Every business has an impact on the environment – along with legal obligations that it must fulfil. Facilities owners need to understand a variety of complex laws and legislation when it comes to environmental compliance.

What are some of these obligations? And how can smart technology make implementing and demonstrating environmental compliance easier?

STEP 1: Identify your key obligations
and risks

You can use smart technology to help you assess the main environmental risks of your business activities. For example, sensors connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) and automated meter readers (AMRs) can help you keep track of your water, raw materials and energy consumption, waste management and production of pollution and emissions. Having access to all this data on one cloud-based platform allows you to gain a comprehensive overview of your facility’s resource-dependency and output. This data can then be used to inform your overall review of your environmental impact.

Identifying key risks will not only help you meet legal obligations, but will also highlight ways in which improving your environmental performance can directly benefit your business, such as reducing energy costs.

Once you have identified relevant risks to your business, the next steps include managing these risks. In this article, we’ll discuss the different ways that smart technology can assist.

STEP 2: Clear the air: manage and monitor air pollution

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 is a piece of legislation that contains 164 sections, arranged in 9 parts and supported by 16 schedules. One of the key areas it includes is “Integrated Pollution Control and Local Authority Air Pollution Control’’. This section focuses on preventing and reducing the release of substances into the environment.

Your obligations include:

  • Ensuring that you do not produce unnecessarily dirty smoke
  • Not exceeding set limits on sulphur content
  • Not producing emissions that cause a nuisance to your neighbours

Remember that activities that produce significant air pollution are likely to require an environmental permit, so be sure to contact your environmental regulator.

Monitoring and managing air quality levels is made simple using smart technology. An air quality monitoring system of smart sensors connected to a central building management dashboard is able to detect carbon dioxide levels, noxious gases and pollutants. This real-time data provides enhanced visibility, instant alerts, improved situational awareness and earlier indications of air pollution risks.

It’s worth noting that external air conditioning units (the ones you see sticking out of windows that drip water) can fall foul of these regulations if they are faulty. They need to be regularly maintained and monitored to prevent this.

STEP 3: Watch your waste 

The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations SI 2011/988 make it an offence not to apply the waste hierarchy duty, collection of waste duty or collected waste duty.

When it comes to waste, your environmental obligations include:

  • Minimising any packaging you use
  • Ensuring that you store waste appropriately
  • Keeping copies of waste transfer notes
  • Two years’ worth of waste records available
  • Treating waste sent to landfill to reduce its environmental impact
  • If you are generating hazardous waste, there are extra controls to be aware of. Be sure to check with your environmental regulator regarding your registration.

Many businesses are all too aware that manual waste management is time-consuming, costly and inefficient. Waste can also generate lost time and effort too, particularly when it is collected unnecessarily before the receptacles are full. With a smart waste management system, you can automate predictive waste collection schedules. By equipping your waste and recycling stations with level sensors, you’ll benefit from real-time data sent to collection crews or other departments. This enables a more efficient collection schedule and provides historical data and record-keeping.

STEP 4: Energy efficiency 

The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) has made it mandatory for close to 14000 UK companies to complete an initial audit of their energy usage.

  • Company criteria
  • Private and third sector
  • Employ at least 250 staff or
  • Have an annual turnover of more than £42.5m

The audit involves looking carefully at how your organisation uses energy in buildings, transport and industrial operations. An accurate overview of energy consumption is made possible through smart meters, automated meter readers (AMRs) and smart sensors. Smart meters provide accurate energy consumption data; sensors can be attached to doors, walls, desks and windows to monitor variables such as temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels, helping businesses to identify areas that are being overheated or over-cooled.

The data from this smart technology enables facilities managers to identify potential energy savings and make informed decisions to reduce energy consumption.

STEP 5: Cutting carbon emissions

The UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 is a legally-binding, long-term framework to cut carbon emissions. It sets out the Government’s commitment to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by the year 2050. Businesses are required to follow suit and will be coming under increased scrutiny over the coming years.

Businesses that have installed smart technology to help with energy management are better placed to meet these obligations and legislations, both currently and in the future. Another benefit is a greater understanding of their carbon footprints and where reductions can be made.

No matter the industry, there are several examples of IoT applications helping to reduce carbon footprints and improve energy and operational efficiencies along with profitability:

Energy efficiency (as mentioned above in relation to ESOS)

Lighting efficiency—smart lighting that is more responsive and automated leads to greater energy efficiency

Heating and cooling efficiency—predictive maintenance and automated HVAC controls help these systems to consume less energy

It pays to go smart

IoT technologies have revolutionised the ways that businesses work, and the way in which they achieve and demonstrate compliance within environmental legislation and obligations. By making such smart choices now, facilities managers can make their operations more efficient and ensure long-term sustainable success.