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How IoT Can Help Make Cities More Sustainable

Buildings are key components to the fabric of the modern-day city. They provide citizens housing, security, and space to be productive in. However, UN Environment notes that the building and construction sector accounts for 40% of global energy use and 30% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Coupled with the strain that construction work is putting on natural resources, it is increasing the pressure on the sector to address environmental and social issues.


Recent technological developments, however, have showcased the role of the sector in creating sustainable cities. With more and more construction firms riding the wave of digitalisation and innovation, the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technology is being used in making building construction eco-friendly. Innovations such as smart architecture and smart grids are providing opportunities to limit environmental impact and increase sustainability. Below, we’ll be discussing innovations in IoT technology that contribute to making cities more sustainable.


Smart Lighting Systems

Lighting accounts for 15% of global energy consumption and more than 5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings use a lot of lighting, significantly increasing operational and environmental costs. Energy Digital reported that smart lighting solutions are helping make buildings become more energy-efficient and lessen the amount of energy wasted. Moreover, the technology leads to a decrease in costs for building administrators, with savings up to 95%. Through smart lighting solutions, IoT platforms allow buildings to manage light sensors and monitor energy consumption. It also collects data to determine the optimal use of energy at certain times of the day. Smart lighting allows buildings to control the luminosity level (for LED lights) of specific areas and at specific times, depending on use. With more buildings adopting smart lighting technology, this has the potential to reduce energy consumption, which could lower carbon emissions.


Building Information Modelling

Building Information Models (BIM models) are being used to direct real-life building construction. The Balance SMB discussed how these models can still be used once a building is constructed by updating sensors placed in the structure. These sensors can send information on how the building is reacting to the passage of time as well as the changing climate. They’re a good source of information for changes in energy efficiency and how the structure adapts to traffic or earth tremors. These models help in giving people a snapshot of how the structure can be improved amid an evolving city and a changing climate. The use cases of having a true digital twin of a building are endless. 


Smart Façades

IoT technology along with recent advancements in the field of material science gave birth to smart façades. 

The smart façade is a building envelope that adapts to environmental conditions in different ways. It makes use of the building's surroundings to help in controlling the interior environment. The Crystal on Victoria Docks in London is a leader in the field of smart façades owing to its windowed exterior made of triple-layered high performance solar glass. The building's exterior allows for 70% of visible light to enter each window but only 30% of solar energy to penetrate the glass. This type of set up reduces the load on heating, ventilation and air conditioning operations. The amount of natural daylight passing through the windows reduces the need for artificial lighting. Because the windows minimise the amount of solar energy entering the building, the air conditioning is reduced as well. As a result, these effectively lessen the building's collective energy consumption.


IoT and Modular Construction

Prefabricated and modular construction has increased in 2019, as more contractors use the practice of building offsite and then transporting the sections to the site. For contractors, this is a strategy that saves time, resources, and leads to the reduction of unnecessary waste. This leads to a more sustainable city that produces less waste to create more buildings. Modular construction companies who integrate IoT into manufacturing building parts optimise their process even more. Having smart factory pieces allows you to observe slight trends in different areas. Aside from monitoring equipment, it also allows for supply chain optimisation through preventing delays and oversights in the supply chain.


Smart Lifts

The Guardian highlights how smart lifts will transform the simple act of travelling between high-rise building floors to make it more efficient in terms of time and energy. Instead of a regular lift with buttons that go up or down, passengers type in the floor they wish to go to and are directed to the lift that will take them there with the fewest number of stops. The lifts will also be able to travel vertically as well as horizontally. By stopping at fewer floors, smart lifts achieve two goals: they can pick up people more often, and they consume less energy.


Smart Roads

IoT building innovations are leading the way in creating sustainable cities. While the industry has already come a long way, there’s still so much more to be done. Moreover, the IoT has come to support more than just buildings situated in smart cities. The BBC documents how the government is investing in smart roads that use sensors in the road surface to manage traffic. The sensors can then reduce the speed limit if traffic begins to build up. This helps avoid congested streets that keep cars on the road for longer, especially during rush hour around major cities. 

This technology is becoming widespread on the UK’s roads, and as smart technology in cars evolves so too will the number of ways that the IoT can communicate with road users. In fact, commercial companies are already applying it across the country. Verizon Connect explains how GPS technology can connect commercial drivers to their operators so that they can be sent real-time alerts if they are exhibiting poor driving habits. This can range from unnecessary idling to driving dangerously. Using this technology, drivers will become more fuel-efficient and safer. With more cars expected in urban areas in the future, this could well be an effective way to reduce accidents and improve sustainability. This goes to show how applications of IoT technology in supporting sustainable cities goes beyond smart buildings, and is now benefitting every aspect of city life. 


With the future of IoT and sustainability looking bright, we're positive this will improve the quality of life in cities for years to come.


Want to learn more about IoT in Construction? Access The Ultimate Phrasebook for IoT in Construction today!


About the Author

Kieko Trinidad is an online writer with a passion for the environment. She believes that the latest technological developments will have a positive impact on the world and that more people should be aware of them. She hopes that her articles are not only educational, but also give people hope for a better world.

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