Your Energy Management Strategy: How does occupancy monitoring fit in?

6 min read
Mar 6, 2023

Are you a facilities or operations management professional in charge of a commercial building? With high-priority issues such as climate change and the rising cost of fossil fuels, you're probably under tremendous pressure to deliver and implement impactful energy management strategies.

The US Energy Information Admission (EIA)'s Annual Energy Outlook reveals that commercial buildings waste approximately 30% of energy. While there are obvious measures to curb energy waste and reduce consumption, other decisions may require more comprehensive data and insight into how occupants are utilizing your premises. 

It's time to move beyond basic metrics that only show how much energy has been consumed over a specific period of time. Instead, a holistic assessment of your real estate's ability to meet occupants' needs is required, and the only way to do this is by tapping into accurate and relevant data. From there, you should be able to analyze energy consumption behaviors and patterns on a deeper level, allowing for more strategic decision-making on optimization, energy conservation, and cost management. 

If you are interested in how occupancy monitoring can help you with energy management, continue reading as we discuss how these solutions can help provide answers to your building administration.


What is energy management?

Energy management is an operational activity concerned with energy consumption, distribution, and storage. The energy management role within any organization should be to conserve resources, reduce costs, prevent waste, protect the environment and help the organization meet carbon-neutral objectives.

Sustainable business models rely on proactive and organized management of energy that coordinates its procurement and distribution throughout your real estate. The result? More efficient buildings that provide the flexibility you need to accommodate varying occupancy levels in alignment with your budget and long-term objectives. Both renovated and newly built properties stand to benefit from well-thought-out energy management strategies as the public and private sectors work collectively towards meeting the United Nation's 2050 target of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. 


What is occupancy monitoring?

Occupancy monitoring typically utilizes advanced sensor technology that integrates with a data platform to collect and report on occupancy metrics. Sometimes, this process is referred to as people counting, but it's important to note that only accurate and reliable systems that can cope with varied lighting conditions and fluctuations in occupancy density levels will yield beneficial results. People counting in the traditional sense — with a clicker or basic headcount, for example — does not offer a scalable or flexible approach to long-term building optimization; forward-thinking organizations need to invest in scalable, easy-to-integrate technologies. 

Smart occupancy monitoring serves a multitude of business requirements and is primarily useful in helping to reduce costs and maximize utility. By integrating with your building management system (BMS), an occupancy monitoring solution will help to facilitate the creation of more people-centric spaces within your premises, future-proofing your building and bringing longevity to your business model. 

Organizations that typically utilize occupancy management solutions operate commercial real estates, offices, academic spaces, and healthcare facilities. 


Occupancy monitoring as part of your energy management strategy

Occupancy monitoring fits into the logistical aspect of your energy management strategy. Modern building management systems rely on machine learning to identify patterns and produce reliable predictions. Occupancy sensors are a critical tool that integrates with other automation technologies to decrease the necessity for human intervention and resolve operational problems faster. Your occupancy sensors will help you to:

  • Dynamically control HVAC, lighting, etc. 

  • forecast energy consumption

  • implement modeling seasonality

Real-time insights into people movement and utility throughout your premises enable you to schedule key maintenance and operational activities at the most effective times. In addition, HVAC systems can be automated in alignment with occupants' actual usage. 

Let's explore in more detail how occupancy monitoring works in tandem with an energy management strategy. 


Manage overcrowding

Businesses need to observe the number of visitors in their space to ensure overcrowding is not occurring. People counting systems can help track the number of people entering or exiting any given area in real-time and alert management teams when a capacity threshold has been met. 

Overcrowding is not only dangerous from a health and safety perspective, but it also ramps up the energy intensity requirements of your building. These unplanned fluctuations in consumption can put pressure on vital infrastructural systems and make it difficult for you to plan resource allocation in a timely and cost-effective manner. 

Having an accurate overview of real-time footfall and movement throughout your premises can facilitate the opening and closing of certain areas to ensure your building remains energy efficient. 


Predictive maintenance and janitorial services

More than ever, health and wellness are primary concerns when it comes to the places we choose to visit, work or spend time in. Occupants entering and utilizing shared or densely populated spaces want reassurance that proper building sanitation is implemented. It is, therefore, essential to preserve routine practices for disinfection and cleaning of high-traffic areas. 

People counting data can be used to understand the frequency with which particular spaces are used. This provides a more realistic picture of how often janitorial staff needs to address certain zones throughout your building, the level of intensity applied when cleaning these areas, and what resources need to be allocated to ensure the job is performed effectively. 

Occupancy sensors can enable a smart janitorial service that keeps on top of essential sanitation tasks within budget and without compromising on quality. 


Improve energy efficiency and comfort

Extremely high or low outdoor temperatures will affect peak energy demand indoors. For progressive organizations that utilize off-grid solutions such as solar panels, rainwater storage units, or other green means of energy generation to support their building's operations, this can put a significant strain on the system. 

Ensuring that occupants feel comfortable in your building requires careful management of energy resources and a responsive HVAC system that modulates temperature and lighting in line with real-time occupancy and capacity limitations.  

Understanding each space's occupancy levels and traffic patterns can help improve energy efficiency by ensuring vacant areas aren't lit or heated unnecessarily and that even temperatures are maintained throughout your building. 

In addition, these efforts will also contribute to improving the indoor air quality in your building by helping you configure ventilation requirements with traffic movement throughout the premises. This helps to create a safe and healthy environment for occupants and mitigate any resource-sapping initiatives you may have to undertake to respond quickly. 


How much energy do occupancy sensors save?

In a study by the EPA titled "Demand Reduction and Energy Savings Using Occupancy Sensors," occupancy sensors can decrease energy waste by up to 68% and improve energy savings by 60%. 

Researchers monitored 158 rooms throughout 60 buildings and found that over a 14-day period, the following increases in energy savings were achieved:

  • 60% in bathrooms
  • 53% in classrooms
  • 50% in conference rooms 

But occupancy sensors can also provide savings beyond just helping you control HVAC devices. An accurate integrated occupancy monitoring solution will also help you to pick up on trends and evaluate how occupants use your building. This means you can make strategic decisions about downsizing or remodeling premises to ensure that it sufficiently meets the needs of the occupants. Making decisions about infrastructure without reliable data can lead to costly errors and misguided investments in developments that don't actually meet the needs of occupants. 

By collaborating with Irisys, the UK's National Grid identified an overall low utilization level throughout their commercial premises. This data contradicted the perceptions that staff and business heads had formed, ensuring that a more effective corporate property strategy could be applied. To read more on this project, click here.  

An interesting observation made by an assistant professor of architecture and civil and environmental engineering at MIT is that newly constructed buildings have become so efficient to operate that it is, in fact, the materials required to create them that have become the heavier energy consumer in the overall process. With this in mind, if you already have existing premises, consider optimization through remodeling and retrofitting as opposed to a complete rebuild. Occupancy metrics are always the essential starting point when looking to develop plans of this nature, and, depending on your specific scenario, they may offer a more impactful solution. 


Why choose Irisys occupancy sensors?

As a key tool in your energy management strategy, occupancy sensors can help with risk management, efficiency, and sustainability objectives by providing accurate and reliable data to help transform your business and cut down energy waste and expenditure.

Your objective with occupancy sensors is to provide the most cost-effective approach to your building's current and future maintenance. Therefore you want to have sensors that will integrate with the more extensive building management system (BMS) and new technology.

As a foremost supplier of people counting sensors, Irisys has over 25 years of experience as they have deployed more than 500,000 units.

Our continuously evolving technologies enable us to provide refined people-counting solutions that meet the dynamic requirements of operations and energy management teams. Innovative components such as staff detection and dwell time monitoring will assist with energy and occupancy management.

Combined with highly accurate counting algorithms, our people counters are used in many scenarios, such as retail analytics, supermarket queue management, and space utilization applications. 


Occupancy Business Case

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