By Demand Logic.
Urban sustainability and smart cities are a big talking point globally, as well as in the UK. Broadly speaking, the aim is to create cities that accelerate economic growth and improve the lives of inhabitants whilst also ensuring that the built environment reduces its carbon impact, both in the construction process and throughout a building’s operational lifespan.
Ultimately this involves all types of sustainability, not just ‘environmental sustainability’ which many people often exclusively think about when met with the term. Sustainable cities can be defined as “Improving the quality of life in a city, including ecological, cultural, political, institutional, social and economic components without leaving a burden on the future generations. A burden which is the result of reduced natural capital and excessive local debt.”
In this article, we explore how more granular data analysis of the buildings which make up cities will play a key role in the smart cities of tomorrow.
The role of UK smart cities
With the UK working towards its net zero by 2050 goals, it’s now aiming to implement a standard that will decarbonise buildings. It’s part of a push in the UK to become a world leader in smart, sustainable cities. London has already won a bid to host the biennial Ecocity World Summit in June 2023 which will give the country a platform to show the world that they’re a real contender when it comes to tackling climate change through more sustainable built environments.
But the role and potential of smart cities go beyond Government-set net-zero targets. Effective smart cities also have the power to harness their own energy efficiency, understanding where there are energy spikes in buildings and across cities and targeting the cause. This allows for optimised energy distribution from a range of sources to power the city as one.
Smart cities don’t just support but also improve the well-being of their occupiers and residents by reducing indoor air pollution as well as outdoor and environmental pollution. Monitoring all causes using air quality data can help identify areas of high pollution and visualise that pollution leads to meaningful contributions towards cleaner air. For example, redirecting traffic away from already polluted areas or influencing new designs or road layouts based on known areas of higher pollution.
Smart city projects aren’t just focused on buildings; it’s buildings that, even indirectly, have some of the biggest carbon footprints. Not just in terms of their own energy consumption but also the contractors who are often instructed on a building-by-building basis. By targeting maintenance across entire cities, or even just large portfolios, efficiency can be achieved in terms of both energy, and productivity.
Currently, 50 German cities are already deemed ‘smart’ and now, UK cities including London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Glasgow are already involved in these projects. Many of them are looking to build smarter and more sustainable buildings in the future, whilst also retrofitting their existing structures.
Birmingham has a Smart City Roadmap, helping to support a more resilient future. The actions will be delivered in collaboration with the business, community and public sectors that embrace the use of smart city technologies and access to data. Also, Birmingham City Council’s “One Future City Plan” outlined the principle of making the area a 15-minute city, which will be underpinned by advanced green technology. The report says that technology will help to improve transport efficiency, reduce the city’s impact on the environment, support better health outcomes and create safer environments.
Leeds is also developing a reputation as a leading UK Smart City, with a digital sector that contributes £6.5 billion to the City Region economy and employs 102,000 people. Leeds businesses are working with the public sector to implement smart city capabilities including digital approaches to the care sector and using 3, 4, and 5G and Internet of Things technologies to influence travel by vehicle, foot and public transport.
And in Glasgow, a £24 million Government investment has resulted in a £150 million benefit thanks to open data and digital infrastructure. Glasgow is now considered to be a world-leading Smart City with successful projects including intelligent street lighting, energy efficiency thanks to accurate data readings, integrated social transport, and increased benefits for cyclists and pedestrians.
Going back to improving energy efficiency in buildings, these projects are of the utmost importance when it comes to developing truly smart cities since it’s predicted that 75% of buildings that people will use and live in in 2050 are already built. A report by Asite suggests that a combination of technology and digital twins will be the best and most efficient way to retrofit buildings at scale, and ultimately help the UK reach its sustainability targets set in the Paris Agreement.
How building data can facilitate smart cities
Digital twin technology is largely hailed as a solution to smart city planning thanks to the level of analysis it offers governments, developers, and building managers. This includes looking at the data that an existing building can offer, and the insights they allow managers to control. It provides designers and developers with a digital counterpart to any building and this means they can understand and rectify any issues, and then prevent them from occurring in future buildings.
The power of data is also making waves in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) side of buildings. The PropTech industry is underpinned by data that works on different scales, from individual devices to buildings and whole cities. At a building level, this data means that developers and managers can regulate the operation of the building making it better for the environment by preventing excess or unnecessary energy usage.
It proves that access to these kinds of insights isn’t just essential for reducing the impact of our buildings. Technology allows us to understand problems, as well as optimisation, and how our buildings should be running. But it also helps managers to retain tenants, increase occupant comfort levels and productivity, and save time in identifying and fixing issues – which in turn leads to less energy wasted.
Historically, cost reduction has been a major driver in developers and building managers feeling incentivised to use data to harness this kind of information. But now, as the UK pushes harder in its drive for smart cities, those who have already got on board with digital twin technology and actionable data stand a better chance of getting ahead in the fight against carbon emissions in the built environment.
How Demand Logic can help
Here at Demand Logic, our smart building technology can help facilities managers understand how their building uses energy at the touch of a button, influencing the built environment’s contribution to UK Smart Cities.
Our market-leading Building Analytics platform works with various properties, including office buildings, to understand where their cost and energy savings can be made. Identifying where most of their energy is spent can help building managers find ways to reduce those costs and cut back on how much energy goes into certain parts of the building.
Understanding how much energy is needed in these spaces can cut bills, increase tenant satisfaction, and give managers the ability to see and solve issues more quickly. But most importantly, it means that less energy is used where it’s not needed – a big step towards smarter and more sustainable cities.
Demand Logic is already working in partnership with buildings in Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham, and other leading UK Smart Cities to generate more accurate data and insights into how buildings can lead the way in the development of world-leading Smart City infrastructure.
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