employees to be more productive and less distracted by time-consuming administrative tasks, such as booking conference rooms or scheduling in-house meetings. The more comfortable the worker, the better work they will produce. This, in effect, raises the value of the business and contributes to the overall value of the building. In terms of ROI on smart buildings, focusing on occupancy satisfaction takes a bottom-up approach that supports greater integration and interoperability, improving bottom lines across the board.

Connectivity Is Key

The paradigm surrounding building management systems is shifting as more attention is being paid to occupancy experience. We know that effective operations and maintenance through IoT-enabled devices improve building performance. Why not apply that same logic to worker performance? The significant effect data analytics continue to have on the uptime of building systems could equally improve the livelihoods of the people operating within those structures. Facilitating better working environments optimizes worker efficiency, adding value to businesses and buildings. What is good for the worker bee is good for the hive (and hive investors), as smart technologies continue to add value to both residents and buildings alike.

 

Cities and Businesses Care about Smart Buildings: Part 2

— November 14, 2017

With 238 proposals in hand from cities and regions across North America vying to host its second headquarters, Amazon plans to make a decision next year. Cities trying to lure Amazon should turn this occasion into an opportunity to strengthen their business environments to both complement and drive investment in smart buildings.

Regulatory Certainty and Standardization of Business

In order to attract investment in smart buildings, governments should work toward offering certainty and standardization for investors. Certainty refers to predictable outcomes or guaranteed returns. Governments can establish policies that set expectations for the building sector. Cities that adopt and enforce building energy codes, for example, can quickly increase local demand for energy efficiency technology. Stable demand means a stable market for finance.

In addition, having common standards for assessing risks will be helpful. For example, many stakeholders are already familiar with existing green building standards like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). If governments use policies such as financial incentives to encourage broader adoption of such standards, that will make it easier for investors to assess a project and ultimately increase the likelihood of investment.

Leading by Example

As a start, enforcing policies like building efficiency codes and fostering voluntary programs to pursue LEED certification can offer certainty and standardization. Cities can lead by example, ensuring that their own buildings adhere to the policy goals, unleashing the power of information and communication technology in public buildings. In its recent report, Smart Buildings and Smart Cities, Navigant Research expects the global smart public buildings market revenue to grow from $3.6 billion in 2017 to $10.2 billion by 2026 at a compound annual growth rate of 12.1%.

One of the leaders in this area is Washington, DC, which was named the first LEED for Cities Platinum city in the world in August 2017. Washington, DC requires all new public sector buildings to achieve a minimum of LEED Silver certification. And starting in 2012, all new private buildings over 50,000 square feet were required to achieve LEED certification. Once the regulations kicked in, the private sector responded by competing for LEED certifications—developers wanted to achieve higher levels of certification against their competitors.

Regulatory certainty and standardization of business together with government efforts to lead by example are key to encouraging investment in the smart buildings sector. As stated in my previous blog, cities wishing to remain competitive in the face of new emerging technologies and a new generation of top talent will want smart buildings as an action item.

 

Cities and Businesses Care about Smart Buildings: Part 1

— November 9, 2017

In September, Amazon announced plans to open a second headquarters in North America called HQ2. The company expects to invest more than $5 billion to build the facility and create as many as 50,000 high paying jobs. In its request for proposal, Amazon listed preferences to help find the perfect location for its new campus. It is looking for a city of more than 1 million people with an international airport, mass transit, quality higher education, an educated workforce, and a solid business climate. 238 proposals have been submitted by cities and regional governments. While Amazon will look at the most obvious incentives from governments such as donated land, tax breaks and subsidies, it will also need to consider which cities will attract best talent.

Attracting Top Talent from a Business Perspective

By supporting more agile ways of working and enhancing the work environment, smart buildings can play a key role in attracting and retaining employees amid increasing competition for top talent in business sectors. Smart buildings use internet-enabled technology to gather data and bring operating systems and services under central control in order to create a better workplace.

Smart buildings can not only reduce operational and energy costs, but can also create an enhanced in-building experience to help increase productivity and promote corporate brand values. They achieve this by analyzing data on occupancy, movement, and resources in real time and by adapting systems to optimize the performance of both the building and the people within it. This way, smart buildings provide opportunities to address the challenges of productivity and comfort that are at the heart of contemporary debates about workplace environment. Cities trying to entice Amazon to their streets should take a closer look at smart buildings—which can help Amazon recruit top talent.

Relevant technologies are already available, including building energy management systems, location-aware sensors and services, and mobile phone applications. In fact, Navigant Research is bullish on continued adoption of these technologies. In a recent report, IoT for Intelligent Buildings, Navigant Research projects the market to grow from $6.3 billion in 2017 to $22.2 billion in 2026 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.0%. The office segment is expected to grow at a 15.7% CAGR.

Attracting Businesses from a City’s Perspective

The evolution of smart buildings parallels the digital transformation in cities. Cities can now collect large volumes of high quality data from public infrastructure, such as government buildings and street light poles, that can transform a number of city service areas. For example, digital technologies are becoming an important element in traffic and transit management, public safety, social care, street lighting, and waste services. From sensors collecting data to developers building thousands of smart city apps, the Internet of Things movement is helping cities become truly smart.

Digital transformation of city services is certainly attractive to businesses, but cities can go the extra mile to enhance its competitive advantage. For cities to lure Amazon, the business environment that complements and drives investment in smart buildings should be enhanced. Smart technologies will further innovation, inclusion, and investment within a city. My next blog will explain what cities can do to spur investment in the smart buildings sector.

 

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