This blog was co-authored by Sophia Filipe, Country Digitization Program Manager, with the Cisco Country Digital Acceleration program. This is the first in a series of blogs we will be writing to go behind the scenes of the sustainability projects we are engaged in, and the impact we are having, through Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program.
Over the past year, the Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) team has worked to develop sustainability pilots and projects across the globe, as sustainability becomes more important to Cisco and our customers. A significant portion of countries with Cisco operations have established laws and policies around net zero goals. As a result, Cisco continues to invest in such projects with an added sense of urgency. Not only is the quick and efficient transition to decarbonized economies best for our planet, but it provides a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity.
The transition to hybrid work models during and after the pandemic has driven urgency in sustainable facilities architecture. With the hybrid work model, many companies determined that building and construction emissions account for 37 percent of greenhouse gases (GHGs) globally, according to the 2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction. This data incited many architects to reimagine and transform traditional architecture into a more sustainable approach when considering energy usage.
We sat down with Jeremy Witikko, global leader of Hybrid Work with Sustainable Real Estate at Cisco, to learn more about how we can help our customers reduce their carbon footprints through sustainable real estate. Responsible real estate breaks down energy usage in three ways: consumption, generation, and convergence.
Responsible energy consumption
Cisco products, such as Webex endpoints and Power over Ethernet (PoE) architecture, play a critical role in replacing legacy energy consumption with more efficient tools. Most systems in a building run off low-voltage DC power, yet the city’s energy grid provides high voltage AC power. As a result, every sensor, controller, and light fixture inside a building must convert that power from high voltage to low voltage. This process is currently inefficient.
By leveraging Cisco’s PoE to replace legacy systems, power can be converted much more efficiently and pushed to hundreds of IoT systems. For example, in New York, Cisco’s Penn 1 building optimizes the internal HVAC system by leveraging Webex endpoints to replace the third-party occupancy sensor.
“Legacy buildings have one occupancy sensor. And whether the room is occupied by one or 30 people, the sensor deems the room as ‘occupied.’” Jeremy explains, “The sensor will then tell the HVAC system to blast that room with 30 people’s worth of air to cool it down—even if only two people were in the room.”
With their more nuanced occupancy and environmental sensing capabilities, Webex endpoints can report the actual number of people and the actual air quality in any given room back to the HVAC system, optimizing the air that is directed to the room. With converged systems communicating these important details, Cisco’s tech helps real estate generate fewer emissions and reduce consumption costs.
Cisco’s Meraki MT sensors monitor air temperature and humidity and automate insights—automatically improving energy consumption. According to a 2022 Forrester analysis, Meraki MT customers reduced energy consumption an average of 27 percent in data centers and 26 percent in vented networking rooms. With this, it is clear that Cisco’s technology can digitize the consumption process to distribute energy across buildings safely and efficiently.
Smarter energy generation
In a Cisco CDA investment with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Cisco team converted training rooms in ASHRAE’s headquarters to solar power that is generated from glass inside the conference room using a PoE architecture. The energy captured within these thin window solar panels is then converted to direct current (DC) that flows to-and-from Cisco PoE switches that run the building, reducing the need for core building power from the grid.
In their search for the most energy efficient tools, techniques, and partners, Jeremy and team are exploring new wind solutions for smarter energy generation.
“In a downtown building district, what’s the one thing you can almost always count on?” Jeremy asks. “There’s a lot of wind whipping around corners of buildings. My job is to ask if we can find some partners to help us harness the power of wind turbines so we can bring that power to the building’s IDF closet to run systems on the same floor.”
This type of innovative thinking and collaborative curiosity are vital to move toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Strategic energy convergence
Beyond generation and consumption, Jeremy says another secret ingredient to carbon reduction is the convergence, or integration and automation of a building’s systems. He explains the power of a systems approach through his own home system experimentation.
“I took the exhaust from my water heater and plugged it into my intake and furnace for central air. While this experiment might push the boundaries of buildings code; whenever I heat water, it gives us super cold air, which is pushed back into my central air system,” he explains. “So, my heat pump runs less because I’m using the cold air generated from heating water to cool down the rest of the house.”
Jeremy constantly asks, “Where can similar ideas be applied to the built environment?”
Understanding the interoperability of a building’s systems allows for energy-optimized and sustainable outcomes at scale. Back at Penn1, Cisco’s Smart Buildings Studio, team lead Bob Cicero lays out a strategy to converge lights, shades, blinds, HVAC, and more to PoE to drive massive energy savings by sharing data. For example, sensors in the ceiling measure the amount of light and heat coming through the windows and automatically adjusts the shades to reduce heat coming into the space while also maintaining the right amount of light to meet WELL health and safety standards.
Creative ways of thinking are critical to moving the world toward net zero and mitigating the worst effects of climate change. We recognize we must collaborate and co-create powerful solutions with our partners on this journey. One way in which Cisco encourages customers to transition to more sustainable real estate is with the Cisco’s Green Pay program. With a five percent incentive on Cisco hardware and predictable payments for five years, customers have greater accessibility to retrofit and swap out old power-hungry technologies with Cisco’s newer technologies. This program offers free product returns, which comes with a certificate confirming access to the circular economy.
We can only reach our sustainability goals by helping our customers reach theirs. Dedicated innovators like the Hybrid Work team and Sustainable Real Estate team keep Cisco and its partners on the leading edge of the digital and green transformation.
Learn more about Cisco’s approach to environmental sustainability, Cisco’s smart building solutions, and how CDA accelerates an inclusive future for all. Let us know in the comments what other sustainable innovations you’d like to learn about.