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Debate article: A silo mentality among systems suppliers is slowing sustainability progress in the real estate sector

The real estate sector is facing major challenges. Against the background of a weakening economic environment, the sector is under increasing pressure to improve the sustainability performance of both new builds and existing properties. There is no lack of ideas and systems for the digital transformation of the built environment, but there is a jungle of solutions which unfortunately are not interoperable.

As leading companies in our respective areas of lighting and indoor climate, we see significant opportunities for driving a paradigm shift towards a more holistic approach within the sector. Today, heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting account for 60 per cent of the energy consumed in buildings. Using digital, interactive installations, we can help achieve major savings and real improvements in sustainability performance. We are convinced that if more of us work together in open solutions, we can accomplish even more.

Systems suppliers today have a silo mindset that is preventing the different systems from benefiting one another. This results in higher than necessary energy consumption. Take, for example, the ceiling in a conference room. The handful or more sensors found there control the lighting, heating, ventilation and other systems. In other words, there is one sensor for each system even though they frequently measure the same type of values.

Numerous benefits can be achieved simply by integrating a connected lighting and ventilation system. A granular network of sensors is created using a lighting system in which each fixture is connected and is equipped with a motion sensor and light sensor. Used properly, this infrastructure can create a healthier and more productive environment. For instance, the ventilation and lighting can be adjusted to suit the use of the space and match the available daylight and the day-night rhythm. As well as allowing property owners to optimise energy efficiency based on actual use, it enables the visualisation of how often, what times and by how many people the building is used. The system learns when and what areas of the building are being used and the presence data gathered help us predict future use.

We propose the following actions to achieve further energy savings and improved sustainability performance:

  1. Demand that suppliers deliver open systems Instead of using individual labels and designations in an integration, as is the more traditional way, make sure to introduce an industry standard that allows for easy integration with other systems. We believe that the best open standard for communication is RealEstateCore. It is based on Open Source and has already gained popularity with several players, giving it the potential to become established among manufacturers and property owners.
  2. Reduce the number of sensors in buildings It is possible to reduce the number of sensors by integrating multiple systems. This also facilitates installation and maintenance, and cuts down the carbon footprint of the building through a lower percentage of embodied carbon emissions.
  3. Use digital technologies to predict the future

Dynamic learning systems/AI offer tremendous potential for benefitting from presence and light data about the building that are accumulated over time. Air flow and cooling systems in the building, for example, can be optimised by controlling the temperature in rooms that face the sun, or by reducing the temperature in a conference room before it fills up with people. This increases the indoor comfort and reduces the building’s energy consumption.

We need a better dialogue and closer working between the systems suppliers. The two suppliers Swegon and Fagerhult Group have taken a first step by starting a collaboration. We are convinced that if more of us join in collaborative efforts we can find many more opportunities than those already mentioned here, sharing innovative approaches and solutions and agreeing on a common standard.


John Wibrand, Technical Director for Digital Services at Swegon, and Johan Lembre, CTO at Fagerhult Group