How Data and Technology are helping Buildings to tackle their Net Zero ambitions

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By Correy Faccini,

Head of Marketing at Smart Spaces 


Sustainability and net zero objectives are rightfully sitting top of mind for many building owners, operators and asset managers. This is no small task though. The path to net zero is paved with strategy, policy, scrutiny, and financial burden. As the UK Building Council states, 80% of buildings that will be standing by 2050 have already been built. For these buildings to reduce their carbon emissions, they’ll need to be upgraded.

Retrofitting these existing buildings with energy efficient systems is a clear solution, but it’s also a costly one. Deep retrofitting is ideal, but this is only a realistic solution in a small number of cases as this will essentially rely on gutting a building to its shell and starting again.

The most appropriate option for many buildings is to scrutinise energy usage and identify inefficiencies. It’s not enough to simply rely on those within the building to make sustainable decisions, the emphasis is on building owners, managers and operators to take a more strategic approach.

The answer may lie in emerging technology and the adoption of a data driven approach. By equipping yourself with the data regarding a building’s performance, it’s clear to see where the inefficiencies lie. This can help building owners, operators and asset managers take action in the areas that will have the greatest impact. This data can be paired with artificial intelligence and machine learning to build automations that are designed to reduce energy consumption.

Internet of Things (IoT) connected technology is rapidly growing in popularity, setting a clear precedent for the future of the built environment. Thermostats, lighting, HVAC systems, sensors and cameras become connected devices that collect, analyse, and respond to real-time data. This data can be fed into a single unified platform to create a clear picture for how a building is being used.

Smart building management systems make it possible for users to control systems like the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). This enables workers to create their own microclimate, helping to boost productivity and ensuring workers feel more valued. Smart HVAC systems create a healthier workplace through providing maximum comfort and improved air quality. They should also be a key priority for buildings with net zero ambitions as HVAC systems account for almost half a building’s energy consumption.

By integrating IoT technology into the HVAC system, it’s possible to set automations to ensure use is limited in rooms which are not occupied. Sensors will be able to monitor where a building is being used and where it remains dormant. For rooms which aren’t occupied, the HVAC system will be switched off to reduce unnecessary energy usage. Additionally, for areas which are in use, these sensors will be able to monitor air temperature ensuring air conditioning is switched off when the temperature drops below a certain threshold.

These sensors can also be applied to lighting and other electrical appliances. If the natural light improves, it can adjust the internal lighting to reflect this. If rooms aren’t in use, the lights can be switched off and TVs, monitors, and appliances switched to energy saving mode, removing the need to rely on workers to remember to do this when leaving a room.

In addition to reducing carbon emissions, businesses will also see this technology reducing operational costs, improving efficiencies and enhancing productivity.  The office will soon become a highly optimised place, immediately adapting to the changing environment outside, including natural light, temperature, and air quality.

Smart buildings will also be able to sense when a particular machine or system isn’t functioning adequately. Sensors will be able to identify where and when maintenance is required and immediately contact an engineer to solve the problem. If a specific aspect of the system is wasting too much energy due to its poor functioning, this can be isolated and fixed at speed, rather than waiting for a person to spot the issue.a\

The move towards net zero will take time, however small incremental changes can be implemented today. The built environment is responsible for 40% of carbon emission globally, meaning a renewed approach to energy consumption and sustainability is vitally important. By relying on technology and data, building owners, operators and managers can regularly audit how their assets perform and clearly identify where changes need to happen.

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