The pandemic is not over yet, but life is slowly returning to normal. This means that the problems that we have been somewhat distracted by for the past 18 months are now at the top of the agenda – and nothing is as urgent as climate change.
It can be difficult to know how to overcome such a huge challenge. But when you look at the amount of energy that we waste every day without thinking, there are plenty of opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at least not in the built environment.
Building is the technology to reduce emissions, and so is the desire. So how can we make our cities greener and our buildings more energy efficient, and in a way, affordable? It all starts with being smart.
Are the buildings that bad?
It’s easy to put all the blame on the most visible manifestations like cars and airplanes for greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, if we count construction, buildings are responsible for about 40% of all the CO2 we emit. Not only this, 30% of the energy used in buildings is wasted. Just imagine the last time you walked around a city at night and found office blocks lit up without any staff.
But surely we are dealing with the problem? Maybe, but not nearly enough. Today, 82 percent of the potential means of reducing energy waste in buildings is untapped. Clearly, cities are missing out on a huge opportunity to make a meaningful difference in their energy use and emissions. With no time left to waste as we must halve our CO2 emissions by 2030, we must take advantage of the opportunity to make our buildings more energy efficient.
smart building revolution
Today it seems like smart technology is everywhere, so why not in buildings? We are all familiar with smart meters at home, but for large buildings – including offices – there is a vast array of cutting-edge technologies that can optimize energy efficiency.
These range from Internet of Things (IoT) applications and smart devices to predictive analytics that intelligently predict how building systems will perform throughout their lifetime; Everything from next-generation power systems that monitor energy use to smart lighting and Intelligent Building Management Systems (BMS) – the “brain” that links every system and device as a whole.
These technologies are the infrastructure of the smart building revolution, but it requires more than just connected devices to effect real and lasting change. Equally important is managing the data produced by IoT-enabled technology.
joining the dots
If it were just a matter of installing smart systems, the battle for greener, more efficient buildings would have already been won. But there is an additional challenge where buildings and their operators are failing – using the data from these systems effectively.
Too often, facilities managers don’t know how to make the best use of data. This creates inefficiencies, posing potential safety and reliability concerns. Building operators need to ‘connect the dots’ to understand, in real time, all the factors that affect energy use. To take just one example, real-time data analytics involving heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can help determine how and where energy is being used and wasted in buildings. Empowering owners and operators to better optimize building performance based on how many people are on the premises, and how cold or hot outside may be.
Short term payoff, long term affirmative action
Smart building solutions save both money and energy, helping to avoid significant amounts of carbon emissions each year. One of Schneider Electric’s customers, JLL, has achieved a 30% reduction in energy use since implementing technology that helps them to view and control their energy usage.
JLL is one of the businesses contributing to the elimination of 276 million tonnes of carbon Schneider Electric. And that’s not to mention similar efforts from other vendors. And if that sounds overly expensive, consider this: The average payoff on digital retrofits is only 1-3 years, while building operators typically see a 30% reduction in energy use and similar reductions in operating costs.
The matters of trade and environment could not be clarified. It is now up to the world’s cities and their governments to help organizations make the leap to a more energy-efficient future.
role of government
If we want to see zero-zero buildings become the norm, we need the public and private sectors to work together to fight climate change. Public initiatives such as Biden’s announcement of new federal investments for green buildings and the net-zero target, or the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification, will play a key role in delivering the next generation of energy-efficient buildings.
Standards are important, but so is education – and leading by example. Local authorities should adopt best practices in their own property portfolios, even developing their own smart city solutions, and educate the local business community about the environmental and financial benefits of controlling their energy use. should help. Local and national government should not only set clear goals for the private sector, but also educate businesses about how technology can help accelerate them on the path to net-zero.
building a green future
As we emerge into a post-pandemic future, the challenge of climate change looms large. Yet the future of fully energy efficient buildings, which will have such a huge impact on overall emissions, is well within reach. To understand this we just have to use the technologies that are already making a difference to futuristic thinking businesses around the world.
- We present the best eco-friendly travel apps.