Sustainability in Industrial Real Estate: LED, IoT, and Smart Buildings

October 5, 2023 | By: Emily White

Technologies like Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting, occupancy sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and smart thermostats are not just facilitating more efficient operations—they are redefining them. These technologies can drastically enhance efficiency in industrial spaces, meeting the demands of the present while being conscientiously geared towards the future.

LED Lighting

LEDs are semiconductor devices that emit light when current flows through them. Unlike traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, which rely on a filament or gas, LEDs produce light through the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material. This method of light production is efficient and versatile.

There are numerous benefits to using LED lighting in industrial real estate. First, LEDs use significantly less electricity than traditional lighting methods. LEDs convert over 80-percent of the electrical energy to light, as opposed to incandescent bulbs, which convert only about 20-percent, wasting the rest as heat. Additionally, an average LED bulb lasts up to twenty-five times longer than incandescent lighting and about two to five times longer than fluorescent lighting.

We are still seeing most institutional owners include parking lot LED retrofits upon acquisition (or within 12 months of purchase) even if the rebates are reduced to satisfy ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) requirements by lenders. Wall packs and other common area lighting are typically retrofitted first, however, since the cost impact is lower than an entire parking lot.

Unlike some fluorescent lights that may need time to “warm up,” LEDs light up instantly to their full brightness. Many LED systems can also be easily dimmed, providing versatile lighting options. Combined with smart systems, they can be programmed to adjust based on natural light availability or specific operational requirements. The price of LED lighting has continued to drop over the years. Coupled with their efficiency, long lifespans, and excellent color quality, LEDs are an easy and lower-cost efficiency upgrade for industrial real estate.

Occupancy Sensors

Occupancy sensors, also known as motion detectors or presence sensors, are designed to detect the presence of people within a specific area. They primarily use infrared, ultrasonic, or a combination of technologies to discern movement or body heat.

Depending on their configuration, they can activate or deactivate lights, Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, security systems, or other connected devices based on the detected occupancy. The most common use for occupancy sensors is in lighting control. Placing occupancy sensors on lights in infrequently used areas, such as storage rooms or certain aisles in warehouses, can conserve energy by only activating the lights when the area is occupied.

Occupancy sensors are used not only in offices but above racking areas as well. As forklifts and/or robots cruise through the racks of product, sensors dictate when lights should be activated. These sensors can be set with specific timing to where they are rapidly changing or linger a little longer depending on the type of distribution. In massive industrial complexes, heating or cooling unused spaces can be wasteful. Occupancy sensors can be integrated with HVAC systems to regulate temperatures based on the actual usage of an area, saving energy and money as your property becomes more efficient.

As the world moves towards smarter, more sustainable industrial practices, the role of occupancy sensors is set to expand. Future innovations might see these sensors integrating with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to better optimize HVAC or lighting in a space or combining more seamlessly with Internet of Things (IoT) systems for even more efficient operations and data collection.

Smart Buildings and IoT Devices

IoT devices are a vast network of interconnected devices that communicate and share data with each other over the internet. These devices, embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies, can range from simple temperature sensors to complex robotic machinery. The essence of IoT is not just connectivity but the actionable insights derived from the data they collect.

IoT-enabled energy meters and sensors can provide in-depth insights into energy consumption patterns, helping facilities optimize usage, switch off unnecessary equipment, and leverage sustainable energy sources more efficiently. Continuous monitoring and data-driven insights can allow industrial tenants to optimize their processes, reducing waste and maximizing output.

In warehouses, IoT tags and sensors can track goods in real-time, providing insights into inventory levels, optimizing storage space, and improving supply chain efficiency. IoT devices can also monitor environmental conditions, detect hazardous leaks or spills, and track unauthorized access, triggering immediate alerts or countermeasures.

Emerging technologies, such as 5G connectivity, and advanced AI analytics, are set to further amplify the capabilities of IoT in industrial real estate. This evolving synergy promises even more automated, efficient, and intelligent industrial operations.

Smart Thermostats

In large industrial spaces, where HVAC costs can constitute a significant portion of operational expenses, the advent of smart thermostats offers both operational and environmental benefits that are hard to ignore.

Smart thermostats, as the name suggests, go beyond traditional temperature-setting devices. They are Wi-Fi-enabled, can be controlled remotely via smartphones or computers, and use algorithms to learn user preferences over time. This adaptive technology allows for the optimization of heating and cooling processes based on real-time data and historical patterns. Instead of having a fixed schedule, smart thermostats can adjust in real-time. For example, if a section of a factory is not being used, the thermostat can reduce heating or cooling in that area.

Smart thermostats can also be integrated within other building management systems or IoT devices, enabling more holistic and data driven industrial management. Pairing a smart thermostat with an automated energy management system can yield dramatic savings for owners and enable more control than ever before for managers.

Technology Adoption

Properties that adopt and integrate these systems will see the benefits in cost and performance they bring, and position themselves as leaders in a market that increasingly values sustainability and efficiency. Today’s efficient technologies in industrial real estate are laying a foundation for a resilient, adaptable, and thriving industrial ecosystem for decades to come.

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