CSR is entering the smart building space

Spurred on by legislation and a stated willingness on the part of corporations, smart buildings are becoming a central component of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The objective is clear: optimizing resources while ensuring the comfort of office occupants.

Combining energy performance and well-being

Securing the best possible energy performance from real estate assets in order to enhance their sustainability is a major CSR concern.

“It's a comprehensive approach that encompasses careful fluid consumption (e.g., water, gas, electricity, etc.), minimizing carbon footprints and making smart choices in terms of building materials, such as wood or recyclable products,” explains Nicolas Ibrahim, Smart Building Business Developer at Orange. “It also comes down to details, like using mugs instead of disposable cups.”

For corporations, CSR also involves guaranteeing the well-being of employees, as well as visitors, partners and subcontractors. Good sanitary conditions (establishing rules of hygiene, taking measures against dust accumulation and air pollution, etc.) and optimized space management are essential conditions to foster collaboration and employee engagement.

A purpose in line with legislation

Today, organizations must comply with a strengthened legislative framework. Specific examples include the “Élan” law on the evolution of housing, development and digital technology (2018). In keeping with this law, the so-called “tertiary decree” (2019) has set energy consumption reduction goals for all tertiary buildings over 1,000m2 (10,800 sq. feet) of 40%, 50% and 60% by 2030, 2040 and 2050 respectively—a measure aiming to tackle 17% of France’s domestic energy consumption.

The new Orange Business “Smart Eco-energy” solution is in line with this decree. This offer helps companies and local authorities monitor and control their energy consumption, as well as pilot the actions they implement to reduce their consumption. It also enables customers to monitor the various IoT sensors deployed inside to improve building sustainability by analyzing consumption of various resources, the temperature, air quality, etc.

We are also seeing a rapidly growing number of labels and quality standards tied to this trend. “Major standards, such as HQE (High Environmental Quality) and ISO 14001, 50001 and 50006 certifications, are proof that companies are using energy more wisely,” explains Nicolas Ibrahim. The labels, known as BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), also support improved energy performance. The French “Well” or “OsmoZ” certifications also reward efforts made to improve employees’ quality of life. The major French players in the building industry are consulting each other on these issues, as evidenced by the creation of the Ready to Services (R2S) label, which aims to facilitate exchanges between user applications and building control systems, in order to circulate data related to energy management and environmental quality.

Optimizing consumption per occupant

Orange Business applies its technology expertise to improve its own buildings’ energy performance as well as those operated by its customers, based on a calibrated methodology:

  • Auditing energy infrastructures and analyzing space usage to improve occupancy
  • Deploying an action plan with meticulous control, space by space, to normalize the most important expensive items
  • Increasing occupant awareness of their energy consumption through workshops and digital tools on energy efficiency to encourage their involvement

At the ISO 14001-certified Cœur Défense site in Courbevoie, for example, the first Orange Business employee to arrive in his or her work area must activate the lighting, heating or air conditioning using a remote control, while the last to leave turns off the equipment. The latter had been switched off on certain unoccupied floors during the lockdown periods. “The challenge is to optimize average consumption according to actual needs. For example, we can adapt the amount of energy used in a room according to the number of people in it,” says Nicolas Ibrahim.

Hypervision, or the future of smart building centralized management

The balance between energy performance and quality of life in a smart building relies both on occupants’ good practices and on applying the right settings to the equipment. Combining the two requires accurately analyzing consumption for every way the building is used, in order to detect areas of improvement and measure the potential impact of corrective actions. The most relevant tools include, for instance, presence sensors to relay information on space occupancy rates, while connected devices and low-power IoT (Internet of Things) networks enable consumption analysis by reading water or gas meters remotely. Data analysis and machine learning tools then take over to detect anomalies and automatically adapt energy expenditure.

But how does one obtain an overall view of this data? “Building Management Systems (BMS) are very efficient and offer tools to supervise the relevant areas of improvement,” explains Nicolas Ibrahim. For example, the corrections made to the BMS platform at Cœur Défense will make it possible to save 134 MWh of energy per year, or the equivalent in CO2 of seven round trips between Paris and New York.

“Orange is now developing a real estate ‘hypervision’ platform that compiles data from all supervisors,” continues Nicolas Ibrahim. What does this mean in concrete terms? Data from different sites regarding energy optimization, actual occupancy of premises, air quality and parking use can now be compared and cross-referenced within a single tool to monitor overall CSR performance. To specifically address the optimization of energy consumption, our Smart Eco-energy offer ensures end-to-end monitoring of consumption data through the collection and analysis of information directly from energy meters and IoT sensors. Key indicators are made available to customers for relevant decision making that will optimize their energy consumption and environmental management.

“The best way for a company to achieve their energy performance objectives, in line with their CSR objectives, is to take these factors into account from the very beginning, right from the building design stage,” Nicolas Ibrahim emphasizes. “Specifications and requirements will need to include creating systems that can communicate with one another, and that can be monitored via a ‘hypervisor’ to process energy data.”

By involving energy commissioning experts to monitor and steer the construction of a low-energy building from the start will guarantee the best quality assurance right up to the building’s final delivery and operation.