3 min

How Cisco’s Energy Networking Initiative Supports Sustainable Buildings

Smart connectivity strategies reduce costs by enabling occupancy-based energy consumption.

Advanced networking technology is becoming an important tool as organizations look to achieve their goals for sustainable operations while supporting hybrid workplaces. Networks that deploy greater intelligence and features such as Power over Ethernet (PoE) can help organizations reduce their energy consumption and decrease carbon emissions.

Networking capabilities have become particularly important for organizations that deploy hybrid work environments to enable users to work either in an office setting or remotely. As employers have changed the ways they use office space, wired cubicles have given way to wireless and mobility-first open-floor plans. Hybrid work often leads to unpredictable patterns of energy use in buildings, which creates a need for occupancy-based energy consumption for systems such as lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

Even companies that have reduced their real estate portfolios still see significant energy consumption in their buildings. As those companies renovate the spaces they are keeping for hybrid work, many are looking for ways to leverage advanced connectivity to increase energy efficiency. To address this challenge, Cisco recently launched an initiative that uses network capabilities to reduce electricity consumption. Modern networks, together with connected devices and sensors, make this possible by providing visibility into real estate use, energy consumption and the overall IT environment.

For example, wireless networks and building sensors can detect when mobile devices — and their users — are in an office space, prompting automated systems to turn on lighting, as well as heat or air conditioning, only in occupied spaces. Connectivity also generates data and insights into building use that organizations can analyze to further reduce consumption. For organizations with aggressive carbon neutrality goals, this type of digital telemetry is a valuable opportunity to increase energy efficiency. 

Optimize Energy Consumption with an Occupancy-Based Approach

In recent years, many organizations have deployed energy-efficient devices such as LED lights. But feeding these with traditional alternating current power is inefficient. Direct current microgrids — which employ in-building, DC power distribution over small-gauge cabling — provides a better way to power endpoints, lighting and other devices that use native DC power. DC microgrids are more efficient than AC for connecting DC loads and offer additional advantages when onsite solar (typically DC) is being used. In addition, they’re less expensive to install from a cabling standpoint, and use less carbon-intensive materials such as steel conduit, which is not needed for low-voltage DC.

A simple, standards-based way to design DC microgrids is to use Power over Ethernet. PoE is a proven technology that organizations have used for decades to provide connectivity. A vast number of commercial lighting systems, building control systems, window blinds, adjustable desks and other endpoints support PoE. In a collaborative space, an organization could provide power to user workstations, surveillance cameras, lighting and environmental controls via PoE over CAT 6 cabling. This can deliver all the connectivity that users and endpoints need while employing a more efficient energy source that is easy to install and reconfigure.

Organizations can apply smart connectivity to achieve further efficiency. For example, Cisco Spaces is a cloud-based platform that relies on location signals from users and devices to capture information about movement within a building. In a digitalized space, every endpoint can report how much energy it consumes. When organizations have this level of visibility into their energy consumption and can overlay that with occupancy data, they can then fine-tune the connected environment to derive further efficiencies. This is essential for an occupancy-based energy consumption plan and a powerful way to reduce costs and achieve an organization’s objectives for greenhouse gas emissions.

Visibility into Occupancy Data Drives Energy Efficiency

Understanding energy consumption through a connected environment provides much more granular visibility. Previously, such insights often were limited to high-level information about net energy consumption for a specific floor. Now, organizations can drill down to specific details of energy consumption, including floors, rooms and specific device types. They can show how much is being consumed, when consumption is occurring and what types of endpoints are consuming the most energy. This data makes it possible to generate insights that help organizations fine-tune the environment for savings.

Sustainability initiatives call for rethinking the design and application of networks within buildings from an energy conservation perspective. Well-planned connectivity brings all essential systems — building controls and endpoints alike — together into an intelligent, collaborative ecosystem that drives energy efficiency.

Story by Scott Stanton, a senior director of Americas network transformation for Cisco Systems. He has sales responsibility for Cisco switching, routing, wireless, DNA and Meraki solutions. Scott leads the Americas EN Specialist team, which guides customers in evolving their network designs as they transform and digitize their business models. He works with the Cisco product teams, partners and field sales organization to drive customer success through use of Cisco solutions. He is involved in product and go-to-market strategy, Cisco field and partner enablement and the creation of new offers. Scott established Cisco’s Smart Buildings team. He has a focus on the healthcare provider vertical, digitization and network automation, and smart buildings and sustainability. He has spent his entire career in the IT field in a variety sales and leadership roles.


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