5 Things We Learned at the 2016 Building Energy Summit

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Chair of the Month

Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie is a Workplace Consultant at Herman Miller and the former Editor of Work Design Magazine. She’s currently based in Pittsburgh.

The fifth annual summit took place on March 16 in Washington, D.C.

Darlene Pope, event producer and Senior Vice President, Energy and Sustainability Services, JLL. John Baekelmans, Chief Technology Officer, Internet of Everything (IoE) Solutions Group, Cisco; Maureen Ehrenberg, Executive Managing Director of Integrated Facilities Management (IFM), JLL; and Douglas Rath, Senior Director of Energy & Environment, Americas Continent, Marriott International, Inc.
The opening panel, from left to right: Darlene Pope, JLL, John Baekelmans, Cisco, Doug Rath, Marriott International Inc., and Maureen Ehrenberg, JLL. Image courtesy of JLL.

On Wednesday, we attended the 2016 Building Energy Summit, which brought together building owners, energy experts, and technology pioneers in Washington, D.C. to discuss the business and social case for more energy efficient buildings. Here are the key takeaways we took home:

By 2030, over 500 billion devices will be connected to the Internet

Internet of Things? More like the Internet of everything. According to Cisco research, by 2030, over 500 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. In other words, our buildings are about to start getting really smart.

“The conversation has changed drastically in the last five years. We’re not just talking about LEED and lighting retrofits. We’re talking about big data and digital ceilings,” said Darlene Pope, the senior vice president of energy and sustainability for JLL. “A smart building is the application of the IoT to real estate,” she added, clicking over to a slide that outlined the benefits of a smart building, which include:

  • Market differentiation
  • The ability to use technology to attract top talent and change the nature of the workplace
  • Better representation of the client’s brand and values
  • Offering competitive amenities and services
  • Energy savings, comfort, convenience, and productivity
  • Better response to the demands of today’s high-tech mobile workforce
  • Creating a better workplace

The economic ROI on smart buildings is a big one — but it’s the smallest component of the value proposition as a whole

The speakers in the opening panel threw up a slide that outlines the value proposition of smart buildings as encapsulated in the “3-30-300” principle:

  • Building efficiency and energy management: $3 per square foot

Using smart building technology to improve your building’s energy efficiency by 10 percent would yield $.30 per square foot in cost savings.

  • Space utilization and workplace strategy: $30 per square foot

Using smart sensors to gather occupancy data and inform your workplace strategy decisions to increase space occupancy by five percent would yield cost savings of $1.50 per square foot.

  • Employee productivity and occupant experience: $300 per square foot

Having the ability to customize and control the office environment from a mobile device — improving productivity by two percent — would yield cost savings of $6.00 per square foot in increased productivity.

“If you’re able to increase worker productivity by five hours per year, because they’re not too hot, too cold, whatever,” said Pope. “That’s when the numbers kick in.”

Real estate is about to become a totally digital business, and it’s going to make the workplace better

Pope, moderating the discussing, posed this question: “The way we look at valuation and the underlying value of a building is changing — is real estate becoming a digital business?”

“The full integration of building systems [will allow us to] maximize energy efficiency in buildings, and tailor and drive guest preferences,” said Doug Rath, the senior director of energy and environment, Americas, for Marriott.

“And the way Doug says the hotel will make guests want to be there because it knows you,” added John Baekelmans, the CTO, Internet of Everything Solutions Group, at Cisco, “We want to do the same thing, but in the workplace.”

“What we really want to get out of 3-30-300 is better workplaces, that adapt to you,” said Baekelmans.

23 percent of global energy use is from commercial buildings

Just let that marinate. Then make sure you turn out the lights before you leave your office tonight.

That’s all we have on this one, really, though Rath chimed in to say that Marriott is thisclose to fully rolling out their Mobile Key feature, which means you’d walk into a Marriott hotel lobby, your phone would become your key, and the lights in your room will turn on and off accordingly (along with a whole host of other Big Brother-like “guest preference” stuff).

Trust you can make the jump to seeing  how this same type of thing would work — and indeed, is already working — in corporate offices, as well, helping to make a dent into that overwhelming 23 percent chunk.

Even old buildings can be energy pioneers

You can harness the sun, even in Norway! Elizabeth Heider, the chief sustainability officer for Skanska, presented a case study about Powerhouse Kjørbo, located outside of Oslo, that we just kind of fell in love with. So much that we want you to see this same video she showed to us:

It’s the first-ever existing building to be turned into an energy positive building. Cool, right?

“It’s amazing how much they were able to take advantage of the sun,” said Heider. “This job is a model for future business for Skanska.”

On this side of the pond, Skanska is busy retrofitting the American Geophysical Union — appropriately, a group that promotes the discovery of earth and space science — office in D.C. AGU is striving to create the first existing building to achieve Net Zero in D.C.


To learn more about the Building Energy Summit, check out their site here.

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