Smart tech can help us decarbonise the built environment – and return to work safely


  • COVID-19,
  • Future of work,
  • Sustainability,
  • Technology,
  • Workplace

11 May 2021

World FM Day

Buildings account for 30-40% of global emissions, but renovation rates are still far too slow to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that energy efficiency improvements can deliver over 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to meet global climate goals. Using smart tech can help us achieve these goals through the gathering of data on how a building is being used and operating. This data can be used to ensure building system optimisation, and other benefits such as intelligence-led equipment maintenance.

Improving millions of buildings will create hundreds of thousands of green collar jobs, helping us rebuild economically after COVID-19. There are also wider social benefits from improved air quality and healthier indoor environments, and less strain put on public health services.

Companies also have a huge opportunity.

Smart energy measures often come with rapid rates of return on investment and significant financial reward. Advances in smart technologies and digitalisation are providing ways to lower energy bills, reduce risk, and improve operational productivity

Think of an average office you pass at night with all the lights left on - it's such a waste. Occupancy sensors allow you to use only those that are really needed, and this can be linked to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems too.

And smart tech is needed now more than ever as we try to get back to work safely during the pandemic.

For example, using a smart LED lighting system, sensors give information to building managers that can help to maintain safe occupancy levels, and even help employees to find available desks and meeting rooms through a smartphone app. Workplaces are where we spend a huge amount of our time and we now know that energy efficient, well-lit buildings with good indoor air quality are key to healthy and productive workers.

Not only do we owe it to the environment to take action, it is also imperative for the physical and mental wellness of everyone in them.

Is smart tech the panacea to achieving net zero buildings as some people might have you believe? No. We need a much broader range of measures to maximise our efficiency and make sufficient and rapid cuts in our emissions.

Can smart tech help us in reaching our decarbonisation goals and enabling safe, healthy and productive workplaces? Absolutely.

The growing number of EP100 member companies and signatories of the Net Zero Carbon Buildings commitment are showing it's a sensible path. With less than 10 years left to halve global emissions in the Climate Decade, it’s vital that companies everywhere get on board.

If you would like to know more about the IWFM Sustainability Special Interest Group and the work we are doing, please contact IWFM at: [email protected].

You can read our factsheet on smart tech here.

Have a great World FM Day!

Toby Morgan
LED Program Manager, The Climate Group; Member IWFM Sustainability SIG